Largest Sea Evacuation in History – Sept 11, 2001
“I Thought I was watching a movie, “Towering Inferno” at first. And then I looked real close and I noticed it was the World Trade Center. I was compelled because I am the kind of person who can’t stand by and watch other people suffer. And to me they were suffering as they wanted to get off the island. And there was no way for them to get off the island other than the water. And I noticed when I was watching the television I saw a lot of you know the the ferries going up into the slips to take people off . I said, fine we can do the same thing. I can take people on my boat. Get in there, take them where they have to go. And that’s what I did.
– Vincent Ardolino, Captain of the Amberjack V
September 11th has a different meaning to each of us. Some watched stunned while others vented anger and hostility towards an enemy we could not point to with clarity. Others wanted immediate answers to questions even today we still ponder.
We all have our thoughts and memories of this day when lives were lost and a majestic icon crumbled to the hardened soils of lower Manhattan. Moments of silence, work stoppages and tears will fall on this day as our generation of Americans each revisits, remembers and salute those who we never saw again, those souls living and gone who rescued hundreds on that morning.
September 11, 2001 as a nation watched in horror and disbelief that such suffering reached our shores another band of men bounded together to pull off the largest maritime rescue mission in the history of the world.
The video above is a reminder that if nothing else can be attributed to September 11, 2001, we can definitely see it as the day our nation’s humanity embraced us all, and unlikely heroes rose all around us….even on the waterways bordering that grit encrusted island.
On that day, 500,000 people wanted a way off that island. The transit system had been shut down, bridges and tunnels on lockdown and movement off that bustling borough was erratic and pedestrian at best. Hundreds began to line the seawalls and docks along the river wanting safe passage away from the expanding madness that had become Manhattan.
It might have started off as simple as 1 boat or even several craft offering a chance for the gathering masses sometimes 10 people deep to make way to New Jersey and a sense of normality that was in slim supply at the moment upon the shores of this New York peninsula.
It was estimated that over 2,000 people who were injured during the tragedy made their way to safe havens via the ever-expanding floatilla.
Before September 11th, the largest sea mission of this type had been the Dunkirk rescue mission in which 339,000 troops had been transferred off the beaches and brought back to the shores of England. That mission took a total of 9 days.
So the next time you are in NYC, or maybe even taking a ferry from New Jersey, Staten Island or even a pleasure cruise in the region, the man at the helm might have been involved in this heroic adventure that so many never even knew had happened.
Thankfully in a day that will forever be engulfed in terror and loss of life the sense of humanity shown by these souls who traverse the waterways of New York City also rose to the occasion and brought comfort and a small slice of normalcy to the chaos.