It’s hard to believe that the September 11th attacks happened over 15 years ago. Twenty-four Canadians died in the event and the impact it left in the Canadian community is hard to forget. Following the twin tower attacks former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien called former President George W. Bush to ensure “Canada’s complete support” for the U.S.
An immediate 15 minutes after the World Trade Center’s North Tower was hit the U.S. announced they were closing down their airspace as a security precaution. In response, Canada was the landing hub for all departed and arriving U.S. flights. Transport Canada instructed the redirects not to happen in heavily populated cities like Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa. According to transport Canada 224 planes landed in western provinces leaving 33,000 passengers waiting on the tarmacs. It is reported that passengers were stranded in halted planes for over 24 hours while authorities performed screenings and searches. Once everyone was given the green light to leave the planes Canada was left to provide beds, housing and food for 33,000 displaced travelers.
Canadians came to the aid of the displaced passengers, dubbing it Operation Yellow Ribbon. Gander International Airport took in 39 aircrafts, and had to provide shelter for 6,700 passengers amounting to over half of the current town’s population of 10,000 people. Immediately volunteers and charitable organizations came to the aid of the stranded passengers. Shelter was provided in hotels, school gymnasiums and church halls. Prescriptions were filled at local pharmacies at no cost and local businesses and volunteers provided food and bedding.
Jean Chrétien referred to Canadians as “A people united in outrage, in grief, in compassion, and in resolve; a people of every faith and nationality to be found on earth; a people who, as a result of the atrocity committed against the United States on September 11, 2001, feel not only like neighbours but like family.”
The event also led to the creation of new defense measures to ensure Canadian and U.S. security. The Liberal government passed the Anti-Terrorism act, allowing police and government justice officials to more openly take preventative measures against any suspected terrorist activity. The bill faced controversy for the freedom it gave police and Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Opponents argued it could impede on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We are generally hailed as a peacekeeping nation here in Canada, but 9/11 marked the War On Terror phenomenon that lifted the Canadian military out of the shadows and into the battle fields of Afghanistan, changing the face of the Canadian military forever. A month after the attacks, Canada deployed the Airforce, Navy and Infantry under the codename Operation Apollo. The purpose of the mission was to dismantle the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and to remove the Taliban regime from power. More than 40,00 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the war against Afghanistan from 2001-2014, with 158 soldiers losing their lives.
The 9/11 attacks were a horrific and enduring time for the human race as a whole. No words can undo what happened, and no science can bring back those we’ve lost, but it is important to remember the profound role the Canadian community played in coming together, not only as an allied country – but as a people with outreached arms.
“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.” Mother Theresa, A Simple Path