USS New York – the ship forged from World Trade Center steel
There are many monuments around the world commemorating the attacks of 11 September 2001, from the iconic reflecting pools at the official 9/11 Memorial in New York City to the piece of World Trade Center steel that stands sentinel at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
All the memorials are very moving. But only one is actually mobile. Carrying a crew of nearly 400 sailors and Marines, the USS New York is a 684-foot testament to the memory of all those who died on that fateful day, including the first responders who laid down their lives to save others. This tribute is reflected in the ship’s motto: “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget”.
The USS New York features dozens of reminders, large and small, of 9/11. An outline of the New York City skyline and a steel plaque adorn one of the main entryways, reminding crew members and visitors of the ship’s namesake as they come aboard. A New York City subway sign from the station beneath the World Trade Center is displayed below deck, behind a bench where sailors can sit and reflect. A display case shows off hats and uniforms from first responders, including a firefighter’s helmet. A mural depicting the towers of the World Trade Center is painted next to the deck, reminding all who see it to “Never Forget”.
The USS New York also commemorates the victims of 9/11 through a daily tradition where the ship’s chaplain chooses the name of someone who died in the attacks and honours them, sharing key details about their life – their job, hobbies, dreams and family. The names of the victims are displayed on a banner inside the ship.
The ship’s largest tribute to the victims of 9/11 is less visible, but no less significant. The ship’s bow stem (the part of the hull at the very front of the ship, just beneath the waterline) was forged from 7.5 tons of steel recovered from Ground Zero at the World Trade Center. According to reports, the steel foundry workers treated the reclaimed girders “with a reverence usually accorded to religious relics”. One of the workers even postponed his retirement just so that he could take part in the project.
The recovered steel used in the bow is meant to show that the memory of 9/11 – and the resolve to prevent such an attack from ever happening again – is at the forefront of the ship’s mission. No matter where the USS New York goes, the World Trade Center steel leads, cutting through calm and turbulent waters alike.
“The significance of where the WTC steel is located on the 684-foot-long ship symbolises the strength and resilience of the citizens of New York as it sails forward around the world,” US Navy programme manager Commander Quentin King said. “It sends a message of America becoming stronger as a result, coming together as a country and ready to move forward as we make our way through the world.” i
The ship was christened in 2008 at its shipyard in New Orleans and made its maiden journey to New York City for its official commissioning in 2009. Many of the crew on the maiden voyage were New Yorkers themselves, several of whom had personal connections to 9/11 and decided to serve in the US military as a result. To prepare for their early-morning entry into New York harbour, the crew were woken earlier than usual, with Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” playing over the ship’s loudspeakers at 4:00 a.m. Shortly thereafter, a harbour pilot who lost his brother in the attacks helped guide the ship up the Hudson River, stopping adjacent to the World Trade Center site, where the crew saluted and hundreds of New Yorkers looked on.
Since being commissioned into the US Navy fleet, the USS New York has participated in missions around the world, supporting counter-terrorism efforts and disaster relief. It is currently stationed at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, close to Allied Command Transformation, one of NATO’s two strategic commands. The USS New York has two sister ships, the USS Arlington and the USS Somerset, named after the locations where two other planes struck during the 9/11 attacks (the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia and the Flight 93 crash site in Somerset County, Pennsylvania respectively).