Saved at the Seawall

Saved at the Seawall is the greatest 9/11 story you’ve never heard. DuLong’s impressive, vital work has preserved one of 9/11’s most dramatic and least-known stories. Now future generations will forever know of the courage and spirit of New York’s mariners.”

Garrett Graff,
The Only Plane in the Sky

Saved at the Seawall Book Cover

“On New York City’s darkest day, the captains and crew of hundreds of boats took to safety as many as half a million survivors of the World Trade Center attack. No one has told this incredible story better than Jessica DuLong. Saved at the Seawall is a moving page-turner.”

— Kenneth T. Jackson,
president emeritus, New-York Historical Society 

Stories from the September 11 Boat Lift

The definitive history of the largest-ever waterborne evacuation, when ferries, dinner boats, and other vessels spontaneously converged to rescue nearly 500,000 stranded people from Manhattan on September 11, 2001.

With a new preface and a foreword by Mitchell Zuckoff

Jessica DuLong reveals the dramatic story of how the New York Harbor maritime community heroically delivered stranded commuters, residents, and visitors out of harm’s way.

Even before the US Coast Guard called for “all available boats,” tugs, ferries, dinner boats, and other vessels had sped to the rescue from points all across New York Harbor. In less than nine hours, captains and crews transported nearly half a million people from Manhattan.

Anchored in eyewitness accounts and written by a mariner who served at Ground Zero, Saved at the Seawall weaves together the personal stories of people rescued that day with those of the mariners who saved them.

DuLong describes the inner workings of New York Harbor and reveals the collaborative power of its close-knit community. Her chronicle of those crucial hours, when hundreds of thousands of lives were at risk, highlights how resourcefulness and basic human goodness triumphed over turmoil on one of America’s darkest days.

C-SPAN | July 18, 2021: Jessica DuLong, former chief engineer on New York City fireboat John J. Harvey and author of Saved at the Seawall: Stories from the September 11 Boat Lift, talked about the rescue by boat of nearly 500,000 people off Manhattan Island following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It was the largest maritime evacuation in history.

Now Available as an Audiobook

A “powerful read. It didn’t even feel like a book. It was an immersion… I didn’t know the whole scope of the rescue and am so grateful for this story.”
Zibby Owens


More than ever, we need stories of how people come together, in their shared humanity, to help one another through disasters. This chronicle provides evidence of the reflexive resourcefulness and resounding human goodness that reminds us of the hope and wonder that’s possible on the darkest days.

― Jessica DuLong

Impact Snapshot

  • Look for Jessica DuLong in Spike Lee’s docuseries on HBO, NYC Epicenters 9/11→2021½, where Saved serves as a primary historical source.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff: Saved filled “a large gap in [his] own knowledge and research.”
  • More Boatlift and 9/11 resources here.


DuLong’s remarkable book … has brought to the surface long-overlooked tales of heroism and sacrifice, recounting the actions and sharing the character of a community response to tragedy as immediate and impressive as any in history. … By taking to the water, a fitting decision considering her own rich history on the Hudson River, DuLong has applied her hard-earned maritime knowledge in the name of honoring the men and women who answered the ancient code that compels mariners to proceed with all speed to a distress call.
— Mitchell ZuckoffFall and Rise

“A waterborne evacuation larger than Dunkirk―in New York Harbor? How come we barely noticed this at the time, and have largely forgotten about it since? Readers of this fast-paced book will not forget it again. Jessica DuLong brings this extraordinary episode to vivid, poignant life, using both literary and maritime expertise.”
― Adam Hochschild, Rebel Cinderella

“Jessica DuLong takes a deep dive into what took place on 9/11 in the waters surrounding the World Trade Center Towers. The horrific stories she shares remain hopeful and inspiring. Saved at the Seawall is a compelling read and shows humanity at its best.”
— Ann L. Buttenwieser, NYC Waterfront Historian

“In this beautifully written and compassionate account, infused with dread and wonder, DuLong delivers meticulous reporting, human-scale and panoramic, that reframes 9/11. This enheartening chronicle of endurance and kindness, as wonderfully engineered and brilliantly executed as the waterborne rescue itself, proffers an evidence-based and hopeful view of humanity.”
Mark Kramer, Founding Director, Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism, Harvard University

Press & Reviews

Civilian boat crew member reflects on her role in massive 9/11 boat rescues
Jessica Dulong, Chief Engineer Emerita of Ret. 1931 NYC Fireboat, discusses the ‘truly remarkable’ evacuations that rescued half a million people from NYC.

Cavuto: Coast to Coast

Q&A with Susan Swain
Former chief engineer on NYC fireboat John J. Harvey, Jessica DuLong, discusses the largest maritime evacuation in history, when mariners rescued nearly 500,000 people off Manhattan by boat following the 9/11 attacks.

C-Span: Q&A with Susan Swain

Review: Saved at the Seawall, by Jessica DuLong
"It’s a fascinating, beautiful, heartbreaking story about the triumph of the human spirit on one of our country’s darkest days."

The Downtown Writers Jam

ARD Interview (Germany)
“Boatlift 9/11” remains a largely untold story. To date, no US president has honored its heroes. Jessica DuLong immortalized them in a book 20 years later.