Families of Flight 93 members sign hull of Somerset ship
Twenty-two members of the Families of Flight 93 on Saturday visited the Avondale, La., shipyard where Northrop Grumman Corp. is building the Somerset, signing their names and those of their family members on the ship's hull.
The Somerset is the ninth ship in the Landing Ship Transport Dock series of San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships.
It is named for Somerset County, where United Flight 93 crashed Sept. 11, 2001. The 40 passengers and crew members were credited with storming the cockpit and preventing terrorists from crashing the plane into landmarks in Washington.
"Somerset is a very special ship to our shipbuilders, our company and to the family members who lost loved ones on Flight 93," said Irwin F. Edenzon, vice president and general manager, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding -- Gulf Coast. "LPD 25 demonstrates the steadfast commitment of our nation to protecting our freedom, and it symbolizes the courage of those aboard Flight 93 who refused to yield to those who threatened it."
Construction is taking place at the company's shipyard near New Orleans.
Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93, said he and fellow family members appreciated the opportunity to see the Somerset up close.
"It's important for the family members to see the progress being made on this special ship, which looks much further along than I expected," said Felt, who lost his brother Edward on Flight 93. "It's very impressive. We can see that the shipbuilders are taking great pride in building it."
"We thank the Navy and our nation for honoring those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, with this ship that memorializes them," he said. "To build a naval vessel that will remind the world and motivate those who will serve aboard her that what took place in Somerset County, Pa., on 9/11 was worthy of our honor and remembrance."
Calvin Wilson, who lost his brother-in-law, United Flight 93 co-pilot LeRoy Homer Jr., said he and fellow family members were overwhelmed by the ship.
"We are amazed and grateful that a Navy ship is named in honor of our loved ones," Wilson said. "It's an honor I can't put into words. We're all excited about being here and seeing this wonderful ship and also to tour her sister ship, Anchorage. I know we'll be back when Somerset is completed. It will be very special for us to walk her decks."
The 684-foot, 105-foot-wide transport dock ships are used to transport and land U.S. Marines, their equipment and supplies. Its flight deck will be able to accommodate helicopters and landing aircraft, such as the Osprey.
Somerset is scheduled to be put into service in the first quarter of 2012 and will be delivered to the Navy in the first quarter of 2013. Mary Jo Myers, who is the wife of retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the ship's sponsor.
Two other Northrop Grumman-built LPD ships are named in honor of the heroes of 9/11 -- Arlington, LPD 24, under construction in Pascagoula, Miss., and USS New York, LPD 21, which was commissioned in New York City in November 2009.