WASHINGTON – A Navy ship, named in honor of the passengers and crew who died aboard United Flight 93, will be commissioned in Philadelphia - 200 miles from the abandoned coal field in Somerset County where the plane was forced down on 9/11.
The USS Somerset, an amphibius transport ship whose bow was in part fashioned from the steel remains of coal mining equipment found at the crash site, will be commissioned at the Philadelphia Port in January, according Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa).
"Pennsylvanians will be privileged to have the ship begin her service to the country in the Port of Philadelphia," said Toomey (R., Pa) in a statement.
He thanked Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus for the decision to select Philadelphia after months of discussions regarding logistics and Naval tradition.
Toomey and Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) had lobbied the Navy to commission the ship in Philadelphia, breaking the tradition that ships are to be commissioned in their home ports, in this case San Diego.
"Our Commonwealth was deeply and uniquely impacted by the tragic events of September 11th," Casey said in a statement. Citing "the brave individuals" who struggled against hijackers on the flight, Casey added, "We have taken great pride in our role to ensure that this sacrifice is never forgotten."
The act of commissioning the ship puts it into active service.
Patrick White, whose cousin Louis Nacke of New Hope was on board Flight 93, said families of the passengers and crew are gratified the ship will be commissioned in the City of Brotherly Love.
"Those on the flight exemplified democratic principles by voting on their fate," said White, president of Families of Flight 93. "There is no more appropriate city to honor those heroes."
The 40 passengers and crew were struggling for control of the Boeing 767 when it crashed in a mountainous area near Shanksville, now the site of a national park. All evidence suggests its destination was the U.S. Capitol.
The ship is the Navy's ninth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. It was christened in July in Louisiana.
The Naval vessels USS New York and USS Arlington also were named in honor of those killed on 9/11.
Contact Jonathan Tamari at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari. Read his blog 'CapitolInq' at www.philly.com/CapitolInq.