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Last Updated: Monday, 19 June 2006, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
US warship built from 9/11 steel
By Andy Gallacher
BBC News, Miami

Molten steel from the World Trade Center is poured into moulds for the USS New York at a foundry in Amite, LA, in September 2003
Relatives of 9/11 victims say it is a fitting tribute to lost loved ones
The Avondale dockyard lies on the banks of the Mississippi river close to New Orleans. It is a huge facility with towering cranes and half built hulls that dwarf the thousands who work here.

Ships have been built at the yard for decades, but the LPD 21, a billion-dollar warship, is different.

It has been especially commissioned by the US Navy.

When it sets sail in 2008 it will be called the USS New York and carry with it the motto 'Never Forget'.

More significantly, part of the vessel's bow has been forged from World Trade Center steel.

Commander Chris Mercer is a US Naval Officer who has been following the project since its inception.

"The sanctity and strength of all the victims, the first responders and their family members is really forged in the bow of this ship," he said.

"For the next 40 years that bow will lead this ship in projecting naval power all over the globe in our global fight against terrorism."

Kamp Katrina

It is a project that had to be halted last year when Hurricane Katrina devastated the entire region.

The 25,000 tonne hull of the New York was not damaged, but many of the shipbuilders lost homes and still have family members scattered across several states.

Commander Chris Mercer, US Navy
Cdr Mercer: The sanctity and strength of 9/11 is forged in the ship's bow
Around 200 have now moved into hastily-erected cabins in the dock yard. Inside, bunk beds are lined up tight against each other, resembling a military barracks.

The workers have christened the site "Kamp Katrina".

Electrician Earl Jones says getting back to work on a project like the LPD 21 has made things a little easier.

"When we started building this contract and we got word that the Navy were going to use some of the steel that came from that disaster it boosted our esteem," he said.

"We got kind of trumped on down here too by Mother Nature. We like to think that that will be one of our lead carriers; just in case something ever did happen, we'll know that hey that's a part of New York and New Orleans."

'Appropriate' memorial

For many at Avondale, the New York represents a common bond between two cities both hit by tragedies.

Crane supervisor Tony Quaglino is typical of those working on the vessel.

Anthony Howard (left) and Tracie Lee Mackie (right)
Workers carried on despite the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina

He was due to retire last year but stayed on to make the New York the final ship of his long career.

"I've worked here since 1965, 41 years. In that time I've worked on a hundred or more ships and the one I want to remember is the LPD 21, the New York," he said.

"It has a particular significance to me in that it's a memorial to the folks who died on 9/11. When you are 66 you have very little to give back to your country and this is my last effort to pay back what has been given to me," he says.

The project has had its critics, who say using steel from a terrorist attack in a warship could send out the wrong message.

But despite not being consulted, the families who lost people on 11 September 2001 support the gesture.

Stephen Gerhardt's brother Ralph died in the attacks. "I do think it is appropriate," he said.

"You look at what Americans do; they do tend to use their ships and their military as a place of high honour, so it makes Ralph's death at least an honourable one," he went on.

"A lot of it is going be used in soda cans and new Toyotas, so let some of it be used for more commemorative reasons."

The USS New York will set sail in 2008 and will have the capacity to carry 1,000 soldiers as well as helicopters and hovercraft.

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