The cancellation of an event at the Peace Arch marking the 20th anniversary of the horrific 9/11 disaster in New York City is a sad reminder of just how insidious COVID-19 has been, and how short many people’s memories are.
The annual event, which did take place last year (despite the COVID-19 restrictions) in a reduced manner, is not happening at all this year – at least formally. Despite that, at least six New York City firefighters plan to attend, and others will be there to remember.
There will be no formal activities, wreath laying or ceremonies of remembrance.
The event was first organized by first responders in Canada.
The purpose was to ensure that people who were affected by the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001 and future generations would not forget the enormity of the tragedy and the brave sacrifice of firefighters, police officers and other first responders.
In the collapse of the twin towers, 343 New York firefighters gave their lives. Seventy-one members of law enforcement agencies also died.
While a lessening in numbers of people attending such an event is inevitable as years go by, organizers have kept it going.
The fact that the New York City firefighters are still coming, even after being told the formal event has been cancelled, demonstrates that it is still a very important event.
Canadians were deeply affected by the tragedy. More than two dozen were killed on that fateful day.
As the enormity of the scope of the events unfolded, Canadians quickly rallied behind Americans. For a period of time, there was a sense of unity that had not been seen since the Second World War.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the Canada-U.S. border was closed and air travel in North America was halted.
Both closures were for a short period of several days. Ironically, it is the continuing closure of the Canada-U.S. border, which began on March 21, 2020, which is being blamed for the cancellation of this year’s remembrance ceremony.
While Canada began to allow fully-vaccinated Americans to travel here in mid-August, the U.S. has not reciprocated.
Dean Crosswhite, assistant chief of Whatcom County fire district seven and co-chair of the Northwest 9/11 Memorial Committee, said the border closure was a key factor in the decision to cancel.
Continuing closure of the Canadian side of Peace Arch Park is also a factor. Several agencies also pulled out, largely due to the spread of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
“There was just too many obstacles,” he said.
“We just didn’t feel right about continuing on.”
Those who feel that such an important day should not go by unremarked and unmentioned can still gather at the Peace Arch at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11. The New York City firefighters will be there, as will public servants who continue to serve others in various capacities.
Given the recent pullout of NATO forces from Afghanistan, and the people stranded there who played an important role in shutting down the terrorism which was a key factor leading to the 9/11 attacks, we should not forget.
As Crosswhite said, “We can never forget, that’s what we promised.”