The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


May 15, 2013

Reasoning prevails | USS Somerset to be commissioned in Philly

— Score one for common sense.

The USS Somerset, which is named in honor of the passengers who died aboard United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, will be commissioned in Philadelphia.

The announcement came last week after persistent lobbying by state and local politicians over the past few months.

“The ship is named in honor of the courageous passengers whose action prevented the terrorists from killing many more Americans,” Sen. Pat Toomey said in February. “Our state and our citizens would be privileged to have the ship begin its service to the country in the Port of Philadelphia. I hope (Secretary of the Navy Ray) Mabus agrees.”

Mabus eventually did, and the ship’s commissioning – which begins its active service – is set for January.

The naval secretary told Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk in an email that the USS Somerset is an important ship for the Navy and our nation.

“Commissioning her in the Port of Philadelphia will make the event even more meaningful,” Mabus said. “Once I learned that it was possible to commission the Somerset in Philadelphia, it was the obvious choice for me to make.”

We’re thankful that Mabus made that obvious choice. While Philadelphia is nearly 230 miles from the site where Flight 93 crashed outside of Shanks-ville, it has a much more logical connection to Somerset County than ports in Maryland or Louisiana, which were the other locations considered.

The Somerset, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, includes steel made from a dragline from which a flag hung near the crash site. Its ship-to-ship refueling valves were made in Somerset and a time capsule includes memorabilia from the Flight 93 National Memorial.

It was christened in Louisiana, which made it difficult for Somerset County residents and officials to attend.

State Rep. Carl Walker-Metzgar, whose 69th District includes Shanksville, authored a bill calling on President Barack Obama and Mabus to have this ceremony within the commonwealth.

“I am hopeful that by bringing this vessel closer to home, the world will be able to see the pride of Somerset County and their courage in the face of horrific events,” he said.

So are we.

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