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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
9/11 experiences: A ferry worker's story

Adam Ashton was working on a commuter ferry on the Hudson River when the twin towers were attacked. He and his crew evacuated people from lower Manhattan throughout the day.

I was dropping people off at the World Financial Center dock, close to the World Trade Center, when I saw the first plane streaking north to south across the sky and slam into the North Tower.

Ferry on Hudson River
Ferries evacuated people from Manhattan throughout the day
There was huge flash, then a bang, then you could feel the heat on your face.

From that moment, my crew, along with our whole fleet of about 30 boats, would be working flat out all day trying to evacuate people from Manhattan to New Jersey and Brooklyn.

After the second plane hit we were told by the coastguard to standby on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.

But the boat's captains and crew had already decided to go back and help.

If anyone who was on those boats say they weren't scared they were lying.


Thousands of people wanted to get on our boats, but we could only take 400 people a time.

It was a chaotic scene.

We tried to give priority to the injured but there were so many people jumping off the sea wall on to the decks of our boats we had to take as many as we could.

People in Brooklyn watching the twin towers burning
People in New Jersey and Brooklyn watched the horror unfold
People were pushing, screaming, cursing. It was a scary position to be in.

It got a lot worse when debris started falling and people started jumping from the towers.

We told the passengers it was just debris to try to keep the situation under control as people really started to freak out. There was a lot of panic and screaming going on.

We were taking the injured to New Jersey to waiting emergency teams and bringing supplies and firefighters back to New York.

We were back at the World Financial Center ferry dock when the first tower collapsed.

You could see the debris coming towards us, and then blinding and choking everyone.

The mother of one of stewardesses collapsed on our boat when she saw the site where the towers once stood
We were all covered in tower debris, as were our boats. The day got more and more chaotic as it went on.

We carried on working for 16 hours bringing firefighters, emergency workers and supplies from New Jersey to New York, and the scared and lost from New York to New Jersey.

There were people from the Bronx who ended up in Weehawken, New Jersey, just because they wanted to get off Manhattan Island.

We also evacuated people to Brooklyn, which we don't normally do.

The most touching thing to see that day was the firefighters we brought over walking off towards Ground Zero and the civilians clapping and offering water to them.

Permanent changes

Things changed significantly for us in the days after 9/11.

For weeks you could smell that awful smell that hung in the air. It took weeks to dissipate.

Security was obviously stepped up massively. There were armed coastguards on our boats and we were searching the bags of most of the people on board, which we had never done before.

There were also private security guards at all our terminals - which has since been cut due to costs.

Ferry crews continued to bring in supplies for the red cross.

On one very sad day the families of the flight crews came across the river with us to see Ground Zero for themselves.

The mother of one of stewardesses collapsed on our boat when she saw the site where the towers once stood.

The conditions in which we work have changed permanently since 9/11.

We have our own maritime security threat level and, as anyone who has used the ferry routes around New York knows, the security is huge.

But this level of security should have been there in the first place.

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