Sometimes it takes an immense tragedy or great calamity to hammer home the truth about real friends. An obvious example resulted from the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. This week marked the 17th anniversary of passenger planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers, killing thousands of innocent people. But amid the terrible death toll and destruction, there emerged stories of heroism and sacrifice in the United States; and support and compassion from north of the border. A neighbourly hand reached out in friendship.
As the U.S. closed its air space that September morning, planes crossing the Atlantic began landing at the closest Canadian airports. Gander welcomed 38 planes and 7,000 passengers while Halifax landed 40 planes and 8,000 passengers. Smaller airports around the region like Sydney and Charlottetown also had unexpected visitors. Thousands of stranded passengers, mostly Americans, found shelter during those terrible times in the homes of generous strangers.
Through the years, those examples of friendship remain as signs of the close bond between Canada and the U.S. In the context of memorial events this week, the irritant of stalled NAFTA negotiations seems less important. After all, it’s just a trade deal — albeit a very important one — but the lives of Canadians or Americans are not at risk. Yes, we face stumbling blocks about dairy, resolution mechanisms and auto imports. But surely these can be settled amicably through compromise.
Canadian and U.S. trade negotiators should have press clippings and photographs in their briefcases and folders at all times — not of lumber, steel, aluminum or milk — but about the welcome extended to Americans by the people of Gander and Halifax in the aftermath of the terror attacks on America.
The American ambassador to Canada was in Gander this week for 9-11 anniversary events, and she offered an accurate assessment on Canada/U.S. relations, suggesting that good friends should stress the important things that bind and downplay minor differences like NAFTA.
Kelly Craft said the events in Newfoundland and Labrador following the U.S. terrorist attacks illustrate the true story of our friendship. While NAFTA is important, it’s still business. U.S. President Donald Trump’s barbed comments about trade negotiations and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “are not who we are.” The story of Gander is an uplifting message that reaffirms real values. Gander is an example that defines the true Canada/U.S. relationship.
Great truths emerged from 9-11. The dead should not be forgotten; allies must remain vigilant against future attacks; and Canada is ready to stand by its close friend and neighbour in any hour of need.
Friends and neighbours are there for each other in both good times and in bad. In times of trial, Canada and the U.S. remain powerful friends and allies.