The sun was spring-bright and the air winter-cold when Mary Jo Myers, wife of retired Gen. Richard B. Myers, finally said the words Saturday that a crowd of thousands had waited hours to hear:
“Man this ship and bring her to life.”
Sailors began marching from the amphitheater at Penn’s Landing onto the brow – that’s what civilians call the gangplank – of the Navy’s newest ship, the USS Somerset.
More sailors appeared on the upper decks, dwarfed by the 25,000-ton vessel as they peered down at the politicians, military brass, shipbuilders, families of United Flight 93’s passengers and crew, and regular folks way down on land. A lifeboat was revealed as a door in the ship’s side slid open. The horn boomed.
That was pretty much it, but it was plenty for Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval operations, who said the official commissioning of a ship that commemorates 9/11 heroism over Pennsylvania was “exhilarating.” The Somerset – which took four years and $1.2 billion to build – was ready for action.
The vessel, an amphibious assault ship that also can deliver humanitarian aid – is named for Somerset County, where the hijacked Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. Passengers and crew stormed the cockpit and prevented the hijackers from attacking another target. The memory of the heroism of those ordinary people now inhabits the work space of men and women who have chosen to face danger.