tampabay.com

Navy ship with WTC steel survived Katrina's assault

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published April 4, 2006


NEW YORK - With a year to go before it even touches the water, the Navy's amphibious assault ship USS New York has already made history - twice. It was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center, and it survived Hurricane Katrina.

That combination of disasters gives the ship a unique standing among the 500 or so Avondale, La., shipyard workers building it, said Tony Quaglino, a crane superintendent who postponed retirement to have a hand in the New York's construction. "I think Katrina made us more aware of the tragedy in New York," said the 66-year-old Quaglino. "One was manmade, one was natural, but they're both a common bond."

The New York is about 45 percent complete and should be ready for launch in mid 2007. Katrina disrupted construction when it pounded the Gulf Coast, but the 684-foot vessel escaped serious damage and workers were back at the yard near New Orleans two weeks after the storm.

The ship led many of the yard's thousands of workers to return to the job even though hundreds lost their homes, Quaglino and others said.

Northrop Grumman employed 6,500 at Avondale before Katrina. Today, roughly 5,500 are back, working on the New York and three other vessels. More than 200 employees who lost their homes to Katrina are living at the shipyard, some on a Navy barge and others in bunk-style housing.

"Their dedication and devotion to duty has been, to say the least, epic," Philip Teel, a vice president for Northrop Grumman Corp. and head of its ship systems division, told a Navy League dinner audience in New York on March 22.

"It sounds trite, but I saw it in their eyes," Teel said in a separate interview. "These are very patriotic people, and the fact that the ship has steel from the trade center is a source of great pride. They view it as something incredibly special. They're building it for the nation."

The USS New York is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines.

Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, La., to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept. 9, 2003, "those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence," recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there. "It was a spiritual moment for everybody there."