However, what is little known is that Canada did play two very important positive roles on 9/11 and the following days.
On September 11, 2001, at 6:00 am local time (8:00 EST), a Command Center shift change occurred at NORAD Cheyenne Mountain, just outside Colorado Springs, CO. By agreement between Canada and the USA, both Americans and Canadians work side by side at NORAD, with equal authority.
By coincidence, the Command Director of the 9/11 morning shift was Captain Michael Jellinek of the Royal Canadian Navy. At about 6:20, the first reports of the hijackings were received in the command Center. In the following frantic minutes and hours, Captain Jellinek, a Canadian, was responsible for disseminating two hugely important decisions made at the highest levels of the U.S. government.
The first was to ground all non-essential domestic air traffic, and to divert all incoming international flights, mainly to Canada. This agreement was reached quickly by the two countries, and in the following hours, dozens of international flights landed in Canada with no incident. Most notably, about 6,500 passengers landed at Gander Newfoundland, and were treated to the greatest hospitality they had ever encountered, being literally taken into residents' homes and treated like old friends.
The second major decision was that any airplane thought being used as a missile was to be shot down by the military. When word of the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania reached the Command Center, they did not immediately know whether this order had been carried out.
These and many other instances of both friendly and urgent cooperation between Canada and the USA illustrate just how important it is for people in both countries to continue building this valuable and strategic relationship, and to work together to remove any unnecessary barriers to friendship, trade and tourism.
Author's note: This article is based on a presentation made by Captain Jellinek at the Consulate General of Canada in Seattle on September 14, 2011.