“On Friday morning, September 11, 2009, ferries will come from the north, south and west to gather on the Hudson River at the mouth of North Cove. They will pause, bobbing, and all will turn to face the empty eastern sky over the World Financial Center. At 10:29am, they will sound their horns, a mournful chord of remembrance that notes the fall of the second World Trade Center tower.” (from the “Spiritual Sustenance at the Water’s Edge” article in the recent WaterWire newsletter of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance)
Tomorrow we will remember.
Persons in earshot of the “mournful chord” will be reminded of the masters, pilots, mates, captains, deckhands, and boaters who responded to the call that day: “All available boats.” They may have heard the Coast Guard call or just knew in their guts what they had to do.
“In response to the emerging need for transportation, boats of all descriptions converged on Manhattan,” said Tricia Wachtendorf, Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center, in a school publication. “Some acted quite independently. Others sought permission from the Coast Guard, who initially instructed vessels first to stand by, then to position themselves in readiness before issuing its request for all available boats to participate in the evacuation.”
John Snyder of MarineLog.com wrote of the response by some of the more familiar New York Harbor vessel names. “Because of their bow-loading design, NY Waterway’s ferries were pressed into service as waterborne ambulances. The vessels were used to medivac injured firefighters across the Hudson to Colgate. In all, NY Waterway ferries carried about 2,000 injured.”
All Available Boats: Harbor Voices from 911 is a radio documentary by David Tarnow. Kimberly Gochberg, a sailing coach at Kings Point, is one of several voices providing their accounts. An illustrated book on the subject, All Available Boats, edited by Mike Magee, memorialized the maritime element that day. A gift from my colleagues, the volume is a tangible reminder to page slowly through.
That morning the John J. Harvey, a retired NYPD fireboat went into action. It is a small photograph but it’s not difficult to see the deck crowded to capacity with people being ferried from Lower Manhattan. Co-owner Huntley Gill tells that story. The vessel a metaphor for age mattering little when one can lend a hand. An interview by Amy Eddings shines a useful light on the unanticipated urban design issue of waterfront infrastructure lacking as basic a detail as a cleat on which to tie a line.
“The mainstream press missed a major story about 9/11–the maritime role.” Carolina Salguero posted in 2008 a fascinating account on her PortSide Mary Whalen blog. Salguero, whose life is centered on the working waterfront, is a professional photographer (her work is highlighted at top) who raced to Lower Manhattan by boat. “When Debby and I approached the Battery, thousands of citizens were crammed along the seawall. As I left ground zero on the tug Nancy Moran only 2 or 3 hours later, there were none; all evacuated by boat in what was a spontaneous, civilian-initiated operation.” Salguero’s website is worth a visit. (Look for “maritime 9/11″ and then follow the links to for interviews, images, and video.)
The photographs of that day couldn’t capture the full measure of vessels that responded that day. But we know who they are. Pbea