When is a Navy Platform… So Much More Than a Platform?

This blog is by Al Hickey, a retired New York City Police Department detective and 9/11 first responder, who was invited on a two-day embark aboard USS New York (LPD 21).

As USS New York (LPD 21) leaves Port Everglades today and ends another successful Fleet Week Port Everglades, I want to take a moment to share what this ship has come to mean to me.

One of Secretary of Navy Ray Mabus’s four priorities is platforms. USS New York is one of them. I applaud and salute that priority.

As we approached the ship for the first time, a week ago, in Mayport, Fla., one cannot be helped to be impressed by the ship’s length of nearly 700 feet and the way the ship stands almost 10 stories above the waterline. As we toured the ship, we learned about its capabilities and the fire power it could deliver to people who want to do us harm.  As I embarked on my two day trip from Mayport to Fort Lauderdale, I learned about the ship’s role in taking Marines to battle either by air off the flight deck or by sea by using a Landing Craft Air Cushion or assault hovercraft.

However, what becomes very clear very quickly to me is USS New York is just so much more than a platform. It is a living memorial to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11. I was invited to ride the ship to Port Everglades because I was a New York Police detective who witnessed firsthand that terrible day when two commercial airplanes struck and destroyed a symbol not just of New York, but of our country.

Capt. Christopher W. Brunett, commanding officer of amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) talks with retired New York Police Department officers and 9/11 first responders Albert Hickey, Brian Kenney and Frank Sisto during transit to Port Everglades to participate in Fleet Week Port Everglades, April 26. New York was built with 7.5 tons of steel from World Trade Center in her bow. This is the 24th annual Fleet Week in Port Everglades, South Florida's annual celebration of the maritime services (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cyrus Roson/ Released)

Capt. Christopher W. Brunett, commanding officer of amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) talks with retired New York Police Department officers and 9/11 first responders Albert Hickey, Brian Kenney and Frank Sisto during transit to Port Everglades to participate in Fleet Week Port Everglades, April 26. New York was built with 7.5 tons of steel from World Trade Center in her bow. This is the 24th annual Fleet Week in Port Everglades, South Florida’s annual celebration of the maritime services (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cyrus Roson/ Released)

I stood at the foot of the rubble of the World Trade Center as it burned. I wondered what good could ever come from such destruction. However, from the mangled steel of the World Trade Towers, a small amount, 7.5 tons, was reclaimed and cast into the bow of this ship. The steel reaches to the waterline cutting a path and leading USS New York to wherever on Earth’s oceans; America’s freedom needs to be defended and our way of life preserved.

Throughout the ship, there were pictures of my fellow first responders. Many of them whom I knew and who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  I had the honor to climb the captain’s ladder to the bridge where the railing is wrapped in the official colors of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York Fire Department and the New York Police Department. Every time Capt. Christopher W. Brunett climbs that ladder, he grips the 393 of these three departments that were called upon in our nation’s hour of need to save others while they gave so dearly of themselves.

Sailors and Marines man the rails aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) during arrival to Port Everglades, Fla., April 28. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cyrus Roson/ Released)

Sailors and Marines man the rails aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) during arrival to Port Everglades, Fla., April 28. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cyrus Roson/ Released)

I presume any Navy ship is, in some ways, just a hunk of steel until the crew brings it to life. And while I remember every minute of that tragic day, most of the crew of the USS New York were just children and their knowledge of 9/11 is from what they have read or seen on video. Still the crew of the New York knows what this platform means to the people of the Tri-State area and to the memories of the individuals who perished that day.

Each night, right before lights out, the ship’s chaplain reads a name of one of the nearly 3,000 individuals who perished that fall morning almost 13 years ago and says a prayer for them and their family. On one night, it was especially meaningful to me that the chaplain said a prayer for Joseph Angelini Sr. and Joseph Angelini Jr., a New York Fire Department father and son.

What struck me about USS New York is the Sailors and their actions to honor those who have fallen. Each one of these brave Navy men and women was living up to the ship’s motto “Strength Forged Through Sacrifice – Never Forget.”

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When is a Navy Platform… So Much More Than a Platform?