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America Commemorates the 21st Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks

Coast guard
Image courtesy USCG

Published Sep 11, 2022 1:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Sunday, Americans and their allies paused to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Ceremonies were held at the ground zero site in Manhattan, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA, the site of the crash-landing of the final hijacked plane.

"The American story itself changed that day.  But what we did change — what we will not change, what we cannot change, never will, is the character of this nation that the terrorists thought they could wound," said President Joe Biden in a speech at the Pentagon. "In the crucible of 9/11, in the days and months that followed, we saw what stuff America is made — Americans are made of. Think of all of your loved ones, particularly those on that flight — ordinary citizens who said, 'We will not let this stand,' who risked and lost their lives so even more people would not die."

Biden noted that the work to eliminate the threat of terrorism continues. Just last month, U.S. forces found and neutralized one of the key planners of the 9/11 attacks, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, using a drone to strike his villa in Kabul, Afghanistan. The CIA had been hunting him for more than 20 years. "Now, Zawahiri can never again threaten the American people," Biden said. 

Memorial ceremonies were held by Americans across the nation and abroad. U.S. Navy units on bases and vessels around the world paused to commemorate the tragic day and the long fight that followed. Coastguardsmen in every district - and overseas - gathered for memorial ceremonies and charity events to remember the fallen. 

Remembering the New York Boatlift

In New York, the first responders to the 9/11 attacks included mariners and coastguardsmen who worked to evacuate survivors from the World Trade Center site. The U.S. Coast Guard organized a boatlift effort that rescued over 500,000 people from lower Manhattan - the largest emergency sealift effort in world history. Five cutters, 12 Coast Guard patrol boats and over 100 civilian vessels picked up survivors from the water's edge near Wall Street. Ground transporation was shut down by the attack, and local mariners aboard tugs, harbor cruise boats, small ferries and water taxis were a critical part of the evacuation.

The cutter Adak was one of the first Coast Guard vessels to arrive on scene after the attacks on the World Trade Center, and her crew took on the role of coordinating an ad-hoc sealift evacuation of over 500,000 people from Lower Manhattan - the largest sealift operation in history. The rescue operation drew in vessels of all types and sizes. At the pier, local dive boat operators served as safety vessels to rescue anyone who might fall in during boarding. Coast Guard marine inspectors volunteered to go the scene and supervise safe loading - not based on each boat's COI, but on a practical estimate of emergency capacity. After the evacuation was over, the boatlift continued for days, bringing supplies to the first responders working in Lower Manhattan.