Canada Changed on September 11


Morning coffee in hand, I fired up the computer and settled in to check e-mail before heading out to the barnyard to feed animals. One of the first messages to catch my eye had this subject line: “World Trade Center Tragedy.” Laura Simms, a storytelling friend in New York, could see the crumbling towers from her apartment. In dismay, she reached out to the global community of storytellers. Her anguish was palpable.

I turned on the television and witnessed a scene I would never have dreamed possible while I was growing up in the U.S. From the ranch in British Columbia where I watched the day’s horrors unfold, I felt helpless and confused. So I turned to the one place I knew would offer comfort. As I wrote to Laura:

“I went out to the barnyard and called to my friends. They came, as they always do.

“Black Boy, the old ram with the magnificent horns, tucked his great head into my shoulder and groaned with pleasure as I scratched the underside of his legs. Suli, the shy livestock guardian dog, lifted her nose to catch the scent of my mood, then rubbed against me in a kind of knowing that offered comfort. Sheep, cattle, horses, dogs – they gathered around and reminded me of the lessons they teach daily: forgiveness, love, simplicity.”

Canada Welcomes Diverted Flights

Some of that same gathering around was happening in human form across Canada on September 11th. As the U.S. closed its airports to traffic, flights had to land somewhere. Without knowing whether other U.S.-bound planes were on terrorist missions, Canadian airports welcomed them in.

One of those was in Gander, Newfoundland. The airport’s Web site reports: “39 heavy aircraft were diverted to Gander International Airport….Runway 13/31 was converted to a temporary aircraft parking ramp. The airport terminal was turned into an aid centre as food and clothing was distributed to stranded passengers.”

With a population of just over 10,000, Gander and the surrounding small communities swelled by 6,500 passengers and crew. Their world turned upside down, people stranded far from home were devastated. Not only food and shelter were needed. So was comfort.

A total of 17 Canadian airports welcomed thousands of passengers from over 200 flights unable to reach destinations. CBC has gathered the stories of people whose flights were diverted, as well as of the Canadians who gave them help.

Historic Friendship Damaged by Suspicion

The country rallied behind its closest ally and friend. People opened homes, hearts and pocketbooks. The experience might have brought our two nations closer together. Instead, a wedge was driven between us.

Some of that can be traced to stories from major U.S. media, including the Boston Globe, Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor. They planted the suspicion that the terrorists had crossed into the U.S. from Canada. Though not true, the story lingers in many minds to this day. Drone flights and passport requirements remind us daily that the U.S. regards its northern neighbor as a potential source of threats.

Another 9/11 loss for Canada is the country’s view of itself as a peacekeeper rather than a warrior. A certain innocence has given way to a new regime of terrorism-related military and security spending which has topped $92 billion since the attacks. In addition to the huge cost to taxpayers, the expenditures have led to a significant divide among those who consider the money wasted and those who point to intelligence that claims terrorists have found safe haven in Canada.

Benjamin Franklin’s Warning and John Lennon’s Vision

Wherever truth lies or prudent paths lead, billions of taxpayer dollars have not bought us a more secure world in the decade since 9/11. Instead of working for peace and understanding, we have opted for racial profiling, punitive border crossings, military funerals and tens of thousands of civilian deaths. Rather than addressing the root causes of terrorism’s seduction for youth, we have dramatically increased the gap between rich and poor. While I am not claiming those responses cause terrorism, I have no doubt there is a correlation. Hopelessness breeds social unrest.

The threat of terror is real, but our response is too often like that of a fear-biting dog. We mistrust immigrants, look askance at people of color and demand thousands of law-abiding citizens to submit to degrading treatment at borders in the vain hope that we can avoid being hurt again.

A young waiter in a hotel near Inle Lake in Myanmar (Burma) spoke with me just after the attacks. “I am afraid,” he said, “the U.S. will respond with military power instead of compassion. And if they do, the terrorists will have won.”

As the cost of security measures mounts and as we allow increasing intrusions into private life, we might want to ponder Benjamin Franklin’s reply to the Governor of the Pennsylvania Assembly: ”Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

On the other hand, we might do better to turn our creativity and compassion to envisioning the world John Lennon described in his 1971 song, “Imagine”:

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
Take my hand and join us
And the world will live as one”

Check out more of our 9/11 anniversary coverage here.

First Photo from Lil’ Mike, Second Photo from CobraVerde, Third Photo from US Mission Canada, Fourth Photo from NASA Goddard via Flickr Creative Commons

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DH Clone
Andrew Carvin4 years ago

This video expresses exactly what I feel about 9/11

Watch it, and set your mind free.

The only thing I would add to it is this.

Learn some history by looking up the phrase "false flag operation." This nonsense with the Middle East was a false flag operation designed by the rich, and the Republicans that love the rich to get middle/poor classes to fight for them to get more oil/resources from the Middle East. Don't think for a moment that the rich overlords that run at least the Republican side of our government care one whit about how many soldiers die. All they care about is money, and if they could get more money by making 100% sure our all our soldiers die either on the battlefield, or by committing suicide they would do it.

If the rich were forced to fight their own wars, or at least their children forced to fight their wars our planet would be a whole lot more peaceful. Until that happens, the rich have nothing to lose by making countries/groups/whatever go to war with each other.

Rich Person = “I don’t care if a couple million people died in my false flag oil war. My stocks in oil are the highest they have ever been. Kill the middle/poor classes that I got rich from exploiting too so I can keep even more money. Haw haw haw. (pig noises)”

9/11 was a false flag operation.

Nessie B.
Nessie B.4 years ago

How the U.S. treats their friends is an indication of why they have so many 'terroist' enemies.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Dominic, you'd better check your "globe" again. the U.S./Canadian border is hardly 6000 miles long. Try more like about 2500 miles, give or take. It isn't all "barren", either, but yes, wooded much of the way and yes, impossible to patrol 24/7 or "fence", but agents do try. My daughter lives within 7 miles of Trail, B.C. and border patrol comes by her place all the time, and helicopters fly over at night with search lights frequently if there is reason to be looking. It's mostly drug trafficking.....very rural area.

Dominic C.
Dominic C.4 years ago

I really do not see how the US-Canadian border can be tightly controlled. The borders are at least more than 6,000 miles long and most are barren. US-Canada border does not pose as much problems as the US-Mexican border where illegal immigration and human trafficking are problems. The Mounties are more disciplined and have better values than the Federales (in Mexico). Both have good working relationship.

Rebecca S.
Rebecca S.4 years ago

UK changed too after 9/11

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Ryan, who in the world are you addressing regarding "guess you only want to make viewable the comments that you like, and believe in eh? What about freedom of speech."?..........seems you've been given the freedome to say what you think, haven't you? BTW, YES, terrorists have come to BOTH Canada and the U.S. to inflict as much damage as they could. Yes, some may have been born here, but most were not. Not one of the "perps" on any of the planes hijacked on 9/11 was born in the U.S. but got in either directly or THRU Canada.

Michael, I protest the seal hunts as much as possible without traveling to Hudson Bay (I live in Washington State, so a bit of a trek and I'm too old to do that stuff anymore, anyway!), and I worked for a Canadian-based trucking company for a long time (HQ in Winnipeg), just so you know. We held our Xmas parties in Vancouver every year, so yes, frequent "visitor" to Canada.

Lynda Paradis
Lynda Paradis4 years ago

Since Canada and the U.S. are so closely aligned geographically,economically and politically.the act of terrorism effected both countries permanently. They say when the U.S. has a cold Canada sneezes.I have enjoyed the freedom of travel across the border for many years but see a need for tighter security due increases in trafficking ; drugs,weapons and even humans!!

Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez4 years ago

thanks for sharing!

Joslynne Davidson

Joseph B: Thank you for the truth.

Joslynne Davidson

I remember the horror I felt when I saw the twin towers attacked on television. I remember the borders being shut down. I remember being proud of my country when we came to the aid of those who were diverted to Gander. I also remember the help and aid Canada gave to the US when we were needed overseas and he US could not get their people out of countries during insurrections. They relied on us and we didn't let them down. And then Bush and crew shut us down. They did not recognise the good neighbors and friends they have to the north. The border states and provinces are all filled with people who are related to one another. Canada is not the enemy. But we have been made to seem so. And the Peace Arch seemed to be a joke. If this is how America treats their friends well...