The September 11th National Day of Service and remembrance commemorates the tragic 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and it is almost here.
This year, Advice For Veterans wants to shine a light on something many people will remain unaware of. On that day, untold sacrifices and risks were taken by many now considered heroes. However, some of the most heroic moments remain unknown to the greater world.
One of the heroic efforts that continue to go widely unrecognized was the spontaneous boat rescue that took place in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Crews aboard ferries, fishing boats, tour boats, and other mariners launched an unprecedented and unplanned boat evacuation in New York harbor.
The effort delivered over 500,000 stranded people off Manhattan Island in less than nine hours. By comparison, Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of more than 338,000 British and French soldiers from the French port of Dunkirk in 1940 took place over 9-nights (although under potentially more lethal circumstances).
After The First Plane Hit
On the day of the attack on New York, thousands of people were already at work in the city. After the first plane hit the towers, ground transportation began to shut down within minutes. This immediately cut off options for many people. Preventing them from safely evacuating the chaos of the city.
As the scale of the calamity began to escalate, city and state police worked with municipal agencies to lockdown Manhattan. They halted buses, subways, commuter rails, and closed roadways, bridges, and tunnels to prevent further attacks from happening. Unfortunately, sealing off the city also prevented hundreds of thousands of people from reaching safety as conditions grew worse.
Aboard a Coast Guard search and rescue boat, Carlos Perez, a Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class, saw the “horrific silhouette images” of people jumping off the collapsing building to escape the flames inside the towers.
“The worst feeling as a first-responder in any capacity… is being on a scene of distress and not being able to do anything about it,” Perez lamented.
This sentiment, echoed by countless other mariners (as they began assembling on Manhattan’s shores), was the driving force that propelled so many into action.
And then the first tower fell. And when it fell, it took the lives of so many innocent civilians and first responders—many of them veterans.
Precisely at 9:58 a.m., the scale of the disaster magnified. A plume of gray-black smoke swelled up as the South Tower crumbled down, and a heap of impenetrable dust blanketed the surroundings. People trapped within a rapidly growing fallout zone began to struggle to breathe.
Escape From Chaos
Like a scene from a war movie, thousands of people in Lower Manhattan fled from the danger until they ran out of land. Simultaneously, mariners sprang into action, attempting to reach evacuees on the shores of the Hudson River and New York Harbor at the Battery.
As NYPD police boat pilot Tony Sirvent reached the shore, he described the distressed crowd as, “gray ghosts.”
Another NYPD Officer, Tyrone Powell, added, “We had everybody on that boat. We had animals. We had babies without parents. Everybody was covered in soot.”
People were desperate to escape the island, helplessly stacking ten or more deep against the railings of the boats. Stranded civilians caught in the act of war scrambled to climb, jump, or crawl across ladders to board available vessels. Some even dived into the water, unprepared for the dangerous harbor currents that quickly pulled them out toward the sea.
Not only did they perform heroic acts of service to help board as many evacuees as possible, but also these Mariners performed an untold number of water rescues that morning — putting their monthly “man overboard” drills to use like never before.
What had begun as an expanded ferry service transformed into a full-blown rescue operation. Approximately 150 different vessels, crewed by over 800 mariners by nightfall, had achieved a successful boatlift, with surprisingly few incidents or serious injuries.
The 9/11 Boat Rescue
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, many remain unaware of the story of the September 11th boatlifts. Along with the selfless efforts of so many New York (and New Jersey-based) mariners that took place that day.
The 9/11 boat rescue highlights not only the human compulsion to aid others that arose after the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil, but also, the series of selfless, lifesaving acts performed by everyday people. Transforming New York’s reputation of being cold and hostile into a beacon of hope and admiration. Today, these acts offer a shining example of community, compassion, and humanity. Ultimately, it reminds us of the resourcefulness and resounding human morality that inevitably rises in the face of adversity.
The Veterans Amongst Heroes
A large number of the heroes who acted selflessly to help so many others during the 9/11 attacks were veterans. They were the firefighters, policemen, boat captains, crew members, and even ordinary civilians offering aid and assistance in war-like conditions.
The heroes who helped those who couldn’t help themselves on this tragic day two decades ago deserve recognition and our eternal thanks. At the very least, they deserve a proper rating for their service-connected disabilities. Many of which may have been exacerbated by conditions after 9/11.
From aching joints to mental health, many veterans are underrated and under-compensated by the VA. Under-rating affects most (if not all) of the veteran community, especially as military-related disabilities uncontrollably deteriorate.
If you or any veteran you know needs help obtaining a fair disability rating and compensation, then contact Veteran Ratings. Veteran Ratings have a 95% chance of success in acquiring the rating and benefits you deserve.
On the fence? Contact us for more information. We are here for you — we serve those who served. Veterans are our number one priority because they made this the land of the free through their bravery and sacrifice.