At 5:30 this morning, the Navy was to toss harbor pilot Neil Keating the keys to its newest warship.
After shaking hands with USS New York Cmdr. Curtis Jones and being presented a copy of The Post -- a Sandy Hook Pilots Association tradition -- Keating, 52, was to guide the amphibious landing platform into the city. "Hopefully without scratching the paint," he joked.
He was selected for this honor because his firefighter brother Paul was killed on Sept. 11.
"I feel like I am representing all of the 9/11 families on the ship," he said. "It's fitting that 7.5 tons of Twin Towers steel were used to make the bow, because that's where the ship takes a pounding and keeps trudging forward through roughs seas."
It's Keating's job to know the harbor better than anyone else, but he also often serves as a diplomat and tour guide.
"We're like ambassadors when we go on board," he said. "On ships from around the world, they always ask us to point out the location of the World Trade Center site, where it was and what's being done there."