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
50 Rondout Landing
Kingston, NY 12401
The Hudson River Maritime Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and related industries.
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