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Ten Years Later: Rescue at Water’s Edge

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood commends merchant mariners who used their skills and vessels to help evacuate more than 300,000 people from Lower Manhattan on September 11th, ten years ago.

Ed. Note: Cross-posted on Fast Lane, the blog of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. See more 9/11 reflections and remembrances.

Yesterday I wrote about the air traffic professionals who safely cleared America's airspace on the tragic morning of September 11, 2001.  Today, the Maritime Administration is proud to share a new video about the merchant mariners of the New York City area who used their skills and vessels to help evacuate more than 300,000 people from the chaos of Lower Manhattan.

"Rescue at Water's Edge" tells the story of the tugs, ferries, and tour boats--manned by selfless captains and crew members--who sailed into an uncertain situation to shuttle people away from the horror downtown.

Watch the video "Rescue at Water's Edge: The U.S. Merchant Marine Response to 9/11" here.

Instead of heading for safety, the watermen and women of New York and New Jersey steered toward the thick clouds of smoke.  They began picking up shocked passengers and transporting them away from the devastation.  Joining them were cadets, faculty, and staff from the US Merchant Marine Academy at nearby Kings Point.  Their combined efforts became the largest unplanned water evacuation in our nation's history.

The passengers on these boats knew only that two planes had already struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center, lives had been lost, and all roads, tunnels, and transit out of Lower Manhattan were closed.  They needed to get away, and New York's waters offered the only outlet. 

In addition to ferrying passengers out of harm's way, the maritime community also delivered emergency workers and medical supplies into Manhattan, supporting the first responders on the scene.

On 9/11, many, many police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and merchant mariners--like American heroes of previous generations--responded by fearlessly going into harm's way to do the right thing.  We can't thank them enough for their courage.

Ray LaHood is Secretary of the Department of Transportation.