Saturday, March 01, 2008
Standing before the massive USS New York, Jennifer Adams seemed moved by the spirits of the 2,750 people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center. "Our angels will watch over the men and women serving on this ship so the events of Sept. 11 will never happen again," said Adams, who co-founded an association of family members and friends of 2,974 people who died when terrorist-hijacked airliners crashed into the twin towers in lower Manhattan, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, and of survivors, recovery workers and volunteers. The New York, an amphibious assault ship built for the Navy and incorporating steel recovered from the collapsed World Trade Center, will be christened Saturday at the New Orleans-area shipyard where it endured Hurricane Katrina. The vessel was built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. It is the fifth in the LPD San Antonio class of ships designed to carry Marines into assault operations. Dorthy England, wife of Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, will swing a bottle of champagne from a New York vinyard against its hull in the traditional ceremony. Other dignitaries on hand will include U.S. Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., chief of naval operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.
USS New York (LPD 21)The $1 billion, 25,000-ton vessel is 684 feet long and 105 feet wide. It can carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 Marines who can be delivered to shore by helicopters and landing craft. When terrorists crashed two airliners into the twin towers in 2001, the ship was on the drawing board but had not been assigned a name. At the request of then-New York Gov. George Pataki, the Navy in 2002 agreed to commemorate the disaster by assigning the name New York. It was then decided to use World Trade Center steel in the bow stem, the section of the hull that slices through the water. More than 20 tons of steel salvaged from the disaster site was brought to Amite Foundry and Machine in Amite, La., where the 7.5-ton part was cast in 2003. The bow stem was installed in August 2005, shortly before Katrina, and the remaining bow section was lifted into place in March 2006. "We've had other special ships in the Navy -- the Constitution, the Iwo Jima, the Pearl Harbor," Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said. The New York, he said, will join them in honoring and reminding Americans of a defining moment in history. The USS New York guided out of drydockThe sentiment wasn't lost on former New York firefighter Lee Ielpi, whose son, Jonathan, was one of 343 firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 disaster. "The ship can't bring back our loved ones," he said, but the New York "shows the strength of our country." The incomplete vessel was anchored at Avondale on the Mississippi River just west of New Orleans when Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005. The New York escaped serious damage and construction resumed two weeks later. The commissioning ceremony in New York, scheduled in 2009, will be a much bigger ceremony, officials said. The ship will be based at Norfolk, Va. The New York revives a name held by at least four other Navy ships, including a Spanish-American War-era cruiser, a battleship that served in World Wars I and II -- including the Battle of Iwo Jima -- and a nuclear submarine retired from the fleet in 1997. The first three ships of the San Antonio class -- USS San Antonio, USS New Orleans and USS Mesa Verde -- have been delivered. USS Green Bay is under final construction at Avondale and is scheduled for sea trials in May. Another ship in the class, the USS Anchorage, also is building at Avondale.