There are two times in my life when I truly felt like the border between Canada and the United States didn’t exist: first when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and second when the World Trade Center was attacked. I remember each as though it was yesterday.
I was a young schoolgirl when someone knocked at the door of our classroom and whispered into our teacher’s ear. She stood at the front with her eyes to the floor gathering her thoughts for a moment and then said, “Someone shot the President”. She didn’t say the President of The United States, she just said the ‘president’. I remember feeling that JFK was ‘our’ President.
On September 11, 2001, I was working as a consultant from my home office. Another consultant and I were in the middle of a conference call with an American client when they suddenly interjected into our presentation with, “Something terrible has happened and we have to go” and they disconnected the call. We turned on the TV to see the horrible images of a plane hitting the first tower. It was only a few moments that we wondered if this could be an accident when the news broke of a second plane. This was no accident. This was war. We were horrified. We were one.
In the days and weeks that followed, the border between the United States and Canada didn’t exist. We were one. We were family. We did what families do. We felt the pain, we commiserated with each other, we pitched in to help. We watched the news for hours on end to watch evil take over as other planes were hijacked. We accepted hundreds of planes to still the air over North America and offered refuge to each of their passengers. There was no divide between us. We were one.
Canada accepted 238 planes that day in Vancouver, Halifax, and other cities. Gander, Newfoundland, a community of less than 10,000 accepted 37 planes with 6700 people. Their story has since been made famous via the celebration Come From Away now playing throughout the U.S. and Canada as well as London, England and Melbourne, Australia. We were one.
In the last few years, the border has begun to slowly reappear. Politics have tried to play havoc with our relationship. I now know that he is your president, not ours. Many Canadians cautiously watch as he blunders through each day ripping through previous logical progress in trade, climate change solutions and women’s rights. In spite of that, deep in our hearts, we know that whatever happens in the United States, Canadians will be affected.
Today we remember. We remember the devastation of 9/11. We remember the heroes. We remember those who died and those who carried on. We are one.