Sign In
  • UD Search

News ON 9/11, AMERICA'S DUNKIRK

Image Picker for Section 0
Disaster researchers chronicle largest water evacuation in history

​James Kendra, professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) and director of the Disaster Research Center (DRC), works with Tricia Wachtendorf, associate professor of sociology and of women and gender studies as well as director of the DRC. Kendra and Wachtendorf have collaborated on a book titled "American Dunkirk: The Waterborne Evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11."

Fifteen years ago on 9/11 — when New York’s twin towers came down in a cataclysm of mangled metal and concrete, smoke and ash — the World Trade Center office workers who escaped the wreckage of the initial attacks fled in desperation.

Choking in the thick black air, injured and supporting the injured, dust-covered survivors ran for their lives, all while wondering if another attack was imminent. But leaving lower Manhattan by familiar routes proved all but impossible, as subway and train traffic was immediately shut down and bridges and tunnels were closed.

And yet, within just nine hours, half a million people had been evacuated from the island of Manhattan thanks to a spontaneous volunteer effort. The unexpected rescuers? Hundreds of boat operators and their crews.

“People ran in all directions,” says James Kendra, professor of public policy and administration and director of the Disaster Research Center (DRC) at the University of Delaware. “Those who ran south were stuck at the water. But then the boats started coming, and the operation became so large that it covered New York Harbor.”

How that happened, and what planners can learn from it, is the subject of American Dunkirk: The Waterborne Evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11, a new book by Kendra and Tricia Wachtendorf, associate professor of sociology and director of the DRC. The two social scientists arrived in New York on Sept. 13, 2001, and ended up staying two months as they conducted interviews and delved into various aspects of the response to the terrorist attacks. They returned about a year later for follow-up research.

The marine operation was just part of the complex story of the 9/11 tragedy in which first responders, policy makers and average citizens all played major roles in the disaster response and recovery. But the boat evacuation was unique in many respects, and its importance has been overlooked in numerous accounts of the day’s events, Wachtendorf and Kendra say.

“It was a fascinating story, and we wanted to tell it,” Wachtendorf says. “The individual stories of people who decided at that moment to use their boats to help are compelling, but it’s also interesting to us as researchers. This was an emergent response — totally unplanned but remarkably effective.”

This information previously appeared in a UDaily article.

News Story Supporting Images and Text
Used in the Home Page News Listing and for the News Rollup Page
Fifteen years ago on 9/11 — when New York’s twin towers came down in a cataclysm of mangled metal and concrete, smoke and ash — the World Trade Center office workers who escaped the wreckage of the initial attacks fled in desperation.
10/17/2016
Page Settings and MetaData:
(Not Shown on the Page)
Page Settings
AMERICA'S DUNKIRK
 
No
 
 
MetaData for Search Engine Optimization
ON 9/11, AMERICA'S DUNKIRK
 
  • Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice
  • University of Delaware
  • 18 Amstel Avenue, Newark DE 19716, USA
  • Sociology - 322 Smith Hall
  • Phone: 302-831-2581 Fax: 302-831-2607
  • Criminal Justice - 325 Smith Hall
  • Phone: 302-831-1236 Fax: 302-831-0688