In the course of human history, few events come along that are so indelible that people remember where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt at one exact moment. For many of my contemporaries, the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 brings back vivid memories of the day when the United States’ Camelot came to an abrupt end. The tragedy of 9/11 is one such event.
The unspeakable terror of the events of September 11, 2001, will remain as the singular, horrific day that transformed the world and America in particular—and the way the world has evolved since that day. The politics surrounding 9/11 remain, and historians will surely debate its ramifications for decades to come: two wars that directly resulted from the attacks continue in their distinctive forms; the Patriot Act remains fundamentally in force; and Guantánamo Bay is still open.
The human tragedies woven around the 2001 attacks will be commemorated in the coming days. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives on 9/11 and it has been estimated that possibly over 10,000 lost a relative in the World Trade Center. Twenty-four Canadians also perished that day. Some remains have never been found, and for all who were involved in some capacity, the wounds have not healed. Last year’s controversy over a mosque and community center near Ground Zero is clear evidence that time is moving ever so slowly.
There will be many accounts and testimonials about 9/11 in the days ahead. The official commemorations will recall the bravery and courage of the survivors and the first responders. We will be solemn, we will shed tears, we will remember, and most of all, we must never forget.
As a Quebecer and as a Canadian, I can attest to the fact that our country felt the horror and the sadness of 9/11. It was not only an attack on the United States; it was an assault on humanity, decency and the preciousness of life. Innocent people that morning left their homes, families and friends to pursue their lives, duties and hopes. They all expected to be home later, chat with friends, have dinner with their loved ones, or tell a bedtime story to their children.
There are no boundaries to this tragedy. To some extent, we were all victims of 9/11, and our most immediate reaction was to help, comfort and pray when the moment occurred—and in the days that followed. It has been said that when air travel was suspended over the skies of the United States on that fateful day, Canada became a large landing strip from coast to coast.
Canadians across the land opened their hearts and, in some cases, their homes to welcome stranded U.S. travelers. Many in the hour of tragedy sought to find reason in such an irrational act. But there was no rational explanation, just pain, bewilderment, confusion, anger and emptiness. Yet despite it all, they survived and many will quietly remember on this tenth anniversary.
Living in New York has afforded me an opportunity to know New Yorkers and admire their strong will and resilience. In the days ahead, we will do well to be inspired by the courage and the solidarity of those affected by 9/11, how they have persevered and how they honor those they have lost.
John Parisella is a guest blogger to AQ Online. He is Québec’s delegate general in New York, the province’s top ranking position in the United States.