The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center crippled the networks of New York City. Everything was closed down due to additional terrorist threats leaving some 500,000 people in Lower Manhattan stuck.
It did not take long after American Airline Flight 11 hit the North Tower for first responders to arrive. New York City Fire Department’s fireboats came to extinguish flames from the water.
People were everywhere, trying to get away from the debris that was raining down all over. Hawser, a Coast Guard tug, helped evacuate people off of the island of Manhatten. After an hour, USCGC Adak came and assumed the On-Scene Commander duties.
The New York Coast Guard team closed off the harbor and monitored all ships going in and out, keeping it to a minimum. When the South Tower fell, people rushed to the water edge attempting to leave.
The Coast Guard and the NYPD’s Harbor Unit were unable to handle the sheer amount of people needing to be evacuated. They radiod for emergency help from all vessels who were close by.
From Battery Park, a wide variety of ships assembled to coordinate the evacuation efforts. There were merchant ships, tugboats and ferries. Even the Staten Island Ferry and SeaStreak jumped in to assist the evacuees.
Adak led the effort. On top of heading in to rescue those fleeing the city, the ships also brought in more emergency personnel. About 150 ships and 600 sailors moved back and forth from Manhatten that day and in the subsequent days.
In all, 500,000 people were moved off of the island. Admiral James Loy, Commandant of the Coast Guard, said they “moved more people from the island than the 1940 evacuation of Allied troops from France.”
In that evacuation, they moved 338,226 soldiers from Dunkirk. Norman Mineta, Secretary of Transportation said it was “the largest maritime evacuation conducted in the history of the United States.”
The Adak even was given an award for her efforts in coordinating the evacuation, the Secretary of Transportation Outstandign Unit Award.
The combined effort of all of the ships was an amazing feat and showed just how well civilian and Coast Guard ships could work together in the face of an emergency.