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Canada's role in 9-11: quiet but powerful

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I’m travelling to NYC with Phil and Darren, both career firefighters with Winnipeg and Calgary respectively. The three of us are planning to attend memorial services, and visit out New York firefighter brothers who have so graciously invited us to visit.

Phil and I are driving to Grand Forks to catch our flight to New York. We’re really pumped and can’t wait to get into downtown Manhattan, meet up with Darren and head to the World Trade Center site. The invites from FDNY members have been great and we are all meeting close to ground zero on the 9th to collaborate activities. The support and encouragement to go through with this trip from my family and friends has been awesome and it has brought back thoughts of how Canada as one family responded during the attacks.

9/11: Ten Years Later

  • 9/11: Ten Years Later

    As the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 approaches, we explore the impact that the attacks -- and their aftermath -- had upon the world.

  • Return to Ground Zero

    Winnipeg firefighter Jay Shaw blogs about his journey to New York City for the 10th anniversary of 9-11

For what it’s worth, here are some thoughts:

I’m a little incensed by all this Swaggerville stuff. I love the team effort and the cohesion on Maroons Road this year, but the dancing is just not for me. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the way our country has a slightly apologetic quality to our grand accomplishments, as if to say sorry we beat you; you did real good, you’ll get em’ next time.

It’s why I think our response, as a country to 9-11 has been so humble and understated. Canada, like its emergency services, kicks butt. Our values and traditions are strong, and we should celebrate an epic national community response as well as our fire, police, and EMS response services this 10th anniversary of 9-11.

The average Canadian citizen stepped up to the plate on that clear blue Tuesday when the world changed forever; much the same as New York City and the rest of the world did by first offering support and sincerity for the tremendous loss of life, and then unwavering support for local responders who day in and day out put it on the line.

Twenty-four Canadians died during the attacks at the World Trade Center, with no Canadians on Flight 93, or the plane that hit the Pentagon. With in minutes of the towers being hit, and interior conditions deteriorating inside for the FDNY fire crews climbing stairwells to rescue civilians, Canada was being asked to land hundreds of planes, and safely harbour thousands of stranded civilians.

Two hundred and twenty four planes with over 33,000 passengers and crew were safely diverted to Canadian airports until the American government could figure out what just hit them.

Over 6,500 people were landed in Gander, Nfld., alone. I can just imagine the scene in the average Gander household kitchen, setting another place for dinner as if the cousins from Placentia Bay just showed up unannounced. No big deal, we’ll feed you and keep you safe and warm. True North Strong and free, don’t you know!

All across the nation, blood donations went up and our government had to warn our citizens not to self-deploy to New York City. Money, clothing, baby food, and almost everything else was being dropped off at fire halls, community centres, churches, and military bases across Canada.

Canadians needed to do something, even though they were thousands of miles away. Our country stood tall, front and centre, as the world united for a brief few weeks in solidarity. Canada was a quiet leader in sending aid, special rescue units, and equipment -- doing whatever we could to support our closest neighbor.

North of the 49th we have some great men and women in our response agencies that work jobs that are, quite frankly, really hard. Here at home our Winnipeg Fire Department wears the uniform indebted to the ideal that "We Hold Thee Safe" -- it’s on every one of our uniforms.

Our police and ambulance service members are top-notch, with workloads that match any other Canadian service. In rural Manitoba our career and on-call fire service members give countless hours and deserve recognition. Our provincial police and medical forces from Treherne to Norway House can be proud knowing that if called upon to react, the response will be swift, professional and stalwart.

There is nothing like having a country behind you when times are tough, supporting with an encouraging word or a child’s handcrafted picture of a fire truck. Witnessing that feeling was so special, having everyone being part of the team, one unit.

I can’t seem to come up with the word, but Swaggerville seems to fit nicely. So when and if disaster strikes, and the men and women of Canada’s response network roll up their sleeves, we know you have our backs and this Sept. 11 we will all feel that pride together as we remember.

So just this once, I’m going to do a little dance, channel my inner swagger and celebrate just how awesome our country is when we all pull together.

You can too, just make sure nobody is looking; we wouldn’t want to show anyone up -- after all, we are Canadian.

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