Photo by Gary Hershorn

Dozens of Vessels Participate in New York Harbor Procession to Honor 9/11 Victims

Mike Schuler
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September 10, 2021

American maritime interests held an event Friday in New York Harbor in recognition of 20 years since the September 11 attacks, which triggered the largest maritime evacuation in U.S. history.

The event included a ceremony, vessel procession and blessing of the fleet to honor 9/11 victims.

Dozens of vessels joined the New York Harbor procession, including private ships, ferries, and tugboats that participated in the 9/11 boatlift rescue from Lower Manhattan. The procession was led by New York City Fire Boats that honored those lost and the contributions of American Maritime on 9/11 with a red, white and blue water cannon salute.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz, and other officials participated in the ceremony as vessels passed Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty.

September 11 vessel procession
Photo credit Gary Hershorn

The event commemorated the over half a million survivors ferried from lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 by American Maritime carriers and over 800 mariners. The event was hosted by the American Maritime Partnership, New York Council of the Navy League, Transportation Institute, Towboat and Harbor Carriers Association, Passenger Vessel Association, Port Authority of NY/NJ, Sandy Hook Pilots, and Seaman’s Church Institute.

Photo by Gary Hershorn

“A shining light on an otherwise dark and tragic day twenty years ago this week was the heroic response by American Maritime operators in New York Harbor who answered the call of the United States Coast Guard to spontaneously organize the evacuation of more than 500,000 Americans at the southern tip of Manhattan — an effort that took only nine hours and became the largest water evacuation in U.S. history,” said American Maritime Partnership, one of the event organizers. “Within minutes of the call for help, American Maritime vessels of all shapes and sizes responded selflessly and ensured that the events on that fateful day were not even worse. The American Maritime Partnership remembers and mourns all Americans lost that day, and expresses its deepest gratitude to the men and women of American Maritime for their selfless response and service.”

september 11 NYC vessel procession
Photo courtesy American Maritime Partnership

The “Boatlift” of 9/11 was the largest water evacuation in history. After road, tunnel, and railway closures out of New York City, over half a million people were stranded in lower Manhattan following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

American vessels transported over 500,000 survivors from lower Manhattan across the harbor to safety, and the rescue was larger than the evacuation of 340,000 American-allied troops at Dunkirk. The rescue effort involved over 150 American Maritime vessels, including passenger ferries, tugboats, merchant ships, private vessels, and New York City Fire Department and Police Department boats. More than 800 American mariners participated in the Boatlift evacuation of September 11th.

Photo by Gary Hershorn

The Boatlift was famously recounted in a 2011 short film produced and narrated by actor Tom Hanks, titled “BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience.” You can watch below:

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