Veterans, border control officers, police and fire personnel and other first responders – and a large contingent of motorcycle riders – were among those from both Canada and the U.S. marking the anniversary of 9-11 on Monday morning at Peace Arch Park.
Some 200 people converged at the Peace Arch for speeches from dignitaries, prayers, recorded song tributes, buglers playing The Last Post and Reveille, and the skirl of a piper playing ‘Flowers of the Forest’.
It was the first official ceremony at the park after the lifting of COVID restrictions that cancelled the event in 2021 and 2022.
It was 22 years ago that Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and flew two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, destroying both, and one into the Pentagon in Washington, causing extensive damage (a fourth crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania, following a passenger revolt against the terrorists).
Nearly 100 motorcyclists of different affiliations rode to the Peace Arch event, from the Cascades Casino Delta, as part of a memorial ride organized annually by Guy Morall.
The new U.S. Consul General in Vancouver, Jim DeHart, told the crowd he recalled vividly seeing the events of Sept. 11 2001 unfolding on television that day.
But while he remembered those who lost their lives that day, and the police, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders who stepped up bravely to help – many at the cost of their own lives – he also noted the outpouring of support from ordinary Canadians, particularly those who accommodated thousands of U.S. citizens whose flights were diverted to Canada during the emergency.
He also noted Canada’s role, as an important ally, in subsequent military operations against Al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan.
In later comments to Peace Arch News, De Hart said it was “remarkable – really terrific – that this many people from both sides of the border have come together to remember.”
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Former Langley East MLA and deputy premier Rich Coleman recalled having to assume official responsibility for accepting passengers on flights re-directed to B.C. airports on 9/11.
He paid tribute to all first responders for their ongoing help to their communities, and also veterans who served in the aftermath of 9/11.
“We all say this can never, ever happen again and we shall never forget,” he said.
Morall, who began the memorial motorcycle rides following the second anniversary of 9/11 said that on the day itself, he had been hosting two fellow motorcyclists, U.S. veterans from San Luis Obispo, CA, and that they were all planning to participate in a ride that day.
“I had to wake them up and tell them something terrible was going on in their country,” he remembered.
“After a while, they told me they couldn’t look at the news on the television any more, so we all went out for a ride.”
He said he traced the origin of the memorial ride to that day.
The official ceremony at Peace Arch Park was cancelled in 2021 – the 20th anniversary – and in 2022, due to COVID restrictions, although motorcycle processions continued.
Morall added that while it has been tough this year – post COVID – to organize as large a ride as previously, he is planning to bring it back in its full glory next year.
He said he wanted to note how lucky Canadians are “to have the U.S. not only as neighbours, but as friends, brothers and sisters.”