NYC boat procession honors 9/11 victims, commemorates largest water evacuation in history

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- To honor the many victims on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 and to commemorate the largest water evacuation in history, vessels from the Great Boatlift rescue of September 11, 2001, held a boat procession Friday.

The event in New York Harbor included a ceremony and a blessing of the fleet, and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Karl L. Schultz, were in attendance.

Approximately 100 vessels were a part of the procession, including many that participated in the 9/11 boatlift.

After road, tunnel, and railway closures out of New York City, over half a million people were stranded in Lower Manhattan following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

RELATED | 'Eyewitness to 9/11: Behind the Lens' reveals untold stories, rare video of America's darkest day
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On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we hear from the Eyewitness News journalists who were there, in the streets, in the air, and in the newsroom, reporting on the events as the tragedy unfolded, capturing the unforgettable video of that day, and risking their lives to tell the world what was happening.


More than 500,000 survivors were ferried across the harbor to safety, and the rescue was larger than the evacuation of 340,000 American-allied troops at Dunkirk.

The rescue effort involved over 150 American Maritime vessels, including passenger ferries, tugboats, merchant ships, private vessels, and New York City Fire Department and Police Department boats.

More than 800 American mariners participated on 9/11.

Water cannons from New York City Fireboats honored those vessels and American mariners during the procession with a red, white and blue salute as they passed Wagner Park and the Statue of Liberty.

RELATED | How reporter N.J. Burkett and his photographer escaped Twin Towers collapse
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Eyewitness News reporter N.J. Burkett and photographer Marty Glembotzky rushed down to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. While shooting a standup right below the burning towers, the first tower began to collapse.


The event was hosted by the American Maritime Partnership, New York Council of the Navy League, Transportation Institute, Towboat and Harbor Carriers Association, Passenger Vessel Association, Port Authority of NY/NJ, Sandy Hook Pilots, and Seaman's Church Institute.

Many at the helms of those boats on 9/11 were breathing in the toxic fumes on their many trips. Today, more than half are dealing with a 9/11 related health conditions, meaning their heroic efforts had a lasting impact.

RELATED | CLICK HERE for more Eyewitness News reflections, photos and stories marking the anniversary of 9/11

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