Huntington ship captain, crew honored for rescuing New Yorkers on 9/11
A Huntington ship captain and his crew were honored Friday with a special plaque for helping to evacuate people from New York City during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Capt. James Schneider and his crew were honored in Huntington Harbor Friday in remembrance of Sept. 11 and their decision to go to lower Manhattan 20 years ago to rescue people who were escaping the horror.
"We were young, and we weren't afraid of anything," Schneider said.
The James Joseph II raced to lower Manhattan to evacuate people from the island.
The boat ferried people away on the fateful day as it joined scores of other vessels that answered the call for help from the U.S. Coast Guard for all available boats.
"People just thick on the wall and we did what we had to do," said Huntington lobsterman Emanuel Pyros, who volunteered to go aboard the James Joseph II that fateful day with a group of other Long Islanders. In nearly 20 hours of nonstop work, the fishing boat moved hundreds, possibly thousands of people, off Manhattan as they joined other boats in the largest marine evacuation in history.
"What we saw that day between the other boats was just an amazing amount of corporation," Schneider recalled.
Schneider said he never really found out what happened to people he saved that day. But in 2008 aboard a routine fishing charter, he emotionally recalled that a woman and her daughter approached him. She said she was on his boat on 9/11, several months pregnant at the time. She and her then-7-year-old daughter thanked him.
"I never found out or exchanged phone numbers or anything. It was just God's way of bringing us together after everything that had happened, and maybe after that day there would be less bad dreams and less nightmares," Schneider said.
Schneider and his crew said they don't want to be considered heroes. They were just answering a call that day for help, something they said any mariner would do.
He said it's hard to celebrate what he and his crew accomplished that day when thousands were also lost.
Schneider said two of his crew who were on the boat rescuing evacuees later died of 9/11-related cancer and a former crew member died in one of the towers.
He added that their memories will never be forgotten.