The landing strip on 9/11

Just as we are about to begin a year of commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 between the U.S. and colonial Canada, we are also recalling the horrific events of 9/11. While there are no similarities outside of lives being lost, the two events give an occasion to recognize how the U.S.-Canada relationship has evolved over the years. It is more than just the largest commercial partnership in the world. It is about respect, trust and friendship.

On 9/11, Canada became a long landing strip for stranded American travelers when U.S. air travel was suspended following the attack on the twin towers. In the days following this horrific act, Canada played a frontline role among the first responder nations. We felt the pain, the anger and the horror at such an irrational act. Twenty-four Canadians also perished that day. So we understood. We were active in rescuing victims, we were leaders in condemning the perpetrators of this unspeakable act, and we helped by welcoming the stranded travelers in our homes and hearts.

The last decade saw the transformation of how air safety is conducted. There remains two important and unresolved conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Canada pulled more than its weight in Afghanistan and today we continue our close cooperation with American authorities and intelligence agencies around the world to prevent a repetition of these tragic events. The world is not completely safe from terror and inhumanity, but we have made progress. Still, we must never forget.

This weekend, there will be numerous events commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11. They will be solemn and inspirational in recalling the courage and heroism of the victims, the first responders and their families. Everyone involved will want to recover the optimism and the hope that combine to make what Americans think of as their exceptionalism.

Above all, we on both sides of the border can quietly acknowledge and celebrate how Canada and the United States have so much in common and have accomplished so much since the peace ushered in by the Treaty of Ghent of 1814. How we built that relationship into a friendship and later a partnership. And how, in an hour of need, we comforted each other and how Canada became a landing strip on 9-11.

[John Parisella is currently serving as Quebec’s delegate-general in New York City.]

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