Navy Christens Ship With Ground Zero Steel

Tribute to terror attack victims touches firefighters who lost friends, kin.

ByMike Von Fremd

NEW ORLEANS, March 1, 2008— -- It took two powerful swings of a champagne bottle before the USS New York could be christened.

The leading edge of the bow is made from steel girders salvaged from Ground Zero.

New York Firefighter Thomas Fee, who came to New Orleans to watch the christening, was impressed and moved by the sight.

"She looks like a New Yorker," he said. "It is a beautiful sight to see."

The 684-foot amphibious transport ship cost the Navy $1 billion to build, but the bow is considered priceless.

It includes seven and a half tons of steel recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that was cast as the bow stem. The bow is the tip of the ship that slices through the water.

Rep. Vito Fossella from New York said at the christening ceremony at the Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding facility in New Orleans

"It's inspiring to see the wreckage of ground zero transformed into a magnificent and mighty Navy vessel that will patrol our homeland, protect our nation, guard our safety, defend freedom and defend liberty," he said.

The ships motto is "Strength Forged Through Sacrifice. Never Forget."

The sacrifice that went into building the ship is staggering. In addition to recovering and shipping the steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center, the workers in Louisiana had to deal with hurricane Katrina. Many reported back to work just two weeks after the storm struck. Ship workers were building the USS New York as they were also rebuilding their lives.

New York Firefighter James Earl says he lost more than 90 close friends in the attack on the World Trade Center. He said he came from New York to be in New Orleans for the christening because he wanted to thank the Louisiana ship builders.

Lee Ielpi, a retired New York Firefighter whose 29-year-old son Jonathon died at Ground Zero, said when the New York cuts the water "those ripples are going to be felt worldwide."

"Surely as day follows the night, good follows evil… if it takes those who would guard the streets of heaven to follow evil into the gates of hell, they will come from ships like New York," Marine Gen. Robert Magnus told those gathered at the ceremony.

Sailors say the name of each ship is a source of strength for the crew. Those aboard the newly christened USS New York should be in good hands.

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