Time capsule planned for USS Somerset

By Katie Walker Daily American

A time capsule representing Somerset County will be included in the design of a Navy vessel being built in honor of the passengers and crew of Flight 93.

County Commissioner John Vatavuk said Wednesday that Navy officials have confirmed July 28 as the date the USS Somerset will be christened in New Orleans. An exact location has not yet been finalized, he said.

The capsule will include various small items that represent Somerset County, such as a Flight 93 commemorative coin, a Pennsylvania flyer and a postcard of the Somerset County Courthouse. The time capsule will be located in the mast of the ship, he said.

“We have some things from Somerset Borough that we’re going to get,” Vatavuk said. “It’s going to be welded in a steel box until it is decommissioned. It’s going to be the size of a shoebox.”

Vatavuk has been involved with the planning of the USS Somerset since its beginning stages. Although the vessel is the fifth to don the title USS Somerset, it is the first ship dedicated to Somerset County.

The ship’s bow was built from steel that was salvaged near the Flight 93 crash site and other scrap yards in Somerset County.

The ship, which is being constructed in the Avondale Shipyard near New Orleans, La., weighs more than 21,700 tons and is nearly 700 feet long. It is equipped with two 30 mm Bushmaster II cannons for surface threat defense and two Rolling Airframe Missile Launchers for air defense. It can accommodate more than 1,000 passengers and can launch four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft simultaneously.

The USS Somerset will be used to carry food and medical supplies to victims of natural disasters.

“It’s really a special tribute to the people who died at the crash site,” Vatavuk said. “This has really been an interesting project.”

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