To Never Forget September 11 Attacks, Three Naval Ships Bear the Names of the Crash Sites

Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the decision was made to name a Navy vessel after each of the crash sites to honor those who lost their lives and remember the significance of military members’ service. It’s more than a namesake that keeps the memory of that day alive, though, and part of the crash sites have been built into the very body of the ships.

The secretary of the Navy is responsible for naming vessels and in the days after the attack, Kevin Wensing, then-special assistant to then-Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, spent hours reading letters requesting specific names. Wensing told The Florida Times-Union that the decision was easily made to name a ship the USS New York, but the choice of the vessel was a little more difficult.

Ultimately, the Navy selected the San Antonio–class amphibious transport ships as the vessel of choice for the USS New York, USS Somerset and USS Arlington, for its ability to house both Navy sailors and Marines and the ease that they can be toured. 

USS New York

The USS New York wouldn’t be commissioned until 2009, but six years earlier, in 2003, a special ceremony took place to pour almost eight tons of steel from the World Trade Center into a mold to be placed in the bow.

“We talk to all of our sailors when they initially check in and explain to them the significance of what they are a part of,” Command Master Chief Ben Hodges told The Florida Times-Union. “You can’t help when you walk around the ship to notice all the things meant to remind you of why you serve.”

The ship’s motto is, “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget,” and aboard the vessel, there are daily reminders of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to save others. A steel plate salvaged from the rubble of the World Trade Center is on display in the most-used passageway, as well as, a firefighter’s helmet, according to WJXT.

Along with a piece of the World Trade Center guiding the ship through the water, the ship’s crest is specifically designed to be a symbolic reminder of the attacks, what New York represents, those whose lives were lost and those who ran in to help.

uss new york crest 9/11 The crest of the USS New York is filled with symbolism of the lives that were lost during the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the courage exhibited that day. Navy

At the top of the crest are seven rays of light, representing the Statue of Liberty’s crown and the seven seas. In the center of the crest are the twin towers and the breastplate is made up of the colors of the New York Police Department, New York Fire Department and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in homage to those who responded that day.  

At the bottom of the crest, right above the words, “Never Forget,” are drops of blood to represent the almost 3,000 fallen.

USS Arlington

The USS Arlington, whose motto is, “Strength, Honor, Fortitude,” was named after Arlington, Virginia, where the Pentagon is located. On the day of the attacks, 184 people were killed when a plane crashed into the government building.

Aboard the ship is a 9/11 tribute room, according to Fox News, and the hallway leading to the room contains the names of every person who was killed at the Pentagon along with 184 stars painted on the floor. Also found in the room is a folded American flag that was flown at Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound on the day he was killed.

Metal, bolts and limestone from the Pentagon crash site and a quilt made by eighth-grade students from Arlington schools bearing the names of each victim are also in the room.

“It’s a very somber and powerful reminder of our mission and purpose as members of the U.S. Navy,” Captain Todd Marzano told Fox News. Lieutenant Carley Tadlock added, “Our crew on board does not forget. Everywhere you walk, you will see pentagons throughout the ship.”   

uss arlington crest 9/11 The USS Arlington honors those who were killed when a plane crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Navy

Commissioned in 2013, the ship’s crest serves as a dedication to the attack at the Pentagon and the fortitude of America. At the top of the crest, a bald eagle flies above the memorial benches and a laurel wreath in the center is symbolic of the heroism of first responders. One side of the silver pentagon is colored red, signifying the site of the crash.   

USS Somerset

Thirteen years after the courageous passengers aboard United Flight 93 charged the terrorists aboard their flight in an attempt to take the plane back, the USS Somerset was commissioned. Named after Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where the flight crashed, the ship’s keel contains steel from a mining machine standing near the crash site, according to the Navy.

Every deck of the ship contains mementos of Flight 93 and a dedicated passageway leading to the memorial room bears the names of the 40 passengers and crew who lost their lives.

"This means a lot because we are carrying down their history and their sacrifice," Electrician's Mate 1st Class Christopher Higgins told the Navy. "We honor and represent that. I have great honor being on this ship and I will fight just like they fought for America."

uss somerset 9/11 The USS Somerset was named in honor of the passengers and crew members of United 93 who fought to take back control of the plane after it was hijacked on September 11, 2001. Navy

The ship’s crest, similarly to the other two ships named in honor of the attacks, is filled with symbolism. A shield shape comes from the Somerset County seal and five trees centered in the crest represent the memorial site. Forty white stars outline the blue border of the shield, representative of each of the victims.

Flying through the sky is a bald eagle, to honor the courage the passengers had to attempt to take back the plane. “Courage through adversity,” written in Latin, graces the bottom of the seal.

Former Captain Darren Glaser explained that the bravery exhibited by the passengers in the face of terror is a vital part of the ship with the motto being, “Let’s roll,” which is far from a “random slogan.”

“It was literally the last words heard, used to muster collective courage in order to fight back. We say 'Let's Roll' on Somerset so we don't forget,” Glaser explained to the Navy. “No, USS Somerset will never forget."

After passengers realized the flight had been hijacked and the terrorists were on a suicide mission, they planned to attack, which passenger Todd Beamer conveyed to GTE-Airfone supervisor, Lisa Jefferson, during an in-flight phone call.

He asked her to tell his wife he loved her, recited the Lord’s Prayer, and then put the phone down. The last words Jefferson heard before the call got disconnected were “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!” and the passengers made their move.

Each year on September 11, the country honors the lives that were lost during the attacks and the courage exhibited by countless people. While the USS New York, USS Somerset and USS Arlington will all host memorial services, every day is a reminder of those who gave their lives 17 years ago.  

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