Rescue at Water's Edge: The U.S. Merchant Marine Response to 9/11

Uploaded by usdotgov on 02.09.2011

[Music] The story of tragedy and heroism that took place
on September 11, 2001, has been told many times
since that terrible day.
We all know of the police officers, firefighters,
and medics who endangered themselves,
and in some cases sacrificed their own lives,
to save thousands of others.
But there's another tale of immense courage and selflessness
that remains largely untold.
It's just, everybody just wanted to get out.
Everybody was so desperate.
They're desperate because they don't know what's going on,
and they're desperate because they know they have to get out
and they don't even know why they're getting out.
Because they've just heard two planes hit those towers,
and that's it.
All the roads were closed.
The bridges were closed.
The tunnels were closed, and the only way
to get around was by water.
On one of our nation's darkest days,
the United States Merchant Marine provided a beacon
of light.
While most folks were running away from danger,
they were among the heroes running toward it.
The actions of the men and women in the port of New York
and New Jersey that day showed what it means
to be a United States Merchant Mariner.
The spirit of anyone in the Merchant Marines is if someone's
in trouble, you immediately go and help out.
Well the primary purpose of the tugboats is dock and ships,
transporting oil barges.
But that particular morning we were to transport people
that were running for their lives.
Outside my building everybody just was running everywhere.
I live on Staten Island so I was running towards the Ferry.
In response to the planned attacks
on the World Trade Center that day,
Staten Island Ferries were used for evacuation
of lower Manhattan and through the Battery.
We got passengers on the boat, we got them on the main deck
and the saloon deck, and had everybody quiet
down to give them direction and try to calm them down.
My job is the safety of my passengers, my vessel,
and my crew, and that's what I was concerned about that day.
The boat was filled with smoke.
The windows were open like on that boat,
you see on the second deck, so the boat filled with smoke.
The passengers were praying, some of them were crying.
We knew that there was a lot of lives that was gone.
And people were just coming together.
I saw people that I ride the Ferry every day
with that I finally actually hugged and held.
I believe they did a really good job making sure
that they got everybody off the boat quickly, safely,
and to whatever destination they needed to get to.
The Academy is one of the five federal service academies
operated by the Maritime Administration
of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Academy was crucial initially
in getting first responders down to the site.
Within an hour we probably had 150 midshipmen
and another 50 members of the faculty and staff who were
down at the waterfront saying, "Put us on boats,
get us to the city to help."
It was a bad day.
I mean that's an understatement, but those guys
at Kings Point didn't have to come and help.
They could have stayed back at school
and nobody would have said a word.
When the chips are down, the Kings Pointers act.
And they act with a sense of commitment and courage
and character and honor and service for this nation.
I did receive a letter, probably about a month after 9/11,
from a little girl from the West Coast,
to thank me for rescuing her father that day.
And it touched me a lot.
I still have that letter, and I keep it with me and take it
to work with me every day.
As the World Trade Center collapsed,
and lower Manhattan became a scene of chaos, the men
and women of New York and New Jersey's maritime community took
action - fearlessly crossing the Hudson River,
steaming full speed towards the flames,
smoke and devastation that lay ahead.
Our nation's seafarers transported passengers
out of harm's way, and emergency workers, food,
and medical supplies into it.
All told, they helped evacuate more than 300,000 people
from lower Manhattan to safety.
As bad as it was, and as uncertain as things were
that day, there were many, many people willing to help,
and willing to respond, and willing to go into a situation
that they really didn't know what the outcome was going
to be.
I don't think I've ever been prouder to be a member
of the maritime community here in New York.