NORFOLK, Va. -- The USS Arlington was commissioned Saturday in an emotional ceremony officials dedicated to the victims and first responders of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
The ship, one of three built to commemorate the 9/11 attack sites, is intended to honor the 184 victims who died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
"We are here to make sure no one ever forgets those who lost their lives that day giving us our name," said the Arlington's commanding officer, Cmdr. Darren Nelson. "It is our duty to have the strength to fight terrorism, honor those that have gone before us and maintain the fortitude to continue the fight as long as necessary."
An estimated 7,000 spectators, including nearly 200 first responders and 30 family members of those who perished in the Pentagon attack, attended the commissioning of the 25,000-ton warship, a landing platform dock that will carry 1,200 sailors and Marines, including four helicopters, into war zones or disaster areas.
Dozens of Arlington County officials also made the trip for the ceremony, which County Board member Jay Fisette called "dramatic and very inspiring."
"They did a wonderful job integrating Arlington's story and history into the event," Fisette said. "They integrated our role, our history and made us a part of this ship's commissioning."
The 684-foot-long vessel features a tribute room to remind crewmen of the victims and heroes of the 9/11. Girders from the Pentagon and a star for each of the 184 people killed there are kept in the room.
"[The USS Arlington] will serve as a visible reminder to the peoples of this world that the American spirit is alive and well in the soul of the American people," said Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant. "It will play an important role in keeping this nation safe for decades to come."
Built in Pascagoula, Miss., the USS Arlington was christened on March 26, 2011 and has a projected service life of 40 years.
The USS New York, built to honor those lost at the World Trade Center, has already been commissioned. The USS Somerset, named after the Pennsylvania county where passengers of United Flight 93 forced down their highjacked plane, is expected to be commissioned next year.