Dignitaries gather around Mary Jo Myers, wife of retired Joint Chiefs of… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)
The USS Somerset, the last of three Navy ships dedicated to the sites of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was christened Saturday in honor of the passengers and crew who diverted a hijacked plane and died in the crash that followed.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, as terrorists took over the cockpit on United Airlines Flight 93, passengers called family, friends and emergency hotlines from in-flight phones -- learning about the attacks on the World Trade Center in the process.
"Don't worry, we're going to do something,” passenger Tom Burnett said in his last words to his wife, according to transcripts from plane recordings.
Passengers and crew members stormed the cockpit in an attempt to take control of the plane, which crashed into a wooded part of Somerset County in Pennsylvania. No one survived.
Flight 93, which originated in New Jersey, was the only plane that did not reach its intended target; investigators believe the terrorists were aiming for the White House or the U.S. Capitol.
“The men and women of Flight 93 … thought they were going to San Francisco to work, to play, to learn; to live their lives in peace while others guarded them,” Navy Rear Adm. David Lewis told the Associated Press. “Instead they found themselves in a war, on the front lines, in the opening battle. It was a new kind of war, one with new rules, maybe no rules at all. They had no preparation, no training, no guidance.
“And they performed superbly.”
In a suburb of New Orleans on Saturday, about two dozen relatives of the victims listened to military and shipbuilding officials praise the bravery of Flight 93’s passengers.
In the weeks after the attacks, recovery crews draped an American flag across a dragline, the crane-like portion of the heavy excavation machinery sitting on the crash site, the Navy said. In 2008, steel from the dragline was melted down and cast into the bow of the Somerset.
The Somerset is one of three specialty ships built in honor of the nearly 3,000 Sept. 11 victims. The others are the USS New York and the USS Arlington; the latter is named for Arlington County, Va., the site of the Pentagon.
The USS Somerset, an amphibious landing dock, will be used primarily as a carrier for troops and equipment, the Navy said. It will also be used, when needed, to provide humanitarian assistance and fight pirates.
The ship is 684 feet long, 105 feet wide and displaces approximately 25,000 tons. The ship can carry up to 800 troops, but will have a standing crew of 360 officers and sailors, as well as three U.S. Marines.
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