Somerset County and the USS Somerset will be forever linked.
The vessel, which is scheduled to be commissioned today in Philadelphia, is named in honor of the county where United Airlines Flight 93 struck the ground during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after passengers and crew members fought back against al-Qaida hijackers.
Its bow stem includes steel from a dragline from which a United States flag hung near the Stonycreek Township crash site.
There are other tributes, too.
Valencia McClatchey, a county resident, donated a copy of her heartbreaking photo “The End of Serenity,” which depicts a cloud of smoke rising into an otherwise peaceful blue sky minutes after the plane slammed into the earth. Equipment from the Flight 93 National Memorial groundbreaking ceremony, a county map and time capsule are aboard.
Rooms and hallways are named after locations in Somerset County and identified with green-and-white road signs. Global/SFC Valve Corp., a Somerset-based business, built many of LPD-25’s valves.
“There’s been a great connection between Somerset County and the USS Somerset,” said Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk.
There are also contributions from the land itself.
Sugar maple, harvested from alongside U.S. Route 219, will be installed as flooring inside a museum dedicated to Somerset County. Vatavuk and John Frick Jr., a regional manager for U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, played important roles in acquiring the wood.
Frick, a woodworker, enlisted the help of people he knew in the industry, including Bernard Lambie, a longtime friend. Lambie contacted Dale Eutsey, who sawed the logs into boards and transported the materials. Holt & Bugbee, a Fayette County company managed by Eric D’Annolfo, kiln dried and milled the hardwood. Rex McQuaide’s company, W.C. McQuaide Inc., transported the flooring to the ship.
All provided their services free of charge.
“It has been awesome,” said Frick. “I’ve had no push-back whatsoever. Everybody has stepped up to the plate to take a swing in the name of community pride and patriotism.”
Frick and Dunbar’s Keith Martin built four shelving units/bookcases, two end tables, a sofa table and a bench. The soft maple was provided by David A. Beckner Lumber Co. with the product cost covered by G. Henry Cook, Somerset Trust Co. CEO and president, and Bob Kirst, president of Global/SFC.
“It’s an honor to do this,” said Frick.