Yesterday afternoon in the newsroom, when I heard Lucy Nalpathanchil say "AP reports there's a plane down in the Hudson River" - your first thought is: "Oh no." As we watched the remarkable video of a half-submerged US Airways Airbus A320 (a plane that I may very well have flown on in my many trips to Pittsburgh, Charlotte and Washington), I couldn't help but think of the shock, and surprise, and action of the ferry boat workers who saw the plane land on their turf.
From all reports, the boats were there in seconds, surrounding the sinking plane, and quietly evacuating passengers. NPR's Robert Smith brought us many of their voices on Morning Edition, and the New York Times featured the rescue this morning.
The speedy rescue brought to mind a little-followed story of 9/11, the heroic actions of the harbor workers and ferry boat captains who evacuated hundreds of thousands from lower Manhattan within hours - during a time when car traffic and subway trains had ground to a halt.
I was lucky to be executive producer of a documentary about this heroism, produced by the great CBC documentarian David Tarnow. It's called "All Available Boats: Harbor Voices from 9/11." It's a series of interviews David did for an exhibit at South Street Seaport, which we turned into a half-hour radio program. We won some awards for this piece, which I still find moving...if you have a chance, listen to it in it's various forms.
After hearing these stories, you'll realize that the heroism we saw on the news yesterday wasn't anything new - it was just guys doing their jobs.