I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “you remember where you were when you hear truly shocking news”. Growing up I’d often hear people saying that and thought it was nonsense, why would the first thing I think about be me? However when it comes to the 9/11 attacks I remember where I was and what I was doing as if it was yesterday.
But it wasn’t yesterday, it was 16 years ago. And today like every-year since New York suffered one of the greatest terrorist attacks on American soil: 1000 family members, survivors, rescuers and officials gathered at a ceremony held at the World Trade Center. Relatives read out the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed when two planes hit The Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, hurling America into a new consciousness of the threat of global terrorism.
In response to the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush began Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, a campaign designed to find and hold those responsible for the attacks. It went on until as recent as 2014 and only ended due to political pressure rather than military objectives being completed.
Instead of getting into the depths of the political turmoil and even the conspiracy theories that always come to the surface this time of a year, let me introduce you to the the USS Somerset.
The ship is named after the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 during the September 11 attacks of 2001, whose actions prevented the plane, hijacked by terrorists, from reaching their intended target, forcing the airplane to crash in Stonycreek Township in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In the words of Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England:
“The courage and heroism of the people aboard the flight will never be forgotten and USS Somerset will leave a legacy that will never be forgotten by those wishing to do harm to this country.”
The Somerset’s bow stem uses 22 tons of steel from one of two mining excavators present at the Flight 93 crash site in Pennsylvania.
But she’s not the only one. As well as the Somerset, there’s the USS New York and USS Arlington, all San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships. And all carry pieces of wreckage from the sites where al Qaeda terrorists crashed hijacked commercial jets.
Its a touching sentiment to think that those that serve on these ships were children when the attacks happened. They have no connection to the people that died that day other than the inherited responsibility to honour their legacy.