The MTD opened this year’s executive board meeting by celebrating the heroic and remarkable role that the U.S. maritime industry played in transporting hundreds of thousands of people from Manhattan after the September 11, 2001, attack on the Twin Towers.
Captain Andrew McGovern, president of the United New Jersey Sandy Hook Pilots Association, presented the video “Boatlift” on the subject. He is well versed on the matter. He was among the hundreds of vessel operators loading and evacuating men, women and children from makeshift docks along the lower portion of the island.
As McGovern noted, the makers of the video “really wanted to show … the resiliency of the marine transportation system and what seafarers can do during times of emergency.”
On September 11th, U.S. civilian mariners rose to occasion, even though there was not any official water-born evacuation plan at the time. Approximately 500,000 people were rescued by boat in less than 9 hours. It was the single largest evacuation in U.S. history, bigger than even the 1940 effort to save British and French troops at Dunkirk.
According to McGovern, that was due solely to U.S. civilian mariners, who live by the motto: “If you want to do something, you do it.”
McGovern believes that the video has come at a critical time. With a budget crisis looming and growing calls for cuts, funding for maritime programs will be even harder to secure.
These problems are compounded by the fact that there is very little public awareness of just how important the U.S. maritime industry is to the safety, security and economic well-being of this nation.
As McGovern noted, “We are the greenest, cleanest and most efficient mode of transportation,” but unfortunately, “no one knows what we do.”
MTD President Michael Sacco praised McGovern and the video, promising that the department, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils would do everything they could to make sure that the video reaches a larger audience. He also said that the MTD would continue educating Congress and the American public about the importance of the U.S. maritime industry.