Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Canada's Incredible Response to 9/11/01

It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001 when a Delta flight was 5 hours into its journey from Frankfurt, Germany en route to United States (Atlanta).  Nazim, a crew member was contacted by the Captain of the jet with this message:  All airways over the Continental United States are closed. Land ASAP at the nearest airport; advise your destination!

Seventeen different locations in Canada accepted International flights...due to US clearing air space.  Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick received the most concentrated share of these flights.

Nazim reported the following to an Air Canada crew friend:  53 airplanes from all over the world landed at Gander, Newfoundland (27 jetliners were flying US flags).  While waiting to disembark on the tarmac, Gander personnel had promised us all medical attention, water and lavatory services.  And they all lived up to their word!

The town of Gander has a population of 10,400.  Red Cross told us that they were going to process 10,500 passengers the next day from all the airplanes that were forced to land at Gander.  A convoy of school buses showed up at the side of our airplane next morning.  The stairway was hooked up and the passengers taken to the terminal for processing. 

We found out that Gander and the surrounding small communities within a 75 kilometer radius had closed all the High Schools...meeting halls...lodges...and other large gathering places.  They converted all these facilities to a main lodging area.  All the High School students  HAD TO VOLUNTEER taking care of the passenger GUESTS! 

“Operation Yellow Ribbon” handled 255 civilian aircraft diverting  them to 17 different airports from Canada’s east coast to the west coast…including Labrador (north of Newfoundland).  Halifax, Nova Scotia accepted 40 planes carrying 8,000 passengers; employees worked round the clock to assist them.  Several planes from Asia landed at Vancouver, a city of over 2,000,000 population on the west coast of British Columbia.  Travellers at these airports were stranded for days.

September 11, 2001 was the Day of the Terrorist Attacks
on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City
and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

This act occurred on a sunny Tuesday morning.  This is a day the Americans will remember for the rest of their lives. This is the day Americans should remember Canada's Incredible Response! Many experiences can be told that affected personal lives...a few which I shall relay throughout the remainder of this writing.

The Huffington Post ~ September 11, 2011

Canada Remembers 9/11 Attacks! 
Gander, Newfoundland Praised For Taking In Stranded Strangers! 

The Canadian Press:  Gander, Newfoundland ~ It was an open-hearted bear hug from an act of faith that restored hope in humankind for passengers stranded 10 years ago on 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland.  Several grateful travellers whose planes were diverted to this central town, returned Sunday for an emotional memorial service as similar events took place across the country.  They wanted to thank Newfoundlanders and other Canadians who answered the terrorist attacks on the United States, not with fear or suspicion, but with kindness for strangers.

"It is something that I haven't found any place else...and I've travelled the world," Elaine Caiazzo of  Bethage, N.Y. said of the welcome she found in Gander.  "The people were so kind to us.  There was nothing that we had to do for ourselves.  Everybody kept asking, 'What can we do for  you?'"  Beside her at the Gander memorial service was Jenny Asmussen, also of Bethage and another returning passenger.  Asmussen was an employee at  Manhattan investment firm two blocks from the World Trace Center towers when the planes struck.  "I knew a  lot of people who died there.  It just hurts me when I think about it."

At the Gander memorial service, U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson said,"There was no way of knowing whether those planes had terrorists aboard.  You did not flinch.  You took the planes.   You took the risk.  You welcomed all.  The same was true across the rest of Canada.  You affirmed our faith in the goodness of people.  You were the best of us."

Residents here and in nearby Gambo, Lewisporte and other towns welcomed strangers into their homes.  Prescriptions were filled without charge...and schools and church halls became shelters.

"Good can outfight evil every time,"  Gander Mayor Claude Elliott said during the memorial service.  Human kindness and love and compassion are what our world is lacking today.  We need more of it!"

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale said, "It was an honour to  help.  People like us around the world...wanted nothing more than to show our allegiance and our appreciation for the people of the United States in that time of tragedy," she said.  "We remain proud to have helped  you during your difficult time and proud you have become our friends. ~ we who share an extraordinary bond."

Many Newfoundlanders wonder what all the fuss is about.  On a tiny island in the fierce Atlantic, being a good neighbour was often a matter of survival.
"For the best part, we are very giving people and we tend to help each other without  thinking twice," said Gander volunteer Beulah Cooper, 70.  She took 3 stranded passengers into her home and offered showers to several others when she wasn't helping at a makeshift shelter in the local Royal Canadian Legion Hall.  One of those travellers was Monica Burke, a 911 dispatcher from Seattle who returned for the memorial service.  "People do think it is a special thing  and people want to let them know that we do remember it and we do appreciate it,"  she said in an interview.  "And though they might not think it's special...we do!"

In Ottawa, an open-air concert "of hope and remembrance" began at precisely 8:46 AM ... the moment the first plane hit the first World Trade Center tower.  Several hundred attended, including Jean Chretian, who was Prime Minister when the attacks occurred 10 years earlier.  After the concert, Chretien recalled how 100,000 Canadians turned out on  Parliament Hill to express their solidarity with Americans in the days immediately following 9/11.  Chretien said, "One of the most moving times of my life was the total silence that followed his request  for ...3 minutes of silence...people praying in their own faith for the American people."

Prime Minister, Stephen Harper who was in New York to attend anniversary events at Ground Zero, formally designated September 11 as a national day of service to pay tribute to 9/11 victims and volunteers.  Memorial events were also held in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and other communities across the country.

In Montreal, Quebec, Premier Jean Charest unveiled a plaque at the city's center for International Trade.  "We need to look ahead now.  I think, with a renewed determination for tolerance and peace and openness if we want to avoid this kind of thing happening again," said Charest.

U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Harper last week thanking Canadians for their help, saying,  "Canada showed itself to be a true friend during one of the darkest moments in U.S. history."  Obama paid special tribute to the residents of Gander.  "We remember with gratitude and affection how the people of Canada offered us the comfort of friendship and extraordinary assistance that day and in the following days  by opening their airports...their homes...and their hearts," Obama wrote. the Foregoing Canadian Press Article

"Why isn't this article  in the US version of HuffPo?"  Canadians already know what incredible hospitality and assistance was offered to US planes and their passengers on that day.  It's US citizens that need to be told about this."

"I ask that you not take this the wrong way.  But I lived in United States for 23 years  while serving in their military...and you know what they think of Canada?  They Don't."

"The fact that Canada does not rip off its citizens for their  health care, speaks volumes for its people.  They speak the same language, share the same religions and are our neighbours.  We allow  them to live here 6 months of the year to get away from the Canadian cold...they express their hospitality  to us during a crisis.  They rose to the occasion quietly and with dignity and asked for nothing in return.  We should all have neighbours like that." 

Grant, in Calgary, Alberta, wrote, "That really was a job well done, Gander!  You made us all proud to be Canadians. 
(and there were many more comments)

Appleton, Newfoundland to Mark 12 Years Since 9/11 Attacks
 (Sept. 11/2013)

The only annual 9/11 memorial service in the province will take place Wednesday morning in a small central Newfoundland town.  As part of the year's ceremony, Appleton will dedicate  a seven-metre-long piece of steel from the World Trade Center in New York City that was donated to the community.  The event will take place at Appleton Peace Park on the shore of the Gander River.  the Park was paid for by donations  from grateful airline passengers  who were stranded in the community 12 years ago.

(All flights in American airspace  were grounded  after hijacked airplanes slammed into the Twin Towers, a field in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon in Washington.)

About 100 people from 14 countries ended up in Appleton.  Mayor Derm Flynn said the town recently installed the heavy twisted  beam from the Twin Towers in the park.  "You get almost an eerie feeling  when you look at it and realize what kind of a heavy attack or heavy disaster would twist or turn a piece of steel like's almost like a twist and turned like a stylized 'S' or a wave on the ocean."

Flynn said Wednesday's service will be as much for the community volunteers who looked after the stranded it is to mark  the tragedy.  U.S. Consul, Richard Riley will be in Appleton for the ceremony.

"The Day the World Came to Town"
(Author Jim DeFede)

For the better part of a week, nearly every man, woman and child
 in Gander and the surrounding  smaller towns...stopped what they were doing they could help.  They placed their lives on hold...
for a group of strangers and asked nothing in return.
(Excerpt from his introductory words)

Information Compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr ... November 20, 2013
Comments welcome...scroll down...may  sign in as "anonymous"


  1. My son writes: "I wanted to see what Gander had in the way of a 9/11 memorial. It's hard to keep a dry eye just reading over those airlines and flight numbers. I've actually been to the actual site memorial in NYC. I recall on 9/11, Jean Cretien called the White House and asked, "How can we help?" The answer to that call put Operation Yellow Ribbon into effect immediately. Air Traffic Control had to scramble! Captains were told to make independent decisions as to where they could land in Canada without crossing US airspace...and also to confirm their flight safety."

  2. Thank you so much for your interest and bits of added information. What I wrote (plus your words) truly cause us to "relive the horrible tragedy!" That is why I wished to remind ALL of us to be thankful and proud of Canada's significant actions to ease the immediate situation by protecting the incoming flights with the thousands of passengers. It was unbelievable!!!

  3. Dilu writes: "Yes, we should always pray for our country, Canada...and also pray for "World Peace".

  4. Graciously I thank you for your interest and comment. I recall a few words by Mother Teresa..."Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with Great Love."