The New York boatlift of September 11th, 2001, was one of the less well known events of 9/11. In around 10 hours, the mariners of New York harbor evacuated an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people trapped in Lower Manhattan by water. It has been called the largest rescue by sea in history and is often compared to Dunkirk, where a roughly comparable number of soldiers and civilians were rescued over a period of eight days. An analysis of how this evacuation was possible and the lessons that can be learned in order to respond to future disasters is the topic of one of our textbooks: “American Dunkirk: The Waterborne Evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11” (Kendra and Wachtendorf, 2016).
What do you have to do?
Watch the video “Boatlift” (provided below).
Click on the above link to visit the Discussion Board and define what leadership means for you in this response based on the content of this video.
Provide a brief summary of the video.
Then answer the following questions and reply to at least two of your classmates:
Applying the concepts learned in this module, was the 9/11 terroristic attack and the evacuation of lower Manhattan an emergency, a disaster or a catastrophe? Please supplement your answer with your reasons / rationale and examples from the video.
Based on the readings what style of leadership emerges from the video?
respond to this two comments:
Summary of the video, Boatlift
The video, The Boatlift: An Untold tale of 9/11 Resilience, Tom Hanks narrates the tale of the September 11, 2001 boatlift, which successfully evacuated over 500,000 people who were stranded by Lower Manhattan’s seawalls and struck bridges. Notably, the film gives a clear picure of the boatlift that happened following terrorists’ attack on the World Trade Center.The narrator, who was a boat captain at the time of the attack describes in detail how he as well as other boaters came together with a common difficult mission of evacuating people from Manhattan after the bridges as well as tunnels were closed. Imperatively, it is important to note that the narrator was watching the events as they unfolded on his television when he made the decision that he was going to take part in the rescue operations by taking his boat, the Amberjack into the city in order to save the victims. He wasn’t alone, though, as several other boaters joined him in answering the call for assistance. Importantly, it is also imperative to bear in mind that the Boatlift is the greatest marine evacuation in history. Tom Hanks maintains, from his narration, the conviction that everyone has a tiny hero inside of them and that it is important to help others when they need it.
Applying the concepts learned in this module
The September 11, 2001 attack as well as the evacuation of Lower Manhattan can be classified as a catastrophe. Remarkably, a catastrophe is a momentous tragic event that ranges from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or even ruin. In this case, the attack seems to share the characteristics of both emergencies as well as disasters since the level of destruction that was caused by the attack as well as the number of people who lost their lives surpasses both. According to the narration by Tom Hank regarding the level of destruction, the video depicts the event with phrases like “something I won’t forget” and “a big chimney in Manhattan” (Boatlift, min 7). These phrases including the facial expression of the narrator depict a widespread devastation that exceeds a typical emergency or a disaster. In addition, the narration also talks about the loss of lives as a result. The video mentions that hundreds of thousands of individuals were trying their best to flee and that close to half a million of them were evacuated.
Styles of leadership from the video
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) often uses a systematic approach when it comes to integrating the best existing processes as well as methods into a unified national framework for managing incidences. They have a unified command for all large-scale incidences (Walsh et al., 2011). However, from the video and the book American Dunkirk, it is evident that the narrator, Tom Hanks as well as all those who played a role in the evacuation process displayed distributed leadership. This kind of leadership is basically shared management. The book gives a clear picture that the evacuation process was not left to only a single leader (Kendra & Wachtendorf, 2016). However, there were many people as well as organizations that played a very significant role in the process, contributing their expertise as well as resources. This coming together of multiple parties goes in line with distributed leadership where the responsibilities as well as the decisions made are shared.
As one for whom the significance of 9/11 has only grown over the years, I found this Boatlift video touching, inspiring, and encouraging. The story of the evacuation of Manhattan by water has unfortunately been largely relegated to footnotes in the major documentaries regarding 9/11, no doubt because there are so many stories of resilience and survival from that tragic day. For that reason, I very much appreciated hearing directly from those who made the evacuation happen in this video. Each are certainly heroes for what they did that day, as so many were stranded, with all other modes of transit being unavailable.
The initiative and leadership displayed by all involved is not just commendable, but remarkable, given that they accomplished the rescue of 500,000 people from Manhattan in the span of 9 hours. Leadership often comes down to doing what needs to be done in any given situation, and includes the initiative necessary for that task. In this case, profound leadership was displayed by the Coast Guard in helping organize the rescue. This case also shows that often people need only be invited to get involved – one radio call from the Coast Guard and boats came from all over to answer that call to help those trapped in Manhattan. It seemed as though even the Coast Guard was surprised by the response, although perhaps they should not have been. Mariners are salt-of-the-earth sort of people, generally with a strong work ethic and are used to looking out for each other, since often the only people to rely on when at sea are those plying the waters near you. In this way, it makes sense that the mariners in and around New York would answer a call for help. Some even highlighted their own eagerness to assist in the video, that they could not just stand by as people were suffering when there was something they could do to help.
Based not only on this video, but also on my overall knowledge of 9/11, it was absolutely a disaster scenario. More than anything, the collapse of the Twin Towers was what caused it to be more than just a large fire-related emergency, which is what it would have remained had the towers remained standing like practically everyone expected would happen. Indeed, if there was concern that the towers might collapse, FDNY, NYPD, and other agencies would not have sent personnel into the buildings, since the first rule of rescue operations is to not become another victim of the same incident, to the greatest degree possible. It was the collapse of the towers, including the utter destruction, mass chaos, and need for extensive search and recovery efforts that resulted in a disaster situation. This is also because it overwhelmed the ability of local agencies to effectively respond and required assistance from higher levels of government. However, I would not necessarily characterize it as a catastrophe. Perhaps all the events of 9/11 together throughout the United States, including the collective loss of our sense of security, might be considered catastrophic in some ways, but the events in New York were mostly localized to lower Manhattan. As it is, there were plenty of people in the outer boroughs who saw little direct impact on their own lives if they did not work in Manhattan or have loved ones there, and essentially watched it unfold on TV like the rest of the world. The situation was not beyond the ability of all levels of government to respond effectively to it. Yes, the response and recovery took months, but the immediate response to the fire and collapse occurred within the same day and the long-term response, search, and recovery was eventually accomplished months later. A new tower has even been built in tribute and remembrance next to where the original Twin Towers once stood. All of us who witnessed 9/11, whether in New York or elsewhere, continue to remember not only the lives lost that day but also how it has changed so many aspects of our everyday lives in the “new normal” of the post-9/11 world, as well as educating those for whom it is a lesson of history and not a personal life experience. Reflecting on and remembering the boatlift part of the story in this video is something I see as an excellent start to our studies regarding managing large-scale disasters.
Flynn, S. and S. Burke. (2011, September 7). BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDOrzF7B2Kg