On September 11th, 2001 while the rest of the world’s eyes were on New York City, the RCMP, Canadian Airports, CSIS, Canadian and Immigration Canada, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Transport Canada, NAV Canada, and Canadian citizens undertook a defense mission geared towards clearing the American skies of potentially harmful air traffic. Over 255 planes were grounded across 17 airports throughout the provinces and territories. The act was named “Operation Yellow Ribbon” in line with the iconic symbol of the armed forces.
Once all aircraft had landed, Canadian civilians were tasked with hosting tens of thousand of displaced and frightened passengers who came to be known as “The Plane People”. The small town of Gander, Newfoundland, a town of 10,000 people and 500 hotel rooms, landed and housed 6,600 of the stranded travelers along with 473 crew with no preparation. The village’s civilians donated clothing, food and opened their shops free of charge while the rest of Newfoundland sent their donations through the Salvation Army and Red Cross. Gander Constable Oz Fudge continuously addressed the plane people assuring them “You will be taken care of. Bottom line”
“9/11 will live long in memory as a day of terror and grief. But thanks to the countless acts of kindness and compassion done for those stranded visitors here in Gander and right across Canada, it will live forever in memory as a day of comfort and of healing. You did yourselves proud, ladies and gentlemen, and you did Canada proud.” – Barack Obama at the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Canadians pulled together to keep the skies and their southern neighbours safe. Operation Yellow Ribbon symbolizes the grace and unselfish spirit of this nation.
MacCharles, Tonda (September 12, 2002). “‘Plane people’ recall kindness of strangers; Gander opened heart to stranded passengers”. Toronto Star. p. A1.
Chase, Steven (September 12, 2001). “Canada rolls down security shutters”. The Globe and Mail. p. A7.