St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe was delivering flyers for a re-election campaign 10 years ago when he first learned of the tragic events unfolding in New York City.
“I saw this happening on the screen,” he said, standing in front of St. John’s City Hall Sunday morning. “I thought it was a movie that the employees were keeping an eye on, until one of them indicated to me that this was real. This plane was actually flying into the tower.”
The mayor and city commissioner Austin Mercer lowered the American, Canadian, and city flags at 10:16 a.m. in front of city hall Sunday to recognize the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.
10:16 a.m. marked the exact moment 10 years ago the first of two planes struck one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
“We just hope there’s a brighter future for everybody and maybe this symbolic lowering of the flag, and in particular the nestling of the American flag between the city flag and Canadian flag is indicative of the terrific relationship that we have between the city, the United States, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Canada,” said the mayor.
Half a dozen people were on hand.
Along with the sadness attached to the terrorist attacks that crashed four airplanes and collapsed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, O’Keefe spoke of the kindness shown by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to airline passengers stranded in the province after thousands of planes were grounded across North America.
At St. John’s International Airport, 27 planes arrived that day carrying 4,300 passengers and crew.
“Through a terrific effort (from) residents and people in the surrounding communities and the provincial government, we provided solace, counsel, protection and shelter.”
The mayor said there were almost as many volunteers as there were stranded passengers in St. John’s.
Alhough he was a councillor at large fighting for re-election with two weeks to go before voters would cast their ballots, O’Keefe said campaigning became less important from that moment on.
“Effectively, the election pretty well ceased at that point in time. That was amazing too, because everything else just seemed so trivial after that. It was difficult to go door-to-door and talk about electioneering when people had absolute terror in their mind, and their perception of the world had changed.”