When New York’s merchant mariners wake up in the morning, their primary goal is to shuttle ferry commuters safely and quickly. Or guide tons of freight to its destination. It's hard work, no question, often under very tough conditions. But, we don't expect to hear about it on the evening news.
Fire fighters, we expect them to be heroes. Deckhands, no.
The men and women who work New York's waterways were not required to respond to the icy waterborne evacuation of 155 passengers and crew aboard US Airways Flight 1549. But, they knew what the cold waters would inflict on the flight's survivors in only a few short minutes, and they chose to respond. And, in springing to action, they saved lives.
That’s exactly what's so extraordinary about New York's merchant mariners. They woke up on a cold January 15th morning, expecting an ordinary workday on the Hudson's frigid waters. Yet by the time they got to bed that night, we knew them as heroes.
So, this morning at an awards ceremony in New York, I was proud to honor the selfless efforts of these men and women, their bravery and their skill. Overlooking the site of the rescue, I presented the Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement to: Scott Keon, M/V Lt. Michael P. Murphy; Captain Vincent Lombardi, New York Waterway; Captain Ed Werber, Circle Line; Robert Giordano, New York Water Taxi; Greg Hanchrow, Staten Island Ferry; Captain Kenneth Poesl, Ken’s Marine; and Glenn Miller, Miller’s Launch. The award recognizes individuals who have made extraordinarily valuable contributions to the merchant marine. In all, 72 civilian mariners who participated in the rescue of the passengers and crew from Flight 1549 will receive medals.
You know, this wasn’t the first time the merchant mariners of New York had risen to such a challenge. On September 11, 2001, commercial seamen helped evacuate half a million people from Manhattan. In 2003, they shuttled people trapped in the city's electrical blackout.
No one wants to see another emergency situation. Ever. But, should one occur, I know these seamen will rise to the challenge.