Our ship’s come in!
USS New York on way, with WTC steel in its bow The Twin Towers are setting sail today.
Made with steel forged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, the USS New York this morning begins its maiden voyage from New Orleans to the city for its Nov. 7 commissioning ceremony.
There is no shortage of Big Apple homages on board: The main passageway has been dubbed Broadway, the ship’s insignia references the NYPD and FDNY, and the diner-inspired galley, the Skyline Café, features a pre-9/11 blue neon outline of the city. There’s even a 34th Street and a 42nd Street on board.
But it is the New York’s bow, made from Ground Zero steel, that makes this “amphibious landing platform dock” — which can deliver a 700-member Marine battalion anywhere in the world — a true New Yorker, Cmdr. Curtis Jones told The Post.
“Physically, literally and figuratively, that steel leads us every day,” said Jones, who hails from upstate Binghamton. Nearly 10 percent of his crew also hails from the Empire State.
“That fact is never lost on us. And it is hard to know what it is going to be like to come up into New York City and pass by the World Trade Center site,” he said.
The USS New York marks the first time the Navy has turned a casualty into an instrument of war, Jones said.
The ship’s primary mission will be to deploy Marine battalions to the scene of counterterrorism operations.
It was then-Gov. George Pataki who, shortly after Sept. 11, requested the Navy name a ship involved in the war on terror after the state of New York.
At 684 feet, the ship is slightly longer than a city subway train, and its 361-sailor crew could probably squeeze into one rush-hour subway train.
The ship does not have the population of a metropolis, but the New York is still massive, displacing 24,900 tons at sea, while cruising at speeds faster than 22 knots (24 mph).
Preparing for departure was a “mad scramble,” Jones said. “This has been the equivalent of moving into and furnishing a 70-story building — and until six weeks ago, none of us were on board.”
In the past few days, the ship was loaded with half a million gallons of fuel, ammunition and more than 180 vehicles, including the crew’s personal cars, which will be transported to the New York’s new base in Norfolk, Va.
The New York took five years to complete, its construction delayed by Hurricane Katrina.
In 2002, 7½ tons of World Trade Center steel were melted down and forged into the “stem bar,” the part of the bow that cuts through the sea.
Many New Yorkers in the Navy requested assignments to the new ship.
Originally from Woodside, Queens, Manfred Tiedemann, 45, the ship’s boatswain, said the New York has special meaning for him because he lost his close friend, firefighter Paul Gill, in the terrorist attacks.
Arriving in New York Harbor will be bittersweet, Tiedemann said.
“I will be thinking about the people that had to die in order to make the ship,” he said. “It was a horrible day, but hopefully this will provide closure to the families and we can all move on.”
Those killed in the Twin Tower were innocents who had war forced upon them, but Tiedemann said he hoped the ship would be a force for peace.
“We’ve taken something that was done to hurt us and turned it into something that is going to benefit all of mankind,” he said.
The New York will spend the next 10 days running a series of training exercises.
“We will also fire the ship’s guns for the first time,” Jones said.
After a weeklong stopover in Norfolk on Nov. 2, the New York will make the final leg of its trip through New York Harbor to Pier 88 on the West Side next to the USS Intrepid, where it will be officially commissioned Nov. 7.
While in New York, the ship will be equipped with city street signs and other memorabilia, said Yeoman Aaron Palacio, 25, originally from Brooklyn.
“When I got ordered to this ship, which was my choice, I felt it was like getting to play for the home team,” he said.
In fact, the ship was beginning to look a little too much like New York for the Navy’s taste, Jones said, noting that the process of moving gear and equipment left many passageways strewn with litter.
By JEREMY OLSHAN
New York Post