Monday, September 12, 2011

You May No Longer Be In Our Homes, But You’ll Always Be In Our Hearts

I stayed up until 3am on Saturday night, watching anniversary footage of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, on September 11, 2001.

As well as, of course, the Pentagon, and a desolate field in rural Pennsylvania.

Yesterday, since both boys were busy doing their 'own thing', most of my day was lost to the TV.

I was glued to ‘special’ after ‘special’ after ‘special’ on the events, flipping between The History Channel and TLC.

Ten years later, myself, along with much of the world can still vividly remember exactly where we were, what we were doing and how whatever plans had been made for that day, were forgotten in a heartbeat.

My ex had a friend visiting us from New York.

THAT morning, he drove him to the Halifax International airport for his flight home.

When Buddy got on that plane in Halifax, everything was right with the world ... he had NO idea what would be waiting for him at his destination.

We didn't end up hearing from him, or learning that he was actually OK, until after 9pm that night.

Over twelve hours after the initial attack.

We knew he hadn't been on one of the hi-jacked planes, but we had no idea what had happened to HIS plane after he left Halifax.

Or even WHERE it had landed.

And little did we know, in a few short hours, approx. 40 planes would be landing at OUR airport, and our citizens would be opening up our homes and hearts to approximately 7000 of those weary, shocked and scared travelers in need.

I was working from home that day.

Alec was at school in his first year of Primary, Adam only a year old.

We had our office in the basement. I was down there on the computer and had just logged into work when I got a personal message from someone in an online group I was a part of at the time (and still today!), called Youngwives.

I don't remember WHO sent the message. Sorry ladies, I wish I did!

But I do remember it was short, and to the point and the urgency in her tone sent me running to the TV, where I spent the rest of the day.

The first message I sent was to work.

It was a mass mailout to many of my co-workers, telling them what had just happened and to, 'get to a TV or radio right away', if they could.

A few people actually thought it was a prank.

Silly People. Should have known me better!

One of the first replies I got back was from my boss.

She wanted to know EVERYTHING I knew up to that point, because her sister was working in (or perhaps it was next to ... ) one of the towers (she was OK).

It seems so many people knew SOMEONE who was THERE.

I filled her in as best I could, then headed back to the TV.

For days, the world watched. And waited. And watched some more.

I remember Alec arriving home from school, and sending him outside so he wouldn’t see the images on the news.

I remember thinking at the time, as I’m sure MANY parents did, ‘WHAT kind of a world have I brought these children into?’

From that day forward, the world changed.

Things for his generation (or mine for that matter) would never be the same.

Despite the shock, horror and anger felt in the days following the attacks, I also felt VERY proud of my city.

Within hours, reports were coming in that all airlines were diverting flights to other destinations.

238 of those planes came to Canada and approximately 40 of them, the largest number of aircraft to be received, to my city of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I’m not sure how many of you realize what a tough job this was, to get all those planes down safely, so I’ve included a couple of paragraphs from the NAV Canada website,

“Following the closure of Canadian airspace, the focus shifted to "clearing the skies". To land more than 200 planes in a few hours would be a complex and difficult task. The priority for the Tactical Centre was to determine airport runway capacity. Within a very short period of time, our control tower personnel, in consultation with airport authorities, determined how many planes each airport could handle.”

Information taken from NAV Canada website.


“The Area Control Centres at Gander, Moncton and Montreal and the International Flight Service Station at Gander managed the re-routing of the North Atlantic aircraft. The tower and flight service station staff at St. John's, Gander and Halifax managed the ground situation, which required turning runways into parking ramps."

Information taken from NAV Canada website.

As a result of the emergency re-routing work these people provided, EACH of the 238 planes landed WITHOUT INCIDENT!

Gander Newfoundland opened their doors to over 6000 people. Vancouver approx. 8500, as did other cities across the country, and my city, Halifax, opened their facilities, services, homes and hearts to over 7000 displaced passengers.

On that day, this is what the runway looked like at our airport.

This picture of the runway, at the Halifax International Airport, was taken on September 11, 2001, by Bob Garnhum, a pilot with CHC Helicopters, at that time.

Thank you VERY MUCH, Bob, for allowing me to use this picture!

Immediately, my (then) husband and I made the necessary phone call to get our names on the list, for people accepting passengers.

For me, it didn’t matter WHO these people were, or WHERE they were from, what language they spoke, what religion or beliefs they had, these were people in need, stranded, and we were going to be there to HELP in whatever way we could.

In the end, officials managed to get everyone a safe spot to wait out the aftermath, and we did not have displaced passengers stay with us personally.

For their actions during this time, I’m VERY proud of our Nova Scotians, (as well as the other Canadians), who let their true Maritimer colours shine through during that tragedy.

We really ARE the stereotypical, ‘Nice … polite … caring Canadians’, that everyone makes us out to be.

ESPECIALLY, when it counts!

My boys don’t remember that day.

They don’t remember the days and days of news coverage afterwards. As long as they had YTV, that was all the TV they were concerned with.

Alec is now 15 and Adam 11.

Over the weekend, with both boys, at times with both together, and at times with each individually, we watched different shows, or Youtube clips of that tragic day.

The day their world changed, and they didn’t even know it.

They know it now. And they also know, even though ‘Bin Laden’ is gone, there are threats every day that we must face.

Some are obvious … others … not so much.

What I wanted them to GET out of all the 9/11 coverage this weekend, is that YES, we may face unknown threats all the time, but it CAN’T run your life.

You can’t stop living, and you can't live your life in constant fear, because of what MIGHT happen … again.

All we can do, is take the time to treat each other just a LITTLE bit better, take more time to appreciate what we have, and if the need arises, make sure we offer those helping Canadian hands in ANY way we can.

Because really, what else CAN we do?

We will never forget.

One of the BEST pieces of footage I’ve seen from that day, I watched for the first time last night.

It was taken by a CBS employee (I believe) who stayed during the chaos.

If you want to get a first hand view of what it was like THAT DAY, during THOSE HOURS, at the base of the towers, then WATCH THIS!

It’s the closest thing you’ll come to experiencing being on the streets of New York, during one of their most difficult, terrifying moments.

I REALLY hope this guy received some type of ‘award’, or at least a BIG raise after getting this footage!

Thoughts and prayers to all those and their families who were, and are still, affected by the SENSELESS tragedy of September 11, 2001.

Feel free to share in the comments, your thoughts on that day.

And finally, to those displaced passengers who ended up on our runways, you may no longer be in our homes, but you’ll always be in our hearts.



Indianapolis Jiu Jitsu said...

It is easy to forget how all of that went down. Your recap was very nice. I never realized how big the problem was to 'clear the skies' as you put it. That pic in Newfoundland is amazing!

Mark said...

@Indianapolis Jiu Jitsu : this picture is in Nova Scotia (that's where Halifax is located), not Newfoundland.

And "clearing the skies" are not Kim's words but the official speak used for the situation.

On what really matter here, you are totally right though, @Indianapolis Jiu Jitsu, it is easy to forget but should, indeed, be remembered.

Nor was I aware of that organisational problem Canadians had to handle and handled so brilliantly during those first hours (when none of us actually had any idea what was really happening there; we still don't, in a way, and probably never really will)!

What matters is the Maritimers' readiness to help: it must be in Nova Scotians genes both as sailors and coastal inhabitants (or their descendants); Scandinavians and Scots are similar -- these are the good things that come out of 9/11 as well as (actual) disasters. People are reminded of all of us being humans. We should never forget and always act like a Maritimer as often as we can!