MeFi yesterday pointed us towards one of those great 9/11 stories that was already slipping from our minds: In 1931, as the George Washington Bridge and the Empire State Building were being completed, the FDNY christened its fastest, bestest water-pumping fireboat, the John J. Harvey. Able to pump nearly 20,000 gallons per minute, the JJH was the definition of the modern fireboat ("Her output is equal to about 26 [or five alarm's worth] of land fire engines."). Sadly, as the piers around Manhattan were shuttered or repurposed, the JJH fell into disrepair. Removed from regular service in '95 and sold as surplus property in '99 she was luckily lovingly restored by her new owners.

Luckily because on 9/11 came her finest hour. The pressure from the collapse of the towers was so intense that it literally took out the water mains under the streets. Despite Manhattan being an island there almost no water available to help put out the blazes. Until the little fireboat that could got there, of course, and pumped water from the Hudson to waiting firemen nonstop for 4 days (days!).

Since then the JJH has become the star of its own well-regarded children's book, is open to the public and even takes "irregular but frequent" free public trips ("John J. Harvey is a privately owned boat. As an historic vessel, she does not meet the strict standards set by the US Coast Guard for carriage of passengers for hire, and all trips on John J. Harvey are free. If you come aboard, it is as our guest, and we may ask that you acknowledge this in writing."). When she's resting you can find her at Pier 63 (West 23rd Street and the Water, right above the Chelsea Piers) along with the Frying Pan. Totally worth a visit - and not a bad place to volunteer either!

Photograph by Al Trojanowicz from fireboat.org.