Is This An Appropriate Use of WTC Steel?

The Navy recently christened a new ship which includes 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center.  While I support a strong military I have trouble with the symbolism behind this project.  That steel has so much death already associated with it that I have difficulty imagining it being used to bring about  even more suffering, regardless of the reasons involved.  I know my cousin Alisha would be appalled by this decision.  Here is what a few people associated with the ceremony had to say:

"It resurrects the ashes, so to speak, to do great things for our
nation," said Bill Glenn, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman
Shipbuilding, the ship builder.

USS New York’s prospective commanding officer is Cmdr. F. Curtis
Jones, a native New Yorker. It is to be commissioned, essentially added
to the fleet, next year. It could be used as part of peaceful missions
or as part of war, said Adm. Gary Roughead, the Navy’s chief of

That it could be used in war did not bother Lee
Ielpi, president of the September 11th Families’ Association, whose
son, Jonathan, a firefighter, died in the attacks. The ship won’t be
used for war "unless you bother us," he said in an interview.

sending a message that we’re standing strong," he said, adding: "This
ship, as it cuts through the water, is going to send a ripple. That
ripple will say, ‘We cherish our freedom.’"

Rep. Vito Fossella,
R-N.Y., said Sept. 11 was a turning point in the nation, and will never
be forgotten because remnants of the disaster are part of the ship.

the USS New York has to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell,
PCO Jones and his crew … have my full support," he said to a standing

Why couldn’t the steel be used for one of the Navy’s hospital ships or another type of vessel that would be more clearly perceived as having "peaceful" intentions?  Please understand that I am not a pacifist.  I just wonder whether this is really an appropriate use of such emotionally-charged material.  What about preserving the steel for future memorials to the victims of 9-11 or even other catastrophic events?  It seems to me that there are more fitting ways to demonstrate to the world that, "We cherish our freedom."

8 comments… add one
  • Kevin Levin Mar 8, 2008 @ 8:59

    Dale, — Thanks for the comment. You seem to understand exactly what I was trying to get at. Thanks.

  • Dale Mar 7, 2008 @ 12:39

    Glad you asked the question. I read quite a few blog posts and articles about the launching last weekend, but you’re about the only one who stepped back and asked whether the ship should have been built from this material at all. Personally I have mixed feelings about it; I understand the symbolic power of what was done here, and the deep meaning it might have for people who lost loved ones in the WTC attacks. Yet whenever I look at one of those posed pictures of politicians using the ship as a photo-op, I can’t help but think they just don’t get it. I would have liked to see the steel used in memorial structures also, rather than as part of the war equipment. I don’t think it serves us all that well, long-term, to keep connecting the memories of those lost to the military response‚Ķ.

  • Kevin Levin Mar 5, 2008 @ 13:06

    Sam, — Please don’t think twice about your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to weigh in. My problem with the reference is that it obscures more than it reveals about the complexity of the history of Islam, especially when employed by our public officials.

  • Sam Elliott Mar 5, 2008 @ 10:09

    Kevin, I’m not sure I entirely know what it means, but I do believe we are in a generational struggle in a cultural sense with an aggressive ideology. It is the continuation of a struggle that Western Civilization has fought with Islam since the 7th Century. There is a group of people who subscribe to that ideology, or more extreme aspects of that ideology, who make it a military struggle, too. They’re the Islamic facists in my book.

    Sorry I weighed in on a political issue, I’ve monitored your blog for a number of months and enjoy it.

  • Mannie Gentile Mar 4, 2008 @ 16:40


    This event seems informed by many things; Bush-era jingoism, sentimentality, the great patriotic scrap-drives of the World Wars, and (I hope) utilizing finite resources through recycling.

    If scrap steel can have any symbolic significance (which is up for argument) this is not the first time historically significant scrap steel has been recycled for military purposes:

    (working backward)

    – recycled steel from the World Trade Center was used to build
    the U.S.S. New York

    – Pearl Harbor survivor U.S.S. Pennsylvania was a target ship for
    A- bomb testing off Bikini Atoll

    – Historic Civil War cannons (ceremonially placed) in Grand Rapids
    Michigan (as well as other towns) were carted off, which much
    hoopla, to smelters to produce new ordnance in WWI.

    To paraphrase Bruce Campbell in “Army of Darkness”

    “Good, Bad, I’m just the guy with the steel”.

  • Kevin Levin Mar 4, 2008 @ 10:25

    Hi Sam, — Fair enough, but please remember that I am not suggesting that the Navy should not use steel from the WTC. In fact, I think the way in which they use it could send a very powerful message to the rest of the world; unfortunately, I don’t agree with this particular message. As for the label “Islamic fascism” I am still uncertain as to its meaning.

  • Sam Elliott Mar 4, 2008 @ 9:55

    It very much is an appropriate use. We are now in a generational war with Islamic facism that continues to necessitate the employment of such ships. And as far as bringing suffering, it should be noted that our Navy also brings relief to disaster areas, such as to the tsunami victims a few years back.

  • matthew mckeon Mar 3, 2008 @ 16:50

    Maybe the steel should have been used for a really big cage for the current administration: because that would help the chances of world peace too!
    The irony is sweet as well, since they’ve been trying to cage us in 9/11 steel since…9/11.

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