PORT EVERGLADES, FL, UNITED STATES
ABOARD USS NEW YORK – During what seemed like a normal day at school, Steven Lopez, a fifth grader of P.S. 18 Elementary School in Brooklyn, N.Y., was walking back to his classroom when he felt the sudden urge to look out the hallway window, Sept. 11, 2001. His eyes drew immediate attention to a burning building, and as he looked closer, he watched as a plane crashed into a second building, causing a massive explosion. When he arrived to his classroom, the phone continuously rang, and his teacher was frantic. Shortly after, he was picked up by his mother, and school was closed.
“I was 10 years old in the fifth grade, and when I got back to the house after my mom picked me up from school, I didn’t know what was going on,” said Lance Cpl. Steven Lopez, 23-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and intelligence specialist with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. “I remember watching the news, and I kept watching the planes hitting the towers over and over. I kind of knew what was happening, but I thought it was an accident.”
It wasn’t until Lopez was in high school when he learned what he saw in the fifth grade was the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on 9/11.
“I went to high school one block away from the World Trade Center,” Lopez added. “When I got there I started hearing all the stories from the teachers when it happened, and they shared their experiences. That’s when I realized what happened when I was 10.”
Lopez said he joined the Marine Corps mostly to honor his family and also to honor those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.
“As a service member, every year on Sept. 11, it takes me back a little and reminds me of what happened that day, and makes me proud to serve my country,” Lopez said. “When I salute the flag, the first thing that pops into my head is 9/11, and I remember what happened that day pretty clear.”
Being in the Marine Corps, you don’t always get the opportunity to go home as much as you want. Lopez said he hadn’t been to New York in quite some time, and it wasn’t until he came aboard the USS New York (LPD 21), when he said he felt at home.
“When I found out the Marines were going to be aboard the USS New York, I was happy, and I just wanted to be on it,” he said. “When I found out it was made up of the metal from the towers, that’s when I knew I really wanted to go. I feel back at home here, especially seeing the Subway sign, seeing the patches and the pieces of metal from 9/11.”
The USS New Yorks’ motto is, ‘Strength Forged through Sacrifice – Never Forget.’ The ship’s bow stem carries seven-and-a-half tons of steel from the wreckage of the World Trade Center buildings. The ship honors the sacrifices of those who had perished in the 9/11 tragedies.
“We carry the DNA of the 9/11 victims right in the sole of this ship,” said Navy Capt. Christopher W. Brunett, native of Buffalo, N.Y., and commanding officer of USS New York. “It’s part of the spirit that drives us. The USS New York is an extremely unique and special ship. There is none other like it in the fleet. It gives us resolved to do the things that we need to do and the things we will do together.”
Approximately 120 Marines from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 269, Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, and 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., embarked aboard the USS New York and joined forces with Sailors for the 24th Annual Fleet Week in Port Everglades, Fla., April 28 through May 5.
“Having the USS New York as my first ship I’ve been on is a privilege,” Lopez said. “I’m going to be on multiple ships, but being here is a representation of 9/11, and it is mind blowing. I am excited to be here for Fleet Week and being aboard this ship.”
For more news stories and photographs about Fleet Week Port Everglades, visit http://www.newriver.marines.mil/ or visit the Facebook pages at http://www.facebook.com/FleetWeekPortEverglades and http://www.facebook.com/mcasnewriver.
||PORT EVERGLADES, FL, US
This work, Marines, Sailors feel at home while aboard USS New York, by SSgt Alicia R. Leaders, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.