The command rang out at Pier 86 on Manhattan's West Side: "Bring the ship to life!"
Moments after noon Saturday, as crew members in dress blues stood at attention along the rails, radar antennas on America's newest warship began to revolve, black smoke poured from three stacks, sirens blared and the whistle blew.
With that, the USS New York - docked across the water at Pier 88, just north of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum - was commissioned into the active U.S. Navy fleet.
The ceremony evoked emotion, pride and patriotism, and was filled with references to Sept. 11, 2001, a natural connection given that the amphibious assault vessel's bow incorporates 7.5 tons of the steel from the World Trade Center towers.
"This ship carries memories of Sept. 11 and the lives cut short," Clinton said of the vessel.
The ship's chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Laura Bender of Lake Ronkonkoma, one of about 10 Long Islanders in the crew of 359, asked for a moment of silence "for those whose lives were changed" by Sept. 11. She said the ship "is not only the Navy's newest ship, she is a symbol of the strength and resolve of our nation."
Referring to the nearly 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, Paterson said "their spirit is embodied in this new ship." With Twin Towers steel in the bow, Paterson said, "it is not just named for New York. It is New York." As the ship travels the world, he said, "we're sending a message that Americans are not cowered by evil."
The private ceremony was attended by 3,000 people, about one-third of them relatives of those who died on Sept. 11. Among those in attendance were seven members of the Northport Division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, a federally chartered organization for young people who train with the Navy and Coast Guard.
"The USS New York represents America's global strength and presence," said Cadet Michael Kiesel, 14, of Northport.
After Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus declared the ship to be commissioned at 12:03 p.m., Capt. Curt Jones, a Binghamton native, told his executive officer, Cmdr. Erich Schmidt, to "hoist the colors." A large American flag was run up behind the ship's foremast. Then the vessel "came to life" and Navy and Marine aircraft flew over in salute.
"Captain, USS New York is manned and ready," Schmidt announced.
Concluding the 85-minute ceremony, Jones said of the steel in the bow from the World Trade Center: "It cuts the water for us. It reminds us every day of what we do and why we do it."