An official gathering to commemorate first responders who died on Sept. 11, 2001 may not be in the cards for Peace Arch Park, but Langley-area organizers are going ahead with an unofficial event.
“Those of us from the emergency services are going to continue to remember,” said Tim Baillie, a retired firefighter.
First responders and officials from both sides of the border have come together at the Peace Arch every year to remember the lives lost that day. The death toll included 343 New York firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers and two dozen Canadians.
The Aug. 20 announcement of the U.S.’s continued border closure to Canadians essentially shut down the event, partly because organizers on the U.S. side didn’t feel right about going ahead without their Canadian counterparts.
The closure of Peace Arch Park’s Canadian side and the spread of the Delta variant also impacted the event, said Dean Crosswhite, co-chair of the Northwest 9-11 Memorial Committee.
For decades, Peace Arch Park, which is parkland on both sides of the international border between Canada and the U.S., has been a meeting place where Canadians and Americans could mingle without going through the official border crossing.
Instead of the official gathering, a group of current and former firefighters and other emergency responders will gather starting at 8 a.m. on Sept. 11 at the Tsawwassen Mills shopping centre in Delta, and a small ceremony will be held at 9 a.m.
Then the participants, mostly on motorcycles, will ride down to the Peace Arch crossing area in a procession.
Baillie, a bagpiper, piped for the event last year and plans to do it again this year.
“For some of us, this is very important that people do not forget,” Baillie said.
Former Coast Guard member Guy Morrall founded the event 20 years ago when a convoy of emergency responders and veterans from B.C. rode to Ground Zero in New York City in the wake of the terror attacks on the World Trade Centre.
Some organizers of the Canadian Sept. 11 tribute are upset about the park closure, but they’re going ahead with an informal event.
“Why is that park not open?” Morrall said.
Whether the park is open or not, he’ll be with the event on Saturday.
Morrall said it remains to be seen whether there will be an unofficial event taking place on the American side of the border as well.
Last year’s gathering was scaled down due to pandemic-related restrictions, but still included a Memorial Ride, a salute to U.S. and Canadian first responders by U.S. Consul General Brent Hardt and wreath-laying.
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