COLUMN: Finding the Spirit of Sharing

Columnist ML Burke remembers her visit to New York, memories of 9/11 and what we can accomplish when we put our differences aside.

The 9/11 memorial in New York City as seen from the World Financial Center in June 2012.

Today is a perfect day to stay inside and write this column. It’s our first big snowfall and I’m so happy I don’t have to go anywhere. The fire glows beside the Christmas tree as carols waft in the background.

I also need to write my annual Christmas letter, which requires a look back on this year. There are two events that stood out. One was the US election result which continues to discombobulate my poor brain. But I’ve already talked enough about that train wreck, so I’m going to tell you a true story more suitable to this time of year.

The second big event was finding myself in New York City on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. It was a coincidence I was there on that date when the entire city was under ultra high security. Squadrons of nine jet fighters flying three abreast circled the airspace above Manhattan and huge black military helicopters hovered around the Statue of Liberty.

I visited Ground Zero, the Freedom Tower and the two haunting memorials where the twin towers once stood. The repeated military flyovers just added to what was a very emotional day. It took me back to that day in Vancouver where I witnessed on live TV the second plane flying into the south tower.

Suddenly, continental USA closed their airspace and thousands of planes were diverted to Canada. The tiny community of Gander, N.L. showed an exceptional generosity of spirit by providing food, shelter and comfort to thousands of stranded travellers for days.

Back in Vancouver, similar acts of kindness were taking place. My son-in-law, who I often spar with over politics, invited me for dinner. This was curious considering everything that was going on that day.

It turned out he was feeling helpless and wanted – needed – to do something positive. Unbeknownst to me, he had loaded my two grandchildren, aged four and five, into the van, driven to the Vancouver International Airport, and together, they picked out a stranded family waiting in a long line for billeting. That family had come all the way from Australia prior to being diverted to Vancouver.

When I arrived for dinner the kids gleefully informed me about their rescue mission as I was introduced to this tired but appreciative family of four. They stayed for a few days before being able to leave. This made me re-evaluate my errant son-in-law to the point where I sometimes let him believe he’s won an argument.

As Christmas approaches I am reminded of that day, not how it started, but how it ended, by bringing out the inherent goodness within us. Canadians, and especially Newfoundlanders, showed the world what is possible when 38 planes suddenly land instead of the usual eight and a community’s population jumps from 10,000 to 17,000: They rise up to do what’s needed.

Be proud, Canada, and continue to be kind. It’s been a challenging year all over the world and it’s more important than ever to keep our hearts and minds open. Enjoy the holidays!

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP investigating after ‘sudden death’ of man found with critical injuries

Police say a man is dead after being found laying on the ground in the 13300-block of 114th Avenue

Teen charged with possession of a loaded firearm after incident at Whalley park

Surrey RCMP say 17-year-old boy allegedly found in possession of loaded handgun

Kids Boost Immunity honours Surrey school for vaccine donations

Elementary students donate more than 3,000 vaccinations to UNICEF

Pug life: Waggish dog names listed in White Rock

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered with the city

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

WATCH: South Vancouver Island shooting an ‘isolated and targeted’ incident, say police

One person in custody, another fled following shooting and crash on West Shore

Woe, Canada: Bruins down Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7

No Canadian teams left in Stanley Cup playoffs

Defence accuses officer of ‘incompetence’ in trial for B.C. man accused in daughters’ murder

Double murder trial for the Victoria father accused of killing his two young daughters continues

Loud jets from Abbotsford are annoying residents of tiny U.S. town

Flights out of Abbotsford airport turn over border town and annoy residents, Sumas mayor says

Olympic auditions return to Lower Mainland

Event an opportunity for unknown athletes to shine and, maybe, change sports

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C. pedophile wins appeal after violating court order

Kelly Glen Isbister’s sentence was cut by the BC Court of Appeal

Most Read