By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
AVONDALE, La. —
Family members of those killed in the United Airlines Flight 93 crash on Sept. 11, 2001, saw the memory of their families’ and this nation’s sacrifice honored during the christening of a brand new warship, the USS Somerset, an amphibious transport dock.
The San Antonio-class ship is named after the county where Flight 93 crashed, Somerset County, Pa., and is 684 feet long and 105 feet wide. Its mission is to deploy Marines and combat support materials. The ship can carry up to 800 Marines or other service members to be sent ashore by LCAC or other landing craft, helicopters and vertical take-off-and-landing Osprey aircraft.
On Saturday, Americans from across the nation gathered at Avondale, La., to witness the christening of the USS Somerset, which will carry the memory of the 40 passengers aboard Flight 93 who on Sept. 11, 2001, rushed the cockpit of a hijacked airplane and fought with terrorists to prevent the plane they were on from being crashed, intelligence officials believe, into the Capital.
Several members of families of those who perished on that flight came to the Louisiana shipyard of Huntington Ingalls Industries to take a tour of the ship and see its christening.
“We recognize them today as being the first to fight back,” said Patrick White, president of Families of Flight 93.
“They did harm to those who would hurt us,” said Rear Adm. David Lewis, Navy Ships Program Executive Officer. “They fought like lions.”
Vice Adm. William R. Burke, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, said the passengers of Flight 93 did what was right, even though they weren’t ordered to do so.
“Their sacrifice guided the rest of America,” Burke said.
Robert Marisay had a sister on Flight 93, and according to him, he is the only Georgia resident with ties to the crash. Marisay’s sister was leaving New York after a meeting with their brother and was on her way home to Hawaii when the flight went down. He described the christening of the USS Somerset as exciting.
Ken Matthew lost his brother in the Flight 93 crash. He feels pride and honor in the fact that the new warship will carry the name of Somerset.
Deborah Borza mother of the youngest female passenger on the flight also attended the christening. She said her daughter, Deora, was 20-years-old at the time. Deora would have been 31-years-old this year, Borza said. Deora was on her way back to Santa Clara University in California after visiting with friends on the East Coast when the flight went down.
Borza took comfort in the naval traditions that took place during Friday and Saturday’s event, traditions that left her feeling proud.
Andy Garcia also was on that flight, and as a result he never got to meet his grandson Shea Arrillaga. Shea’s mother, Kelly Arrillaga, brought her son from San Francisco to the christening as a way of honoring her father’s memory.
Once commissioned in the third quarter of 2013, the USS Somerset will have a Pennsylvania native serving aboard, Senior Chief Petty Officer Todd Ferrari. The 18 year Navy veteran said his father is a member of the Elks Club that provided assistance in Seven Springs, Pa., a town near the crash site, to those who needed it after the crash.
Christening of the USS Somerset this past weekend helped Ferrari recognize the significance of the ship and its namesake. He will serve on the Somerset for at least the first 36 months in service.
Brian Thomas, a native of Somerset County who now lives in Louisiana, also attended the ceremonies. His father was the chief of the Somerset Volunteer Fire Department during 9-11. Thomas, who moved to Shreveport, La., only a week ago, decided he wanted to attend the christening. While Thomas did not lose a family member in the crash, he said he was just honored to be in attendance.
“It’s a great honor to represent my county,” Thomas said.