Piloting 7.5 tons Of World Trade Center Steel

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September 28, 2011

USS New York painting by Tom Freeman, made available by the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command.

Sandy Hook pilot Neil Keating
Harbor pilot Neil Keating, right, speaks with USS New York Commander William Herrmann on the bridge wing of the ship. Photo by Jonathan Atkin shipshooter.com

The biggest piece of security equipment at the 9/11 ceremony two weeks ago was the USS New York, a gray behemoth whose bow was made with 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center. Piloting the battleship as it sat in the Hudson River by the World Trade Center site was Capt. Neil Keating, a Sandy Hook Pilot whose brother Paul was one of the 343 firefighters who died 10 years ago Sunday.

Mr. Keating’s fellow harbor pilots made a point of assigning him the special shift when the USS New York makes one its occasional trips to town. He and other Sept. 11 families say they feel a special connection to the ship.

“It’s almost like the trade center is still alive on that ship,” Mr. Keating said. “When you look at the ship and you look at the bow, the steel from the trade center is a different color, and you can see the ripples and discoloration.”

Mr. Keating, who turned 54 two days before the ceremony, said the anniversary is always difficult. But it is also comforting to spend time with his brother’s fellow firefighters. Paul Keating had been off duty that day but ran to help.

The youngest of six children in the family, Paul was known for his friendly nature and one-liner wit. His older brother says it is difficult to live not just with the loss of a brother, but with the constant public reminders of Paul’s death.

Piloting the ship “is very bittersweet. I still have to do my job. It’s very humbling, and an honor for my family.”

Mr. Keating said from the bridge of the ship he could still hear the names being read, and “Amazing Grace.”

“This is where my brother would want me to be,” he said.

By Devlin Barrett, Copyright 2011 Dow Jones

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