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Sept. 11 anniversary stark reminder so much has changed in Canada Add to ...

As they were 10 years ago, the skies were cloudless and a brilliant blue. That much has not changed.

But as politicians, dignitaries and just regular Canadians gathered at the National Arts Centre Sunday morning for a concert commemorating that terrible day, there were reminders of so much that has.

Perhaps the most stark change was the presence of Chief of Defence Walt Natynczyk, who in these past 10 years has been involved in the war in Afghanistan - a war that has claimed the lives of so many Canadian soldiers and began as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

And then there were reminders of just who was there at the time and who was not.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel and Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae attended the concert - they were not in the House of Commons 10 years ago. Neither was Julian Fantino, the former police chief, who is now the Associate Minister of Defence. He was there, honouring the day, too.

So was former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his wife, Aline. Mr. Chretien, who was the Prime Minister at the time of the attacks, does not remember the beautiful weather on that September 11. Rather, he remembers that “we had a lot of decisions to make that day and I think we made the right ones.”

One of those correct decisions, he says, was allowing American passenger planes to land in Gander, Newfoundland. Mr. Chretien the Canadian government decided to keep “our sky open for them.”

American airspace had closed - and these flights had nowhere to land but in Canada.

“The reception they received, especially in Gander was unbelievable and I was very proud of that,” he said.

Proud, too, was he of the service on Parliament Hill on the Friday following the Tuesday attacks. His government decided to hold the ceremony outdoors - not in a church or a public building.

“We were not to go in hiding,” he said, in his distinctive English. “And we had 100,000 on the people on the Hill and the greatest moment was when I asked for three minutes of silence. It was probably the three minutes, the most moving of my life, to not hear a noise for three minutes, people praying in their own faith for the American people.”

He also said that he thought his government achieved the right balance in protecting human rights and the collective security with its antiterrorism bill.

“It’s never easy, there is always danger of not enough or too much and we used our best judgment collectively in the government ...,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Baird, speaking for the government, recalled that nearly 3,000 people died that day, including 24 Canadians. He called it “senseless acts of war.”

“Sadly, the terrorist threat is still with us. Still very real,” Mr. Baird said. “We have had recent reminders in Pakistan, in India, in Norway and London and in countless other places. Terrorist is indeed a global phenomenon.”

But he said that Canada was working with its international partners to “eradicate terror in all its forms.”

About 1,000 people attended the early morning 9/11 Hope and Remembrance concert on the rooftop of the National Arts Centre. It began precisely at 8:46 a.m., the exact time that the first plane flew into the first tower at New York’s World Trade Centre.

The National Arts Centre Orchestra, conducted by Peter Oundijan, played for nearly an hour, performing moving and evocative compositions by Mozart and Brahms.

 

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