Dust to Deliverance by Jessica DuLong

“Minutes after thick, gray smoke began spilling through the airplane-shaped hole in the World Trade Center’s North Tower, civilians caught in an act of war—some burned and bleeding, some covered with soot—had fled to the water’s edge, running until they ran out of land. Never was it clearer that Manhattan is an island.”

When terrorists took down the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, frightened people crowded along the shores of Lower Manhattan. With the dust and fires spreading, no one knew if more attacks were coming. Chaos reigned.

Dust to Deliverance is the gripping story of how the New York harbor maritime community converged spontaneously to deliver stranded commuters, residents, and visitors out of harm’s way. Even before the Coast Guard called for “all available boats,” ferries, charter yachts, dinner boats, tugs, and other vessels had raced across New York harbor to pick up passengers. In less than nine hours, they rescued nearly half a million people from Lower Manhattan, making this the largest waterborne evacuation in history.

Rooted in eyewitness accounts and written by a mariner who served at Ground Zero, Dust to Deliverance interweaves the personal stories of people saved that day with those who saved them, while revealing the inner workings of New York harbor and its close-knit community. This groundbreaking, minute-by-minute chronicle provides an unprecedented look at one of the most significant moments in American history. This human saga of compassion, triumph, and resilience reveals how tragedy creates new, often unlikely, alliances, even as it strengthens existing bonds. The book brings to light the resourcefulness and resounding human goodness that rise up in response to darkness, calamity, and turmoil.

Journalist and historian Jessica DuLong is the author of My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the Work that Built America (Free Press, 2009), winner of the American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Book Award for Memoir, 2010. Her writing has appeared in Newsweek International, Rolling Stone, Psychology Today, Newsday, and Maritime Reporter & Engineering News, among other publications. A Coast Guard-licensed merchant marine officer, DuLong serves as chief engineer of retired 1931 New York City fireboat John J. Harvey, a historic preservation project now operating as a living museum, which was called back into service on September 11.

For more on Jessica DuLong, please visit JessicaDuLong.com.