Communities across Canada took time out on Saturday to pay tribute to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, with officials in multiple cities paying tribute to those who died while also honouring the endurance of the human spirit in the face of sweeping tragedy.
Politicians in Halifax noted that 40 aircraft carrying more than 8,000 people were diverted to Nova Scotia's capital after al-Qaida operatives hijacked four planes, with two barrelling into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, another diving into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the fourth crashing in a field in Pennsylvania.
"They say crisis reveals a true character of a person, and in those days 20 years ago the character of our people made us very proud. When the world needed us most, Nova Scotians were there," Nova Scotia Justice Minister Brad Johns told a small crowd gathered at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Saturday.
"Although many came as strangers, lasting bonds were formed and our guests left as friends," Johns added.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said in the worst of times it is often the simplest acts of kindness that become profound.
"This community's response to 9/11 is a reminder that we are made of good stuff. That we are resilient and kind and capable of reaching across cultures, faiths and ideologies to find the truths of who we are as people," Savage said.
Thirty-four passenger planes and four military planes were also diverted to Gander, N.L., boosting the small town's population by 6,600 people. The town marks the date every year, and this year unveiled a new 9/11 memorial.
"This is not a celebration of Gander's role in this tragedy," Gander Mayor Percy Farwell said in a statement.
"It is an affirmation of the basic values that are so important in addressing global issues affecting those we share the planet with."
Twenty-four Canadians died that day among the 2,977 who lost their lives.
In Calgary, Fire Chief Steve Dongworth told a remembrance service held at The Military Museums that six firefighters who were members of the heavy rescue team travelled to New York about a month after the attacks to learn what they could, and to show support.
He said firefighters across Canada raised money to help the families of firefighters and paramedics who'd died in the World Trade Centre, and worked to ensure no one forgot their sacrifice.
"If there's anything positive that came out of this tragedy, it did serve to highlight in citizens' minds the critical work done by all first responders in our communities and the resilience required to continue to do their work, day after day and year after year," Dongworth said, speaking beside a twisted steel column from the World Trade Centre that's part of the museum's collection.
Other Canadian political leaders also issued statements or attended events marking the anniversary on Saturday.
Manitoba Premier Kelvin Goertzen joined U.S. and Canadian representatives for a ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial Site at the International Peace Gardens, which straddles the border.
In Toronto, the U.S. Consulate held a small rooftop ceremony to mark the anniversary, and the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa was to host an event at the Beechwood 9/11 Memorial.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, in addition to thanking first responders and the people who opened their homes and fed the thousands of stranded travellers, paid tribute to veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces and public servants who served in Afghanistan in the war that followed 9/11.
“Today, let’s come together to remember and mourn those who were lost and honour those who courageously and selflessly helped others that day. And let’s continue to stand with the United States, our closest neighbour and ally, and recommit to always having each others’ backs,” a statement from Trudeau concluded.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2021.
The Canadian Press