EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published by Passagemaker in 2015. On the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we are reposting this incredible story of seamanship, compassion and camaraderie in the boating community. Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the extraordinary video "Boatlift," honoring the largest seaborne rescue in history.

On September 11, 2001, an unthinkable act scarred the lives of countless, inflicting a physical wound on an iconic American skyline.

Amidst a seemingly impenetrable shroud cast over Manhattan, the city's mariners cast a ray of hope.

For an island, New York City hardly reveals any traditional characteristics of island life. Until the day the towers fell. Suddenly, all means of transportation in and out of the city were halted, leaving hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians stranded in a war zone. Until one mode of transportation, local boats, rose to the occasion.

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With no existing protocol for such a massive evacuation, ferries, tug boats, private boats and tour boats sprang into action, working in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, to move 500,000 people to safety in a mere nine hours.

(By contrast, the Dunkirk Evacuation of World War II, the second largest marine evacuation on record, moved 339,000 people over the course of nine days.)

Boatlift, a video narrated by Tom Hanks, tells the riveting story of what became the largest waterborne evacuation in human history.

“We wanted to tell a story that reminds Americans that this is a country that bounces back from adversity,” said Stephen Flynn, president of the Center for National Policy and former U.S. Coast Guard officer. “Our national DNA is resilience. The key for us is to move forward with some key lessons, and one of the lessons missing is the strength of civil society and how it responded when 9/11 happened.”

[The attack] was an act designed to tear Americans apart. Instead, it only succeeded in bringing us together.  

Watch the extraordinary 10-minute documentary "Boatlift" here:

Video produced by Eddie Rosenstein of Eyepop Productions.

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