The three hijacked planes that crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Tuesday morning sent tremors easily felt across the border. Canadian authorities were quick to respond.
Although Canadian airports grounded all outgoing flights and armed soldiers were sent to Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport there was no apparent threat on Canadian soil.
"The possibility is always there that Canada, like other countries, could be attacked. But there is no indication, there is no intelligence to the effect that Canada is a target," said RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli.
U.S. bound flights were redirected to Canada and the only planes to fly out of North American airports on Tuesday afternoon and evening were those deployed to provide medical or military support. Transport Canada and tourism agencies nation-wide scrambled to find accommodations for the thousands of passengers stranded in Canadian airports and flights were detained as police and dogs searched aircraft for explosives.
"Transport Canada is on its highest alert," said Transport Minister David Collenette. "We will continue to monitor the situation and take whatever action is necessary."
The Canadian Red Cross mobilized teams to help Canadians locate friends and family in the United States and to assist travellers. Health Canada was alerted and was working with provincial governments and other federal government departments to determine the assistance they can provide to the United States if called upon.
Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec were inundated with calls from Canadians wishing to donate blood to help the victims. Hema-Quebec spokeswoman Diane Forest asks people to remember that extra blood will be needed in the upcoming weeks and not just for the few days following the disaster.
At press time, Jean Chrétien's office had yet to respond to President Bush's statement vowing the U.S. will punish both the terrorists involved for the attacks and those responsible for supporting them. Many prominent Canadians, including NDP Leader Alexa McDonough, are urging the United States to consider their response carefully before acting.
"The same values that cause us to be repulsed by this act of barbarity should guide all world leaders in our response," she said. "As responsible international citizens it is important to reaffirm our commitment to pursuing peaceful solutions to the tensions and hostilities that breed such mindless violence."
Other Canadian authorities offered their sympathies to those affected by the attacks.
"The extent of the tragedy that we are observing is incomprehensible," said North West Territories Premier Stephen Kakfwi. "The emotional and physical repercussions will be felt around the world. My thoughts and prayers are with the many people whose lives and families have been forever altered by this catastrophic act of violence."