Today marks the seventeenth aniversary of the series of terrorist attacks that changed the world.
Almost three thousand people died when passenger planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon outside Washington D.C. and another crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
The event launched two wars and countless other conflicts in what was called “the War on Terror,” in which the United States and its allies also commited human rights abuses.
Some have drawn a direct connection between the fear after 9/11 and the social anxiety that has produced our current political climate.
This anniversary is also a sobering reminder that, despite the current strain in the relationship between Canada and the United States, the two countries are allies first and foremost.
Indeed, it was Canada that came to the aid of the U.S. in the minutes, hours, days, and weeks after the attacks.
After the United States closed its air space to all traffic, hundreds of flights bound for American cities were all diverted to Canada.
Tens of thousands of Americans suddenly found themselves stranded in Canadian airports. Small town airports in Canada were suddenly host to thousands of terrified, hungry, and exhausted passengers.
Gander, Newfoundland saw its population increase by almost 70%. There, Canadians housed displaced Americans in their own homes. Across the country, countless Canadians volunteered to help American families. Donations of food and supplies came by the truck-load. Pharmacies filled prescriptions for free.
According to History.ca, then-prime minister of Canada Jean Crétien described the United States and Canada as “people united in outrage, in grief, in compassion, and in resolve…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.”
In all, about 240 diverted planes landed in Canada carrying about 33,000 people.
The truth is that while we may have temporarily forgotten the neighbourly cooperation that united Canada and the U.S. on that day, that same spirit has not disappeared.
To honour the people who lost their lives on 9/11 and the Canadians who stepped up to help, we must remember that the friendship between the two counties will outlive douchebags presidents and Prime Ministers.