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NEW YORK — The attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, will always be remembered as one of the most challenging days in U.S. history.

For 20 years, Americans have praised the swift, heroic action taken by the city’s dedicated first responders on that fateful day. 

Still, nearly two decades later there’s another story that has been somewhat underreported.

During the tragic events of that day, New Yorkers were quickly reminded that on the island of Manhattan when citywide transportation becomes restricted, travel becomes increasingly difficult.

For those that lived in areas like New Jersey and Staten Island, the only way out of the city was by boat. 

This is the story of the largest maritime evacuation in history that rescued nearly half a million people from the piers of lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001.

A day intended to tear the nation apart but instead brought people together — the waterway heroes of 9/11 made it their mission to ensure that no one was left behind.