One of the Navy's newest ships sailed into Naval Station Mayport on Friday -- a floating tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and the first of three ships to be homeported at the Jacksonville base over the next few years.
The USS New York was built with 7½ tons of steel salvaged from the twin towers of the World Trade Center and is why the ships' motto is: "Strength forged through sacrifice."
"I think it's new and exciting for what's to come in the future," said Jackie Mathis, on hand to welcome the USS New York.
Some call this amphibious transport ship the crown jewel of the Navy.
"I've never seen anything like this," said John Adams as he watched the ship pull up to the pier. "My stepson is on the ship. This is really something."
After a year of planning the ship completed its 48-hour voyage from Norfolk, Va., at midday Friday. U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, Sen. Bill Nelson and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown were among the dignitaries for an arrival celebration.
Three thousand sailors and Marines; add in their families and the businesses that are here to support them, and you 're talking about substantial impact of $75 million a year to the local economy," Nelson said.
The USS New York is the first of three ships to be assigned to Mayport over the next year as part of the Navy's Amphibious Readiness Group.
"This is great for our community and great for our national defense," Crenshaw said. "These are ships that can help with humanitarian aid. They can go out and help in hotspots. So this is a very strategic location, and that's why the ships are coming here."
Politicians, and Navy brass told the crowd of hundreds of people gathered that Jacksonville is the most military friendly community in the nation.
"This is truly a national asset," Crenshaw said. "The location on the river; the fact we have a great industrial base. That's why we have NAS Jax. That's why we have Blount Island."