Last week, Hurricane Sandy reminded residents of Manhattan that their city is actually an island. With all of the subways, tunnels and bridges erasing the barriers, it’s easy to forget, but when access to those routes is cut off, their isolation becomes crystal clear.
Eleven years ago, that isolation was even more terrifyingly clear — on the morning of September 11, 2001. When the Twin Towers came down, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers fled south to the water’s edge, only to stop in horror because they could go no further. With no knowledge of what additional attacks might come, the only thing anybody knew for sure was that they had to get off that island. But the ferry system couldn’t begin to cope with the sheer numbers of refugees.
What happened then was a spontaneous boat lift, an evacuation by sea that dwarfed even Dunkirk, the most famous sea evacuation of all. And yet, most Americans have never heard of it.
After watching my nation tear itself apart in another divisive, nasty election, it’s healing to watch this video and remember that when it counts, when it really counts, Americans pull together.
The great boat lift of 9/11 became the largest sea evacuation in history — larger than the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, where 339,000 British and French soldiers were rescued over the course of nine days. On 9/11, nearly 500,000 civilians were rescued from Manhattan by boat. It took less than nine hours.
Narrated by Tom Hanks.
Hat tip to my sister.