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As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the editors set out to honor those lost by shining a light on the first responders who work the water day in and day out to keep us safe.

It was a bluebird afternoon in September. I believe it was Sept. 11, 2010; my family was rafted up with our close friends the McGraths in the corner of a quiet cove. John McGrath Sr. was a member of the NYPD and worked at Ground Zero on 9/11 and in the weeks that followed. For as long as I knew him, he didn’t talk much about those weeks. But as we stood on my parents’ boat that day, there was a brief lull in our conversation and laughter. John took a sip of his beer, looked around at the cove and said to my dad who was sitting on the gunwale beside him, “This is the kind of thing I wish everyone did on September 11th. I wish it was a holiday where everyone had the day off to spend with their family and friends and just enjoy each other’s company.”

In this special issue, the Power & Motoryacht team commemorates this important American anniversary by shining a spotlight on those who go to the sea not for pleasure, but to keep those of us who do safe. Associate Editor Carly Sisson spent time with the FDNY’s famed Marine 1 unit to better understand how the department changed after 9/11 and how they honor their fallen brothers by working day in and day out to protect New York. Executive Editor Charlie Levine spent a hair-raising day on—and above—the water with the Department of Homeland Security, a branch formed in response to the 9/11 attacks, and got to witness firsthand how they protect our waters with a philosophy known simply as “shock and awe.”

We also worked with James Kendra and Tricia Wachtendorf to tell one of the most heroic boating stories of all time, that of the waterborne evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11, an impromptu civilian and commercial operation that reminds us that even in the darkest times, rays of light can shine through.

As for me, I’ve been thinking about my friend John Sr., who passed away a couple years ago. I couldn’t talk to him about the anniversary, so I did the next best thing: I joined his son, John Jr., now a member of the Fairfield Police Department Marine Unit, for a day on the water. Even though John Jr. was only in middle school when the attacks happened, he said that day, and his father’s heroism, cemented his resolve and desire to become a police officer.

Our goal with this issue is not to make anyone sad or morose, but to acknowledge the tragedy, pay tribute to the loss and help us all gain better insight into the work being done by the first responders we share the water with.

September 11 has a unique double meaning for me this year. On September 10 of last year, Karen and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our son, Connor. That night, knowing the dark anniversary that lay ahead, I whispered to Karen’s belly, “Hey buddy, you know I can’t wait to see you, but let’s hold off a couple more days.”

Hearing Karen yell my name at 3 a.m. the next morning, I knew that my son had ignored me for the very first time. He arrived on September 11, 2020. I sometimes wonder how I’ll explain the significance of that day to him. I think I’ll try to focus more on the heroes than the evil. I’ll tell him of the bravery of our first responders and how ordinary boaters answered the call. I’ll try to teach him the importance of looking out for others.

But all that will have to wait for a few more years. This year, I think we’ll get a cake and do what my friend John would have wanted—for us to spend time on the water making memories with our friends and family. I hope you’ll do the same.

This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.