September 11, 2001 -
As we gathered around the television, trying desperately to comprehend what we were looking at. Then the double hit - of the plane hitting the South Tower at 9:03 - and any thoughts of an 'accident' were obliterated. Although I didn't feel like it, I suggested to the judges that we begin the seminar and that we would stop at lunch to see what has transpired. To my amazement, we continued the seminar and I look back on it and sometimes think of how our brains can shift into another gear under terrible circumstances. We did indeed stop at noon to learn that Flight 93 had been brought down in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.
Looking out the window, there was a troubling sign - yellow tape surrounded our building. Were the judges in our office under threat? The thought crossed my mind, but I didn't share it. We learned from the radio that a suspicious truck was found outside the Parliament Buildings, raising serious questions about everyone's safety in buildings such as ours.
I recall in the aftermath that Canadians were ahead of their own government in their desire to reach out to America, to demonstrate that we were united with them in their grief. Besides the 24 Canadians who lost their lives at the World Trade Centre, Canada lost more than that. We lost our innocence too. We remember not just those who perished or the brave firefighters and policemen and women. We pay tribute to ordinary people in towns like Gander, Newfoundland who opened their hearts and homes for 6600 Americans when their flights were grounded and who spent days waiting for the skies to re-open; to NavCanada professionals and the aircrews of those 239 diverted aircraft who brought them to safety in airports across Canada. Ambassador David Jacobson's visit to Gander on this 9/11 is a tribute which brings home how the United States and Canada were united as one in one of the world's darkest hours.
The 10th Anniversary memorial broadcast included beautiful pieces by Yo Yo Ma, Paul Simon and James Taylor with his beautiful piece, Close Your Eyes. It's an example of how music can reach us when words fail to capture the devastation - and yes - the strength of the human spirit to endure.
Let's just say 'thank you'. We remember and we will never forget.