USS New York, made with World Trade Center steel, heads home

The USS New York, a Navy warship named to commemorate the 9/11 attacks, is on its way to be formally commissioned in New York this November. But many New Yorkers have never heard of it.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Onlookers wave flags as the USS New York sails through heavy fog on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Tuesday. The ship was built with about eight tons of steel from the World Trade Center site and is on its way to New York, its home port.
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The USS New York?

Many New Yorkers profess ignorance. Is it a cruise ship? What do we need it for? Will it be a target?

Those are just some of the questions a handful of New Yorkers asked about the Navy warship which was launched Tuesday at Northrup Grumman's shipyard in Avondale, La.

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The amphibious assault vessel was built with 7.5 tons of steel salvaged from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The ship, which can carry up to 800 Marines, is on its way to New York where it will be formally commissioned in early November.

While holding a door at a New York apartment building, doorman Christopher Elter admitted he had not heard of the ship.

"How many people does it hold?" he asked. Told it was partly made with steel from the World Trade Center, he worries about "spirits."

"Let's hope they are good spirits," he said.

Outside a New York subway station, a man, who identified himself as B. Ortiz, wonders how much the ship costs.

"We spend a lot of money on frivolous things," says Mr. Ortiz. "Whatever it cost, we could have used the money for the city or the subways – they're a real mess."

Another New Yorker, Rodger Alwais worries the vessel would be a "moving target." But he imagines it should be able to defend itself. And, he is in favor of anything that puts New York "in a good light."

Richard Altmanshofer, an executive assistant, admits he had not heard about the ship. But, he is very appreciative of the symbolism behind using the steel from the 9/11 attack.

"That's very, very cool," he says.

Brooklyn resident Regina Gillis, who had heard about the USS New York, likes the idea of "recycling" the steel.

"It's the ultimate recycling," she says. But, she would like the ship to be used for peaceful purposes.

"It would be really good if it was a medical ship," says Ms. Gillis who's glad it was built in Louisiana. "They need the work," she says.

That New Yorkers are not particularly aware of the ship isn't surprising, says Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College and a commentator on New York affairs.

"It will be a big deal when it gets here," he says. "But it will be freighted with so much emotion," says Mr. Muzzio who anticipates the vessel will be formally commissioned by a survivor of the attack or a loved one whose family member was killed on 9/11.

After commissioning, the USS New York will be based in Norfolk, Va.

One historical oddity: A previous holder of the name USS New York (a battleship) had its keel laid on September 11, 1911.

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