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On the morning of Tuesday, 11 September 2001, two hijacked planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City – killing nearly 3,000 people, including 10 Australians. 

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we’re reflecting on the maritime evacuation of Lower Manhattan – the largest maritime evacuation in history. 

In the wake of the disaster, many streets in Lower Manhattan were blocked, with subways and tunnels closed. Thousands of people began to descend on the shoreline, hoping they could escape by water. 

Reminiscent of the nine-day evacuation of 339,000 soldiers and civilians from Dunkirk during World War II, 500,000 people were safely evacuated to Staten Island, Ellis Island and New Jersey. In nine hours, over 800 civilian mariners on 125 vessels including ferries, taxi boats, tugboats, and private and party craft accomplished the world’s largest sea evacuation.   

Learn more about this incredible story of resilience by watching the 2011 short documentary film Boatlift below. 


Richard Wood

Richard has worked in museums, cultural centres and heritage sites in Australia and internationally for more than 30 years as a project manager and science, technology and history educator, designer, curator and interpreter. He now creates and manages the museum’s USA Programs which explore the maritime relationship between Australia and the USA and are funded by the 1988 USA Bicentennial Gift to Australia.

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