For Gordon Felt, the never-forget commitment of the nation and the memories of his big brother and other victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks have been forged in steel in the hulls of three Navy warships.
"We knew early in the process that the Navy was going to christen these three ships," Felt said of the USS New York, the USS Somerset and the USS Arlington, all San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks named for the attacks in New York City; Shanksville, Pa.; and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.
The USS New York was off the Florida coast on Monday to participate in Hurricane Irma relief.
"The memory of our loved ones was built into that ship," Felt said of the Somerset, which commemorates the county in Pennsylvania where United Flight 93 went down in a field with his brother Ed aboard.
Edward Felt, a computer engineer who was on his way to a business meeting in San Francisco, was among the 40 passengers and crew who were killed when the aircraft plunged inverted into a field near Shanksville after a group of passengers fought to take back the plane from four hijackers. Passenger Todd Beamer was heard to say, "Let's roll," as they moved toward the cabin.
The 9/11 Commission Report later concluded, "The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them."
"For some of us, it's a matter of deep personal loss," Felt said in a Navy video released on the eve of the 9/11 remembrances. "It's very emotional every year, and the scab is ripped off every year.
"Ed was a big brother, he was a wonderful father. He loved his daughters, loved his wife. He didn't deserve this, none of them did," Felt said.
In the final minutes before the crash of Flight 93, the passengers "chose to stand up and fight. We need to stand up for what we believe in," he said.
Felt and other family members of the victims of Flight 93 have previously met with the crew of the Somerset, whose motto is "Virtus Per Adversa [Courage Through Adversity]."
He said, "I couldn't have been more impressed. They've stepped up to the plate to put their lives on the line" in the continuing fight against terrorism.
"We can't afford to forget the lessons that we learned on Sept. 11. The crew is helping to keep those lessons alive," Felt said. "It's a sense of comfort knowing that the Somerset is out there fighting terrorism, helping to keep us safe."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.