Canadians lining up to help Americans after terror attacks
Volunteers offer to assist in rescue efforts, hold fundraising concert, donate blood
By DAWN WALTON AND JENNIFER LEWINGTON, The Globe and Mail
With a report from Canadian Press
Friday, September 14, 2001
A growing number of Canadians shaken by this week's terror attacks in the United States are offering their services, money, blood and on-scene help as required by officials in New York and Washington.
"I just feel heart-sorry for anybody who has been touched by this," said Sue Hansen, an e-business consultant in Toronto.
That's why Ms. Hansen and 11 colleagues at Creative People On Line Inc. brainstormed for a way to help. Yesterday, the group launched a Web site (http://www.canadianvolunteers.org) where Canadians can offer their skills, goods or money to victims of the tragedy.
"We want to build up a reserve of people willing to donate their services . . . even if it's six months down the road," Ms. Hansen said.
In Calgary, as Michael Readwin and his business partner, singer-actor Tom Jackson, tried to stomach this week's events they decided to hold an impromptu fundraising concert Wednesday night. On the heels of Country Music Week, which ended here Monday, they managed to get 24 artists, draw 2,700 people and raise $63,000 for U.S. relief efforts.
"No one even blinked an eye [at the last-minute concert]," Mr. Readwin said. ". . . Everybody felt they were doing something."
All major Canadian banks are accepting donations to the Canadian Red Cross U.S.A. Appeal to help in relief efforts.
While the terrorist attacks occurred on U.S. soil, the ripple effects are being felt on this side of the border. Vigils are springing up across the country, moments of silence have been observed and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien declared today a national day of mourning.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has been bringing supplies to drivers trapped in lineups at border crossings, sometimes for up to 18 hours, in Ontario and to U.S. travellers stranded in Canadian cities waiting for the skies to open with flights home. There are reports of residents near Windsor, Ont., also offering food and water to those stuck in the line on Highway 401.
There are also Canadians in the thick of the action at so-called ground zero, the site of the demolished World Trade Center in Manhattan, but it's hard to say how much more help is needed.
Yesterday, Vancouver's urban search-and-rescue team was prepared to head to New York to sort through the rubble of the World Trade Center in the grim search for bodies and survivors and to offer whatever assistance is needed.
"This is something we should do," said Rich Coleman, British Columbia's Solicitor-General. "But it's not an easy job for them."
Other Canadians on the scene are four firefighters from the Brampton Fire Department, who travelled to New York while on their vacations as soon as they heard about the attacks.
"It's a nature of a firefighter to want to help," said Donna Kell, a spokeswoman with the southern Ontario city. "They were welcomed with open arms I was told."
The Construction Volunteers of Canada, a charity that was set up in response to the devastating ice storm that hit Eastern Canada in 1998, hopes to get equipment and people into New York to help clear away the debris. If needed, the group wants to relieve the workers and machinery that have been working around the clock looking for survivors, a spokeswoman said.
Doug Emery, a veteran firefighter from Windsor, is one of about 50 members of his city's fire service who have volunteered to go to New York if needed to help. The estimated death toll of about 200 New York City firefighters is staggering for firefighters such as Mr. Emery, a 21-year veteran.
"We know what they are going through," he said.
But Mr. Emery and many others may not get a chance to dig in and help.
A U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said there were far more volunteers than could be accommodated at the New York disaster site.
But others, such as Ontario's chief coroner and four others from his office, are on standby as New York state officials determine what specialized forensic services they need from Canada.
Funeral directors across Ontario have also offered their services.