Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in 2018 and is republished on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Sailors aboard the USS New York annually pay their respects to those who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The plan for Tuesday is to perform the ceremony at Naval Base Mayport, the home base from the San Antonio class amphibious transport dock.
But this ship has more than a New York name. Reminders of September 11 abound. Its very nose is made of steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. And its sailors are learning to never forget their connection to the disaster.
“Every Navy ship has a namesake room or a legacy room, but on our ship the whole ship is a legacy of what happened,” said Commander-in-Chief Ben Hodges.
A steel plate recovered from the rubble of the Trade Center is on display above one of the busiest passageways. A firefighter’s helmet reminds sailors of the first responders who have taken action.
Hodges said the reminders extend to the ship’s daily prayer ritual, for which the chaplain chooses the name of a person who died during the attacks in honor. All of this makes it impossible to forget September 11, he said.
“We talk to all of our sailors when they first check in and explain to them the importance of what they are a part of,” Hodges said. “You cannot help as you walk around the ship to notice all the things meant to remind you why you are serving. “
Despite all the callbacks found in many corners of the ship, the most important piece goes unnoticed.
The bow of the New York – the part at the very front of the ship just below the surface of the water – was forged using steel from one of the twin towers.
The scrap metal had been located at the Staten Island landfill; and it is believed to have originated from the south tower. On Veterans Day 2002, the Intrepid Air-Sea-Space Museum presented it on behalf of New York City to Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, according to the Navy.
Navy engineers determined that it was possible to use thousands of pounds of salvaged steel for casting the bow rod, and the molten steel was poured on September 9, 2003, at the foundry. and the Amite machine in Amite, Louisiana. The steel was treated and about 7.5 tons were melted for the part of the ship that passes through the water.
Kevin Wensing remembers the day when workers poured holy steel into the mold. He was there as Special Assistant to Secretary of the Navy Gordon England at the time.
A band played as Navy officers and politicians mingled with factory workers who wanted to be a part of the occasion. Wensing said it was one of the most respectful occasions he has ever been on.
“It was kind of a very spiritual and religious thing, in a way, when you’re in Amite, Louisiana, and you think of all the people who suffered on 9/11,” Wensing said.
Wensing said employees made a point of touching pieces of steel when they came to work each day.
“Everyone involved in the project knew it was something special,” Wensing said.
The Secretary of the Navy is responsible for naming all future Navy ships, so part of Wensing’s job at the time was to read thousands of letters asking for specific names.
He said the idea of naming the ship for New York came just days after the attacks. The USS Arlington and USS Somerset were named for the bomb damaged Pentagon Virginia home and Pennsylvania County where United Flight 93 crashed.
Wensing said the decision to name the ships after the attack locations was easy, but it was much more difficult to decide what types of ships would get the names.
Submarines are usually the only ships named for states, Wensing said, but getting civilians on board submarines for tours is extremely difficult. So, because the New York, Arlington, and Somerset would be ships with frequent touring requests, it was imperative that they were surface ships.
There is another specific reason why these are all San Antonio class amphibious transport ships. Wensing said the secretary wanted the ships to be ships that would house both Navy sailors and Marines, so the transport ships made perfect sense.
Although New York City is often visited by civilians, Tuesday’s ceremony is not open to the public, Hodges said.
But he said that on the anniversary of the attacks everyone should remember the ship’s motto: “Strength is forged through sacrifice. Never forget.”
© 2018 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Florida). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.