“We are shipbuilders. We remember.”
These humble words etched on a dedication placard appear at the center of this handsome commemorative wreath recently gifted to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Ingalls Shipbuilding, a leading manufacturer of warships that has produced 70 percent of the U.S. Navy fleet’s ships, donated the red, white and blue wreath, improvised from a life ring.
At the firm’s Gulfport, Miss., operations, about 700 shipbuilders gathered on Sept. 9, two days before the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. They came together to reflect on the meaning of the motto, “Never Forget,” adopted for the USS New York that they had built. These words and the image of the Twin Towers behind a rising phoenix are featured on the ship’s crest.
Similar ceremonies were simultaneously held in Mississippi at Pascagoula and Avondale, where the USS Arlington and USS Somerset were under construction. The shipbuilders observed a moment of silence acknowledging the nearly 3,000 human lives extinguished on 9/11 as well as the sacrifices of the first responders and others who rushed to help.
As part of the somber ceremonies, wreaths bearing the names of the 9/11 dead and the state flags and flowers of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia were placed in the water.
The life-ring wreath the Memorial Museum received is covered with hand-written signatures of the men and woman at Ingalls dedicated to constructing three new vessels explicitly commemorating the 9/11 heroes. The vessels include the USS New York, christened in March 2008; USS Arlington, christened in March 2011; and USS Somerset, slated to be christened this summer.
Each ship embodies three legacies: the first referencing her past namesake, the second anticipating the history she will create as a warship, and the third, referencing the locations where innocent lives ended on the day when the new war of terror began.
Seven and a half tons of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center were cast as the bow stem of USS New York. Steel taken from the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 attacks will be displayed aboard the USS Arlington once it has been commissioned and similarly, about 22 tons of steel from a crane that stood near United Airlines Flight 93’s crash site have been used to construct USS Somerset’s stemhold.
By Jan Ramirez and Alex Drakakis, 9/11 Memorial Museum