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With the nation getting ready to commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11th attacks against the United States, Maritime Trades Department President Michael Sacco recently reflected on what they revealed about this country and the maritime industry in particular.

After paying tribute to those who lost their lives on that tragic day, Sacco observed, “Those of us in the labor movement surely will recall particularly painful-yet-proud memories of the hundreds of emergency workers – many of them union members (represented by affiliates of the MTD), as were the flight crews – who gave their lives while trying to save others. We also remember the first responders, construction workers, transit workers and others who raced to the scenes to secure victims.”

Unionized maritime workers also answered the call of duty on that fateful day.  As Sacco noted, “We (in maritime labor also) remember our own brothers and sisters who answered the nation’s call on September 11. Those unfamiliar with our history may not know that SIU-crewed NY Waterway ferries evacuated an estimated 160,000 citizens from lower Manhattan starting almost immediately after the attacks. Also, the hospital ship USNS Comfort was activated, and it assisted by transporting medical and other support personnel to New York in addition to carrying supplies and food. (Rescue workers eventually used the ship for lodging, a precious commodity for that time and place.)”

The events of that fateful day marked a new era in the history of the U.S.-flag merchant marine.  Since then, Sacco wrote, “Thousands of (unionized civilian mariners) have supported our troops in the war on terror, delivering materiel to the Middle East and to other key positions and also bringing it back home. We definitely have lived up to the U.S. Merchant Marine’s historic role as the nation’s fourth arm of defense, and while I’d expect nothing less, I salute our sisters and brothers for everything they’ve done in upholding our traditions. They have helped make America and indeed the world a safer place – a point that’s been made by some of America’s highest-ranking military leaders.

Contrary to the intentions of the perpetrators, “The attacks did not lessen America’s greatness. If anything, the selflessness and heroism displayed by the rescue workers that day reflected the very best of the human spirit – the very best of the United States.”