Solving Cities

Moving documentary of 9/11 evacuation by boat shows resilience of cities

Moving documentary of 9/11 evacuation by boat shows resilience of cities

Posting in Cities

It wasn't an official evacuation, but boaters from all over streamed into the rubble and smoke of lower Manhattan anyway

Here, in its entirety, is the incredibly moving, just-released, Tom Hanks-narrated, 11-minute documentary of the largest-ever evacuation by boat in history.

In nine hours, boats streaming in from all over the Northeast evacuated 500,000 people trapped on Manhattan Island by the complete shutdown of all trains and bridges in the wake of the fall of the twin towers. (Compare that with history's second-biggest evacuation, of 339,000 soldiers and civilians from Dunkirk, in WWII, which took nine days.)

One of the things this event illustrates is that in cities present and future, redundancy is one of the keys to resilience. New York has long neglected its waterfront, and in the face of rising seas it is even occasionally seen as a liability. And yet without access to the water, a half million New Yorkers would not have made it home on 9/11.

This documentary was produced by Road2Resilience, part of an effort by the Center for National Policy to "build the reflexes and instincts necessary at every level of American society to respond quickly and wisely to future crises."

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Christopher Mims

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Christopher Mims has written for Scientific American, WIRED, Popular Science, Fast Company, Good, Discover, Slate, Technology Review, Nature and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. Formerly, he was an editor at Scientific American, Grist and Seed. He is based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure