2001: A Retired Fireboat Comes to the Rescue on One of America’s Darkest Days

September 11, 2001

More than six years after being retired from service by the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), the fireboat John J. Harvey returned to action when she assisted in the large-scale relief and evacuation efforts at the World Trade Center following the deadly terrorist attacks there. Launched in 1931, the Harvey was named for a marine fireman who had died in the line of duty.

The John J. Harvey

This vessel is one of the most powerful fireboats ever constructed, and she can pump as much as 18,000 gallons (68,137 liters) of water per minute. The Harvey had a distinguished career with the FDNY, assisting at such major marine fires as those impacting the French ocean liner Normandie in 1942 and the oil tankers Alva Cape and Texaco Massachusetts in 1966. After being retired in 1995, the fireboat was sold to a group of marine preservationists and added to the National Register of Historic Places.

When members of the Harvey’s crew learned about the attacks at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, they took the fireboat to the area to join various tugboats and ferries in helping with disaster relief efforts. The Harvey, while initially used to transport people from the sea wall to safety, was soon recruited by the FDNY to provide pumping capacity for water in the vicinity of the World Trade Center. (The hydrants in the area were temporarily inoperable at the time.)

The Harvey was put to work non-stop over the next three days, providing critically needed water with her fire hoses until the hydrants were fully functioning again. Maritime writer Roy Attaway subsequently noted, “To firemen who had survived the terrorist attacks, the Harvey must have seemed an apparition, an old warrior coming out of the mists of memory to do battle one more time.”

For more information on the fireboat John J. Harvey and the lifesaving efforts of her crew in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_J._Harvey and https://www.1931fireboat.org/index.php.

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