Before it had even set forth on its first mission, the New Orleans-built Navy vessel USS New York was already the subject of a History Channel documentary, the inspiration for a song by country star Charlie Daniels and the center of intense public interest.

That is because the USS New York’s bow section was forged from seven and a half tons of steel recovered from the fallen World Trade Center towers. And the ship, named for the city where the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history took place, is seen both as a tribute to those killed on Sept. 11, 2001 and a representation of America’s global response since. The ship’s crest features a phoenix rising from the ashes with the words “Never Forget” underneath. 

“This ship will be a symbol,” says Capt. Bill Galinis, a Navy program manager involved with the ship’s construction. “It has been a tremendous privilege for all of us who have had an opportunity to participate in the construction of this ship.”

The warship’s homeport is now Norfolk, Va., but it remains closely linked to the New Orleans area. Local shipbuilders at Northrop Grumman’s Avondale facility spent three years working on the vessel, and the steel recovered from the World Trade Center site was melted down at a mill in Amite, La. The vessel conducted sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico and later received a grand send off as New Orleans-area residents lined the Mississippi River to watch it sail for its commissioning ceremony in New York. 

The New York is known as an “amphibious transport dock,” and its job is to carry up to 800 Marines wherever military commanders need them. It operates helicopters and Osprey transport aircraft from a flight deck and air cushion vehicles launched from doors that open at its stern.

“This ship is a first responder,” the ship’s captain, Commander Curt Jones, told a gathering of crewmembers prior to leaving New Orleans. “You are first responders. Have no doubt what your mission is.”

Four more ships of the same class are under construction at the Avondale shipyard and at another shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., including two that will also carry names connected to Sept. 11 2009. Avondale is building the USS Somerset, named for the Pennsylvania county where a hijacked airliner crashed that day, while Pascagoula is building the USS Arlington, named in commemoration of the attack in that city against the Pentagon.

— Ian McNulty