This tale is set on Sept. 11, 2001 and centers on the murder of Basil Ahmed, a senior compliance officer for the HSBC bank located at the World Trade Center Building 7. Basil is shot by one of the 911 Saudi terrorists who was attempting to obtain a martyr’s financial tribute from Basil, that was promised him and his brother by the 911 plot’s ringleader Mohammed Atta. In Basil’s office at the time of the murder is one of the story’s protagonists, Bill Berganhoff. Bill happens on the confrontation between Basil and his tormentor just as American Airline’s Flight 11 slams into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Basil’s purported murderer, Saeed Alghamdi, is in possession of Basil’s incriminating compact data disc as Berganhoff pursues him through the chaotic streets of Lower Manhattan amidst the horrific collapse of the WTC Towers and other calamities. In his quest to capture or kill Alghamdi, Berganhoff is joined by an NYPD Patrolman who is unwittingly drawn into a confusing, heart-stopping chase that ends with his death.
While this drama unfolds, an incredible spectacle occurs in and around the Battery. The 911 maritime evacuation, which is recounted through the experiences of Capt’n Aberthue George Bloodworth II who commands the commercial tug Turecamo Lads in New York harbor. Anecdotes about the evacuation are intertwined with the pursuit of Alghamdi until these two accounts culminate in a climax in the middle of New York harbor where Turecamo Lads thwarts Alghamdi’s horrifying plan and the Arab meets his demise.
For most of us, life is a circuitous journey where one often finds that those who were once believed to be allies are sometimes exposed as enemies. Alliances change as circumstances are altered, so in the final analysis, Polonius’ advice to Laertes is often echoed “…...to thine own self, be true”
At the tip of Manhattan Island is a spit of land that has long been a symbol of the resolution, determination, and courage of the people of New York City. Following the Dutch settlement of the Manhattan Island in 1624, a fort was hastily erected at the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers at the very apex of the island as a defense for the young city, New Amsterdam. In this fort, the inhabitants sited a brace of cannon facing the harbor to repel the marauding maritime brigands of the day and potentially hostile, naval powers. Over time, this location naturally became known simply as “The Battery”.
As the years progressed, New Amsterdam flourished and eventually became known as New York. After America declared her independence from Britain in August of 1775, the exuberant and precocious King’s College student Alexander Hamilton rallied an impromptu group of his fellows in an attempt to remove ten cannon from the Battery to prevent their capture by the Royal Navy. During this episode, to cover their retreat, the rebels fired on a barge that had been launched from the British Frigate Asia. In response, the Asia fired a broadside of grape shot canister and cannonballs that destroyed the roof of Faunces Tavern. Hamilton and his compatriots survived and lived to fight another day.
With the threat of yet another possible invasion by the British Army during the War of 1812, The Battery was expanded beyond its previously meager capacity. Another enlargement of the site using city landfill, prompted a name change to Castle Garden and at that site, the State of New York inaugurated the first immigrant reception area in America in 1855. Over the ensuing decades wave upon wave of immigrants arrived in the New World through this portal. Their number eventually totaled some 8.5 million souls until Ellis Island was established in 1892 as the new facility for processing immigrants. After that, the Battery was transformed back to a tranquil park that became a refuge for those in need of solace, respite, and comfort from the ever chaotic life in one of the world’s largest and busiest cities.
In 1939, The Battery survived the onslaught and insult
of the imperious Robert Moses, who was the NYC Parks Commissioner. Moses attempted to demolish the old Battery Park and associated Castle Gardens as part of his dream project to erect a bridge from The Battery to Brooklyn. Many felt that this would create a “Chinese Wall” between Wall Street and New York Harbor causing property values to plummet. Moses had built many a bridge in and around Manhattan by then, but his Brooklyn-Battery Bridge, connecting lower Manhattan to Red Hook, would have been his crowning achievement. The implementation of this project would surely have destroyed what little green space remained at the tip of Manhattan. Because of this, the project was strongly opposed by many prominent citizens including First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Moses wielded nearly impregnable power in New York State, but President FDR was able to quash the project. Roosevelt had his Secretary of War Harry Hines Woodring declare that Moses’ proposed bridge would be an impediment to naval traffic to and from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Although several bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge, already were impediments in the route to the Navy Yard, this scheme worked; the project was shelved and The Battery was saved.
The Battery has been the terminus of many an Atlantic voyage by immigrants, but for generations, it has also served as the start of many a daily commute for travelers between Manhattan and Staten Island. For more than 200 years the Staten Island Ferry has been the venue for these trips.
In this regard, the historical record confirms that Cornelius Vanderbilt began a ferry service from Manhattan to Staten Island in 1810. The original ferries were called periaugers and were essentially two-masted, shallow-draft sailing vessels that plied the waters in and around Manhattan during that period. Vanderbilt had been given $100 from his father as a gift on his 16th birthday and he used that money to buy a periauger that he named Swiftsure. His was not the only ferry service at the time. In 1817 the Richmond Turnpike Company received a charter from the United States government to build the city of Tompkinsville on Staten Island. Since the company had built a highway across Staten Island connected to its main city, it was granted the right to run a ferry service from the island to Manhattan. This charter allowed the company to establish the second mechanized ferry service in the country following the Fulton Ferry that began its service in 1814 between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The City of New York assumed control of the Staten Island Ferry in 1905 and has run it ever since. It continues to this day to serve as the main commuter route between Manhattan and Staten Island. With more than 20 million riders annually, it is the busiest ferry route in the United States. The Battery has always been the Manhattan terminus for the Staten Island Ferry.
With its protracted history it is quite evident that The Battery has long served as a public place offering a reprieve for those living and working or visiting Lower Manhattan and as a busy southern gateway to the City. Sometimes referred to as Manhattan’s front lawn, the 25-acre public park abuts the Hudson River and features walking paths and a maritime bulkhead that serves as a dock for tourist boats that connect the city to Ellis and Liberty islands. In September of 2001, the lengthy, storied history of the place would be unexpectantly altered with yet another extraordinary chapter that would once again highlight the courage, stoicism, and perseverance of the City’s populace.