Nautically speaking, the difference between John J. Harvey, a seventy-eight-year-old engine-room-operated fireboat, and Jessica DuLong, the boat’s thirty-six-year-old chief engineer, is that the John J. Harvey has spent a lot more time on the water—putting out the five-alarm fire that burned the Cunard pier in 1932, for instance. Except for a whale-watching trip when she was a child, DuLong has been on the water only since February, 2001. She had just been laid off from her job at a wellness Web site and, after a couple of volunteer events, found herself on the Harvey’s crew.
On September 11th of that year, the John J. Harvey—after being auctioned for scrap in 1999 and salvaged by preservationists—helped evacuate some of the three hundred thousand people fleeing the World Trade Center. It then used its water pumps to pump millions of gallons of water into downtown. “For the first time I see the boat pumping water with a purpose, doing the important work for which she was built,” DuLong writes in her new book, “My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson.”