In honor of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, we are sharing one of our favorite and most poignant documentary films about that day, "Boatlift."
"Boatlift" chronicles the marine evacuation of lower Manhattan during the attacks. Narrated by Tom Hanks, this short film highlights the ordinary people who stepped up to help strangers in a time of crisis.
If you would like to learn more about the evacuation and the people involved, read Jessica DuLong's book Saved at the Seawall: Stories from the September 11 Boat Lift or catch up on her 2021 lecture for the Hudson River Maritime Museum, "Heroes or Human: September 11th Lessons on the 20th Anniversary," as recorded below.
Jessica DuLong shares the dramatic story of how the New York Harbor maritime community delivered stranded commuters, residents, and visitors out of harm’s way on September 11, 2001. Even before the US Coast Guard called for “all available boats,” tugs, ferries, dinner boats, and other vessels had sped to the rescue from points all across New York Harbor. In less than nine hours, captains and crews transported nearly half a million people from Manhattan. This was the largest maritime evacuation in history. DuLong’s talk, and her book Saved at the Seawall, highlight how people come together, in their shared humanity, to help one another through disasters. Actions taken during those crucial hours exemplify the reflexive resourcefulness and resounding goodness that reminds us of the hope and wonder that’s possible on the darkest days.
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When the World Trade Center was attacked on the morning of September 11, 2001 and bridges and airports and trains were shut down, a fact that most people don't think about suddenly became abundantly clear - Manhattan is an island.
Maritime tradition has a long history of duty to rescue. Since the Age of Sail, when vessels were on the open ocean for months and weeks at a time, far from land, sailors had to rely on each other in emergency situations. The duty to rescue is now codified in Congressional maritime law.
But the community of mariners in and around New York Harbor didn't need a law to tell them what to do. When the U.S. Coast Guard put out the radio call to all vessels to assist with the evacuation of lower Manhattan, hundreds answered.
Each year, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we share this short documentary film. "Boatlift," narrated by Tom Hanks, gives a stirring account of the actions of ordinary people that day - Fred Rogers' "helpers" - who made a difference for hundreds of thousands of people.
Sadly, like many of those who responded to 9/11, Vincent Ardolino, captain of the Amberjack V, passed away in 2018. But their stories live on.
A new book about the attack has recently been published. Saved at the Seawall Stories from the September 11 Boat Lift by Jessica DuLong (author of My Hudson River Chronicles and engineer-in-training aboard the John J. Harvey that fateful day) pieces together the story of the largest marine evacuation since Dunkirk through eyewitness accounts.
DuLong will be speaking for the museum's lecture series in honor of the 20th anniversary. "Heroes or Humans: September 11th Lessons on the 20th Anniversary" will be held virtually on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 at 8:00 PM. The book will also be available for purchase at the museum store.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
Hudson River Maritime Museum
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