The following is adapted from a speech given by U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft at a 9/11 memorial service in Appleton near Gander, Nfld.
Truth be told, there is nowhere I’d rather be in this moment. For years, I’ve heard about this warm and wonderful place on the easternmost point of North America that welcomed the world on one of its most shocking days. Like so many of my fellow Americans, I have had the good fortune to get to know Bonnie, Oz, Beulah and Claude and the rest of you through the musical Come From Away, but to be here – in person – just takes my breath away.
Stop the World, as one of the songs says.
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One of the great privileges of serving in my current position is that you receive all kinds of invitations every day to meet and share experiences with Canadians. For every invitation you accept, there are at least a dozen that you turn down. You can’t be everywhere, even if you want to (and trust me, I want to).
But today, on this day in particular, there is no place I would rather be.
Gander, Nfld., will go down in history as being the place that embodies the meaning of friendship and humanity.
Forget what you read about NAFTA negotiations and Twitter wars, that’s not who we are. Sure, it’s business, and it’s important, but Gander is the place that – in a snapshot – illustrates the Canada-U.S. relationship.
A friend in need really is a friend indeed. We’ve all been told that you Newfoundlanders live it every day. That’s what makes my countrymen stop and pause when they’re told about that awful day 17 years ago – you people are used to rescuing people in need. You do it every day.
Every American of a certain age – and I bet nearly every Canadian – could tell you where they were and what they were doing the morning those planes hit. We recall all kinds of details about the day – our emotions, our reactions and how it changed us.
As for me, I had just completed my morning run at home in Kentucky. I remember looking up at the sky that morning and thinking to myself how clear and blue and crisp it was.
The sky. We gaze at the sky when we are thinking big thoughts, dreaming big dreams. I was marvelling at the beauty of that moment.
Fast forward to this time last year, I was in Colorado at the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Another clear, bluebird day. The generals there briefed me on the fact that NORAD is the only truly joint command for the U.S. in the world. In fact, it was a Canadian general that was in charge of U.S. airspace that particular morning.
Let that sink in.
A foreign military official in charge of keeping us secure. That could only happen with the total trust and mutual respect of the closest of allies.
That's the U.S. and Canada. We have each other’s back every single day.
Marilyn Kaplan, whom on that day 17 years ago had “come from away” said, “Thousands of people were dropped from the sky as unexpected guests.”
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"And they were extraordinarily gracious to us,” her husband, Edward, added.
Senator Lamar Alexander, from my next-door-neighbour state of Tennessee, said, “September 11 is one of our worst days, but it brought out the best in us. It unified us … and showed our charitable instincts, and reminded us of what we stood and stand for."
Sandy Dahl lost her husband, Jason, on Sept. 11, 2001. Jason was the pilot for Flight 93. Sandy, in her grief, said something that I know you and I share, and how beautiful that she was the one to remind us in these words: “If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.”
I am here today in my official capacity to emphasize my country’s gratitude to you and to all of Canada as a neighbour and friend.
Allow me to be personal for a moment. From one small-town girl to all of you on “this rock” who cared for the world on that most awful of days, my gratitude is for your reminding me that which is essential: Selflessness, kindness and love.
For giving that to me and to the world, thank you.