Attacks on the Twin Towers: The Boat Heroes of September 11th

Status: 11.09.2021 3:50 a.m.



In an unplanned operation, ferries brought half a million people to safety, who fled from the collapsing twin towers. Who are the people behind this rescue – and how did it succeed?

By Antje Passenheim, ARD-Studio New York




At 8:40 a.m. on September 11, 2001, Captain Peter Johansen boarded the ferry. With hundreds of commuters who want to cross the Hudson – from New Jersey to Manhattan. Normally Johansen himself would have steered the ship towards the skyline. But today he only goes with us. He’s in a meeting with the Coast Guard. Right next to the World Trade Center. The sky is blue. A sound does not belong there, however. “And I look to the left and suddenly see the first plane going into the north tower.” Johansen makes radio contact with his headquarters: “There was a navigation accident. An airplane has flown into a tower. We have to bring all the ferries there to help with the evacuation.” He knows: Whenever something happens downtown, the overland route is tight. There is only one escape route: across the water. The ship sets course for Pier 11.