Gander praised on 10th anniversary of 9-11 attacks

The Canadian Press ~ The News
Published on September 11, 2011
PARKING LOT – Thirty-eight diverted planes lined the runways of Gander International Airport after terrorist attacks in the U.S., on Sept. 11, 2001, leaving the region to aid about 6,700 stranded passengers.
Photo courtesy of 103 Search and Rescue

GANDER, N.L. — Canadians are marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks today with events in several cities including the tiny Newfoundland community that sheltered stranded air travellers.

A memorial service will be held in Gander that will be attended by  U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson and Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

Gander turned itself into the temporary home of thousands of people on international flights that were diverted when the U.S. closed its airspace after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Residents welcomed strangers into their homes, prescriptions were filled without charge, and schools and church halls became shelters.

The hospitality that Gander residents showed to roughly 6,700 stranded travellers won the enduring gratitude of Americans. Their town was recognized last week with an international resiliency award in Washington.

Today’s memorial is to be held in at a local hockey rink that became a giant walk-in fridge for food donated for the stranded travellers.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in New York to attend anniversary events at Ground Zero. There are also events planned for Ottawa, Edmonton, Toronto and Calgary.

Harper formally designated today as a national day of service to pay tribute to both the victims and the Canadian communities who gave shelter to stranded travellers.

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Read The Telegram's original stories from Sept. 11, 2001 and the days that followed.

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U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Harper last week thanking Canadians for their help, saying Canada showed itself to be a true friend during one of the darkest moments in U.S. history.

Obama paid special tribute to the residents of Gander.

“We remember with gratitude and affection how the people of Canada offered us the comfort of friendship and extraordinary assistance that day and in the following days by opening their airports, homes and hearts to us,” Obama wrote.

The president also thanked Canada for its help in the war on terrorism.

A Harris-Decima Canadian Press poll indicated that 75 per cent of respondents feel the Canadian government has adapted well to the post 9-11 world, but less than half feel the U.S. government has done so.

Canadians are also self-critical on whether Muslims have been treated fairly in Canada, the poll suggests. It found just 49 per cent of respondents feel Muslims have been treated fairly, compared to 39 per cent who felt the opposite.

Just over 1,000 Canadians were interviewed for the survey between Sept. 1 and Sept. 4. The poll is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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See archival photos of the attacks and response to them or find more stories on 9-11 and the decade that has followed within our Special Report, "9-11: 10 Years Later."

Or read personal memories of Sept. 11, 2001 and leave your thoughts at our memorial page "Remembering 9-11."