We Remember: The 9/11 Boatlift

We Remember: The 9/11 Boatlift

Twenty years. As we mark the somber anniversary of the September 11 attacks this year, we also remember the way the people of New York came together. As champions of our Lower Manhattan neighborhood, we’re especially proud of the way the city’s maritime community rallied to execute the largest water evacuation in American history.

From here at the Seaport, and other points downtown, 500,000 people were helped to safety onboard a vessel on September 11, 2001—in less than nine hours.

With bridges, tunnels and most transportation shut down soon after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, the waterways surrounding Lower Manhattan were one of the only viable routes of escape for tens of thousands of people. Boats of all types and sizes answered the call from the U.S. Coast Guard to head to New York Harbor to help ferry them out of harm’s way.

In 2002, the South Street Seaport Museum presented a series of interviews its staff had conducted with those involved in the boatlift—All Available Boats: Harbor Voices from 9/11 featured the stories of ferry captains, tug crew members, and private boaters. The interviews became part of a permanent archive documenting the day, and some of them can be heard here.

The 2011 short documentary film Boatlift: An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience, narrated by Tom Hanks, also documents the extraordinary memories of the day. As do the books, American Dunkirk: The Waterborne Evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11 and Saved at the Seawall: Stories from the September 11 Boat Lift.

Learn more about New York’s maritime history at the South Street Seaport Museum, the cultural heart of the neighborhood.

To mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Peace of Heart Choir will perform live in the Seaport to honor the lives lost during the tragedy. Please join us at the Fulton Street Stage, at the corner of Fulton & Front Streets on Saturday, September 11, 2021, at 5:30pm.