The crew of the USS New York awoke to "New York, New York," at about 4 a.m. this morning as the naval ship forged from World Trade Center steel made a triumphant visit to its namesake city.
The hero's welcome began at 7:30 a.m. this morning, when the massive warship passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and then moved up the Hudson River to the World Trader Center site where it dropped anchor, dipped its colors and fired a 21-gun salute.
"This might be your home port, but we will alwasys do everything to make you feel at home here," Mayor Mike Bloomberg said at the ceremony welcoming the ship to New York.
He noted that he's been told that the USS New York "already exhibits some of the characteristics of New Yorkers: Strong, dignified, determined -- and don't even think about getting in her way."
The ship stands as a testament to those who died in the terrorist attacks on September, 11, 2001, and those who will never forget them.
"It's a transformation ... from something really twisted and ugly," said Rosaleen Tallon, who lost her firefighter brother, Sean, on 9/11. "I'm proud that our military is using that steel."
Tallon said her brother, who was also was a Marine, would have been proud.
JoAnn Atlas, of Howells, N.Y., who lost her husband, fire Lt. Gregg Atlas, draped a flag-themed banner along the fence. The names of emergency workers who died were written on the red stripes.
"We have to remember. It's a way to honor them," she said.
Members of the public included Nancy DiGiacomo, who came from Huntington, N.Y., with her husband, 9-year-old son, mother and sister.
"I just thought it was important to see" the transformation of the tragedy's wreckage, said DiGiacomo. "From that, something else can come of it."
The New York's arrival home will begin a weeklong welcome leading up to her formal commissioning on Nov. 7.
The $1 billion New York, named after the city to honor those lost in Sept. 11 attacks, was made with 7 1/2 tons of steel from the Twin Towers.
And there 's no shortage of hometown homages on the vessel: The main passageway is called Broadway, and the ship's breastplate of the phoenix bears the colors of first responders from the New York Police Department, New York Fire Department, and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The diner-inspired galley, the Skyline Cafe, features a pre-9/11 blue-neon outline of the city, and there's even a 34th Street and a 42nd Street on board.
The ship's bow is made with the Ground Zero steel -- so where ever it goes the Trade Center metal leads the way -- and features an image of the Twin Towers behind a rising phoenix and the words “Never Forget.
At 684-feet long, the vessel can carry 800 Marines, along with a helicopters and the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor airplane.
Currently, there are 186 Marines on board, in addition to 359 Navy crew members and 60 reservists.
Of the 60 reservists, 11 are from the New York City area, members of the Navy Operational Support Center in the Bronx, whose accents, Yankees allegiances and urban swagger have lent an air of local authenticity to the ship, The New York Times reported.
As part of its journey, the ship is scheduled to stop when it nears ground zero, where first responders, families of Sept. 11 victims and the public have been invited to watch a 21-gun salute.
Rosaleen Tallon, whose firefighter brother Sean Tallon died in the attacks, planned to be among them.
"I think it's a really nice tribute," she said, adding that her brother, who also was a Marine, would be proud.
She said she was glad that steel from the fallen towers would be used in a new form.
"It's a transformation of it from something really twisted and ugly," Tallon said. "I'm proud that our military is using that steel."
Meanwhile on the ship, Electronic Technician Thomas Growl, of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, said he was serving in honor of his cousin, who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Lt. Cmdr. Colette Murphy, a Navy spokeswoman, said she was excited for those serving on board to see how the city would welcome them.
"I think it's going to be awe-inspiring," she said.
Of the 361 sailors serving aboard the ship, around 13 percent are from New York state, which is higher than would normally be the case, Murphy said. There were many requests from Navy personnel to serve on the ship, which will also be carrying around 250 Marines, she said.
When terrorist hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, destroying the twin towers and killing nearly 2,800 people, the ship was already on the drawing board. In September 2002, the Defense Department announced the selection of New York as the ship's name, honoring the city and state and those who died in the attacks.
About 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel was melted at the Bradken Inc. foundry in Amite, La., and used in the New York's bow.
The New York revives a name held by at least four other Navy ships, including a Spanish-American War-era cruiser, a battleship that served in World Wars I and II and a nuclear submarine retired from the fleet in 1997.
The ship is a San Antonio-class amphibious dock vessel. The first four ships in the series -- the USS San Antonio, USS New Orleans, USS Mesa Verde and USS Green Bay -- are in service. Four other ships in the class ate under construction: Somerset and Anchorage at the Avondale yard, and Arlington and San Diego at Northrop Grumman's yard in Pascagoula, Miss.
Arlington and Somerset also carry names connected to the Sept. 11 attacks: Arlington for the attack on the Pentagon and Somerset for the Pennsylvania county in which United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after being hijacked.