Divers mark 9/11 by draping massive American flag on sunken World War II warship in Florida Keys
- Divers with a federal sanctuary unfurled the flag about 60 feet under the surface
- The banner was laid on the highest point of the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg
- Two US Navy helicopters performed a flyover as relatives and friends of people who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks watched from nearby boats
- The old World War II vessel was intentionally sunk in the Florida Keys in 2009
- It was submerged to serve as an artificial reef for marine life and to promote tourism in the area
Divers in Key West draped a giant American flag on the underwater remains of an old World War II ship on Saturday to commemorate the lives lost on September 11.
Divers from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary pinned the 30-by-40-foot US flag to the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg’s highest point, about 60 feet under the ocean’s surface.
Two US Navy helicopters then performed a flyover that was observed by boaters, among them relatives and friends of people who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks and their aftermath, according to the Florida Keys tourism council.
Divers with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary unfurled a US flag on Saturday
The massive 30-by-40-foot Star Spangled Banner was slow to unwrap underwater
It was laid at the highest point of the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, 60 feet underwater
Afterward, US Navy helicopters did a flyover as family and friends of those who died in September 11, 2001 watched from nearby boats on the Florida Keys
Video of the event show divers slowly unfurling the massive flag and attaching it to the ship, which was intentionally sunk in 2009 to serve as a home for marine life and to attract scuba divers and other tourists.
The 17,000-ton, 523-foot-long Vandenberg was initially called the Gen. Harry Taylor during the 1940s, according to the Associated Press.
It became the Vandenberg in 1961 after changing from a Navy vessel to an Air Force vessel.
The ship was used to transport Army and Navy personnel and then later served as a missile tracker during the Cold War, according to the AP.
The Vandenberg is an old Navy and Air Force ship that tracked missiles during the Cold War
It got its second name from Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the second chief of staff in Air Force history and a former director of the CIA. He died in 1954 at age 55.
The ship was detonated with explosives and sunk at a cost of $8 million in May 2009, according to the BBC.
‘The sinking of the Vandenberg is the best thing to happen in Key West in years,’ local businessman and Key West city commissioner Mark Rossi said at the time.
The sinking increased local dive-related business increased by almost 190 percent and created 105 jobs, according to a recent study by the University of Florida, but the nearby natural reefs were not relieved of human activity.
The ship was detonated with explosives and sunk at a cost of $8 million and sunk in May 2009
It was meant to serve as an artificial reef for marine life and attract tourists, and its presence has increased the use of nearby natural reefs
‘As hypothesized, the total use of natural reefs by divers and snorkelers did decline, but the overall increase in activity due to the presence of the Vandenberg resulted in a net increase in the use of nearby natural reefs,’ the study found.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 unfolded in 102 minutes.
Four planes were hijacked – two were crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, one was crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a fourth flight was crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers and crew revolted and prevented it from hitting another target.
Nearly 3,000 people died.
The Florida Keys sanctuary is one of 15 marine protected areas that comprise the National Marine Sanctuary System, according to its website. It is jointly managed by the state of Florida and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.