The great boatlift 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 500,00 civilians were rescued by boat. It took nine hours.
If you don’t do anything else this September 11th, watch this video.
If you’re feeling glum about being American, watch this video
If you’re one of those who believes we have become increasingly sedentary, uncaring, sheep-like, watch this video.
What I love most about the Manhattan Boat Rescue story is the fact that, for so long, it was an untold one. That, for years – while the firemen, EMS and law officers were lauded for their heroics on September 11th, were given their (very) just dues – the New Yorkers depicted here went largely unnoticed. In fact, they were probably kicked back in their boats, tipping a beer and sharing tales of their . . . well, yes, their heroics.
They look like such ordinary people, don’t they? Because they are.
But listen, just listen, to what they did. When the towers were burning, when absolute panic and chaos had set in, they turned to their spouses and their kids, and they said “I’ve got to do something.” And then they did. They got into their boats and, without training, without protection, with no thought whatsoever for their own well-being, they went to work.
It’s easy, now, to remember September 11th through a veil. A day in history that has begun to take on sepia tones. But the reality was absolute terror. And when these ordinary people in their “ferries, private boats, party boats” answered the Coast Guard’s call for help, they had absolutely no idea what they were getting into. Their world was burning, Manhattan was being evacuated in the only way possible – by boat – and like the firemen, they were running into the fray.
“I just had to do something.”
Listen to them in the background, that edgy accent encouraging, cajoling, steering people – strangers – to safety. “Over here,” and “I want you to hold my hand.” Listen to them and ask yourself if you’re not proud to be an American.
This, this is who we are. Sometimes, we only need a mirror to see ourselves.
Here, today, when we commemorate our darkest moment, let these common, ordinary New York Boat Rescuers be your mirror. They are America.
We are America.
“Big News, guys.” The Nice Writer Lady gathers her characters on the front porch, her anxious gaze darting from one pensive face to the next. It is August, and the light has an aqueous quality to it, sun motes floating through the lazy flip of fat green leaves. The old Sugar Inn has been home now for several years, and they’ve all left their mark on it – Rush’s guitar leaning in a corner, the girls’ shoes abandoned by the back screen door.
“How big?” Bob O’Neill, quintessential alpha male, leans on the railing and folds arms across his chest, already firm in his disregard for The
Nice Writer Lady’s (admittedly often dubious) proposals.
“I’ve hired an editor,” she blurts, and she can feel astonishment in the ensuing silence – Rush’s calm stare spiking a flush in her cheeks, Bobby’s derision making her squirm.
“But we were done!” Nicola combs fingers through her hair, vexed. “Remember? We talked!”
“And that was a huge help.” The Nice Writer Lady placates. “But we need to do more.”
“What?” Bobby demands.
“Your name, for one thing,” she says, and enjoys his apoplectic expression just a bit. “The Bobby/Benny thing is just too much for a lot of readers.”
“Are you kidding me now?” he splutters, and she regards him through her reading glasses, silently consulting her higher self until she can ride smoothly past his complaint.
“I’ve learned a lot,” she says. “About story structure and character arcs and what the reader wants. It’s been fascinating.”
“Reader who?” Bobby is furious, but Rush quiets him with a dismissive hand wave before making a gimmee motion at the Writer Lady.
“Tell us more,” he says, and she is proud of him all over again.
“Well, take Nicola for instance,” she says. “Do you see how she just disappeared from this conversation? She has to quit doing that.”
“Nope,” Nicola says. “Going fishing.”
“And Benny.” The Writer Lady persists. “There’s kind of been a public outcry about her. I mean, she was supposed to be central.”
Benny is currently swimming. All eyes turn to the lake, the slender shape cutting a path through the glittering tide. Is that Angelo with her, or Toot?
“The Professional Editor Lady is sure the story belongs to Benny.” The Writer Lady can’t help sighing just a little. “Oh, and you two, Rush and Bobby – or whoever you are now – you’ve got to go to work. I mean, what do you do all day?”
“Hang here and play guitar,” Rush said. “Sometimes sip from a glass of Jamesons.”
“Exactly,” the Writer Lady says. “You have an exciting career” – Bobby snorts - “You’re narcotic officers. Let’s see more of what you do.”
“Okey-dokey.” Rush rises slowly to his feet and plants a kiss on Nicola’s head. “We’re setting up surveillance downtown tonight. Wanna ride along?”
“I do,” The Writer Lady is already on her feet. “But only if this relates to Benny. And, existentially, to Nicola.”
“We’ll make it work,” Rush says after a heavy pause. “You’re not rewriting the whole thing, are you?”
“Oh heavens no. Only pieces. Say, can the Professional Editor Lady come along too? Her name is Bonnie; you’re going to love her.
"The Professional Editor Lady" is now accepting new clients. Interested writers can contact her through her LinkedIn profile here. Bonnie is also the author of several books, which can be found here.
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