Whatever happened to all of that scrap steel from the World Trade Center towers in the aftermath of the 9-11 tragedy? Like most metals, it is being recycled – melted down and made into something else. But into what? In case you haven’t heard already, 24 tons of this scrap metal was melted down in a foundry in Amite, La., and was cast into the bow of a ship. Not just any ship. It is the fifth in a series of navy amphibious transport dock ships – LPD 21.

A billion dollar warship, the LPD 21 will become known as the New York when christened in a ceremony later this year. The New York will become the USS New York in a naval commissioning ceremony to occur in 2009 in New York City. This ship will have the capability to carry 800 soldiers as well as helicopters and hovercraft. It is equipped with four sequentially turbocharged marine diesels – two shafts – with 41,600 shaft horsepower.

Calling the ship New York is a break from current naval convention as all state names are reserved for submarines. This name has a long tradition in military ships. It will be the seventh vessel so named with the last being a nuclear-powered submarine – USS New York City – decommissioned 10 years ago. Ironically, the fifth in the series was the battleship New York, which was laid down 90 years to the day before the WTC attacks – Sept. 11, 1911. The LPD 21, which will bear the number 21, will be the longest and widest ship to carry the New York name, and its motto is “Never Forget.”

The history of the current New York is already troubled as the project had to be halted in 2005 when hurricane Katrina devastated the entire region around Northrop Grumman’s naval shipyard in Avondale, La. While the ship itself was unharmed, around 200 of the shipyard workers lost their homes and were moved into hastily erected cabins in the dockyard so the work could go on. The site was dubbed “Kamp Katrina.” There is a real sense of duty and pride among the 500-plus who are working on this ship.

Later ships in this class will include the USS Arlington – the location of the Pentagon – and the USS Somerset, named for the Pennsylvania county where United Flight 93 crashed. All three will be fitting tributes to those who suffered and died that day and those who were left behind.

Creating this type of lasting memorial from scrap is one of the benefits of most metals. They can be recycled to take a new form and function by remelting and either die casting or ingot casting followed by forming and machining operations. Remelting steel saves 74% of the energy as compared to producing it from raw materials. In addition to the energy savings, there is also a reduction of 40% in water use, an 86% reduction in air pollution, a 97% reduction in mining waste and a 105% reduction in consumer waste generated. Due to the energy-intensive nature of aluminum refining, about 95% of the energy is saved when aluminum is recycled vs. made from the raw material.

Now you know the energy benefit of remelting and specifically the benefit to our nation of recycling 24 tons of WTC scrap metal. Wouldn’t it be ironic if a ship constructed partly from the rubble of 9-11 took down those who tried to bring us down that day? IH