New York (CNN) -- The new Navy assault ship USS New York steamed into New York harbor Monday, cutting through the water with a bow built using seven and a half tons of steel recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
Its crew stood at attention and a 21-gun salute greeted the ship. Firefighters, bagpipers, and those who lost loved ones on 9/11 lined the shore to watch the emotional arrival. The docking holds special meaning for many families of those who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"What better way for our young men and women that are going to be on the USS New York to feel the spirit of our country than to have this ship have the steel in the bow that represents not the bad but the good of our country," said Lee Ielpi, who lost his firefighter son, Jonathan, on 9/11.
The memory of the attacks is etched on the crest of the ship, which features a phoenix rising from the twin towers with the words, "Never Forget."
The ship weighs more than 25,000 tons and is as long as two football fields. Thirteen percent of the 361 crew members hail from the state of New York.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki received special dispensation to name the $1 billion ship USS New York; only submarines normally can be named after states.
It is the first ship assignment for Ensign Timothy Gorman, who said, "Of any ship in the Navy, this is one ship that you can be proud of commissioning, to remember on a daily basis why we are here and why the ship is so special. The steel in the bow, we are very mindful that we are representing victims of 9/11 and the families and the people that died that day."
Howard Lutnick takes great pride in the new ship. He is CEO of the financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, whose offices were in the World Trade Center. The ship, he said, is a memorial to his brother and 658 of his employees who died on that day more than eight years ago. Lutnick said he lives with the loss every day.
"I really like the idea of people going out and avenging what happened to us and protecting us so that it should never happen again, because the pain that we went through, we want no one, no other family to have to go through it," Lutnick said.
The ship also will be used to ferry disaster relief when needed.
The USS New York will remain docked in the city through Veterans Day before heading back to its base in Norfolk, Virginia, for a year of crew training and exercises.