(Scott Koen (top), LT Michael Murphy, Captain Chesley Sullenberger)
As Scott Koen gunned his engines, heading into the Hudson River and toward the floating Airbus 320, it was as if destiny had put him there.
His boat, an old Coast Guard buoy tender, was one of the first vessels to arrive at the crash scene of US Air flight 1549. Since it was low on the water and had a rotating screw, it was perfectly suited for easing up to one of the wings and boarding survivors. In the end, all 155 passengers and crew members were rescued thanks to a combined effort by several vessels, with no loss of life.
His boat’s participation in the “Miracle on the Hudson” was a final chapter in an extraordinary story marked by bravery, symbolism, and tribute – a story that began on September 11, 2001.
Scott had been the Director of Operations at the Intrepid Museum in New York when terrorists flew two aircraft into the Twin Towers. The event so affected him that he asked his boss what he thought about, “…taking steel from the World Trade Center and actually pouring it into the foundation of ships?” (NorthJersey.com)
The two men approached the Navy about the idea – the CNO agreed, and Scott was tasked with finding the scrap. Governor George Pataki asked that the ship – the fifth vessel in the LPD 17 class – be named USS NEW YORK (LPD 21), and on September 7, 2002 the Secretary of the Navy made it official. The steel from the towers would comprise a portion of her bow – the leading edge of the mighty warship.
Almost three years later, Navy S.E.A.L. LT Michael Murphy died in an intense firefight in Afghanistan while trying to save the lives of his teammates. For his sacrifice, he was awarded the Medal of Honor (see story here). LT Murphy was a New York native who grew up in Patchogue, N.Y. on Long Island. “When he deployed overseas, Murphy carried a patch from New York Fire Departmentâ€™s Engine Company 53 and Ladder Company 43, in Manhattanâ€™s El Barrio neighborhood, ‘as a symbol of why he was there and what he was doing.'” (Military Times)
Three years later, Scott Koen purchased a boat on eBay. He refitted the old buoy tender, and to honor the Navy’s first Medal of Honor recipient since Vietnam, he christened it M/V LT Michael P. Murphy.
Shortly thereafter, the vessel that bears LT Murphy’s name pulled shaken survivors from the cold waters of the Hudson near the site of the Intrepid Museum. Everyone survived thanks partly to the flying abilities and heroism of the pilot (Captain Chesley Sullenberger, an Air Force veteran who was the last person to leave the sinking aircraft – he checked the aisles twice to be sure everyone had gotten out); and partly to a man who once found scraps of metal from the Twin Towers to be used in a warship built to fight back against terrorism. He skippered a boat named for a man who gave his life doing the same.
Three weeks after the crash, Chris Cuomo of ABC News recounted the skill and composure of Captain Sullenberger, and lauded the speed with which rescue vessels arrived on the scene. He gave his report from the deck of one of those boats – the M/V LT Michael P. Murphy. He ended his report by saying, “The Lieutenant was called to duty one more time…and he helped save lives that day.”
They all did.