NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) –It’s a “sort of” homecoming for one ship taking part in Fleet Week.
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The USS New York returned to her namesake’s harbor Wednesday as one of seven Navy ships and Coast Guard cutters dropping anchor. This morning, sailors paused to honor the victims of 9/11 as they sailed past Lower Manhattan.
PHOTO GALLERY: Fleet Week 2011
Some 7.5 tons of steel salvaged from the collapsed World Trade Center was used in the ship’s construction.
“It’s something that means a lot to me, to be on the New York,” said HM 2nd Class Latoya Jones from Brooklyn.
A handful of native New Yorkers were stationed on the New York, including Petty Officer First Class Alex Figueroa, who grew up in Brooklyn.
Petty Officer Second Class Aaron Palacio grew up in Brooklyn and joined the Navy shortly after September 11.
“It’s definitely special, because I was in New York when the World Trade Center incident happened, and I just wanted to give back,” he told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.
“It’s been a dream of mine, so it’s an amazing experience,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m from New York, so what better way to show my pride and show my patriotism than to be on board a ship that is a part of my city?”
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“It’s always in everybody’s mind, but it’s just something we got to work through and get past and keep fighting,” said Lance Corporal William McMorrow of Poughkeepsie.
Sailor Gloria Madena, who is from Washington Heights, agreed.
“It’s emotional,” Madena said. “It’s more than an honor and it’s very special. It’s dear to my heart.”
The ship is preparing for a 2012 deployment.
Eight ships are dropping anchor for Fleet Week. Five, including the New York, will be moored on Staten Island, while the others will dock in Manhattan, bringing 3,000 sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen to the Big Apple.
It’s a chance for them to kick back, enjoy some R&R, and accept thanks for their sacrifice.
“People are appreciating what we do, because we’re still sacrificing our families and our lives to make sure that everybody else is safe in the country,” HM 2nd Class Jones said.
“There’s always work to be done. Everybody’s got responsibilities, but New York’s a great place. Everybody’s really excited to get over here and kind of see some of the things that there is to do,” said 1st Lt. Glen Harvey, a Marine from Locust Valley on Long Island. “A lot of marines and sailors haven’t experienced New York before, and it’s time for them to get out and see what’s up around here.”
During Fleet Week it will be open to the public, giving New Yorkers and tourists the chance to step on board, pay homage to those lost on 9/11, and honor those still fighting for our country.
“I can’t say. It chokes me up. It means everything. It means our freedom, our safety, everything,” said Peggy Keith of Yardley, PA.
Fleet Week kicked off with the Parade of Ships. At 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, ships cruised under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, one by one.
They exchanged a gun salute as they passed Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, then paused to honor the victims of 9/11 as they approached Lower Manhattan.
From there, they cruised up the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge before turning to head to their home ports.
Military planes executed four separate flyovers.
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