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National Day of Service

Senator Wallin’s Statement on National Day of Service – 19 September 2017

Honourable senators, every September 11 here in Canada we quietly mark our National Day of Service. It is about recognizing and inspiring selfless service to your fellow citizens. That is why it marks the anniversary of 9/11.

Last week in Newfoundland, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Veterans Affairs commemorated that day with some of the cast of the Broadway hit musical, Come from Away. The play tells the story of the astonishing response of Gander and area residents to help almost 7,000 international air travellers diverted to Newfoundland in the aftermath of the horrific terror attack 16 years ago.

The amazing story speaks to the very reason we should mark a National Day of Service. The unexpected visitors, many of them American, could not reach family or get home. They were fearful, desperate and hostage to the unknown.

Officials worried there might be terrorists on board the planes so they warned the locals to keep their distance, but that’s not who Newfoundlanders are. The people of Gander, Appleton, Gambo, Lewisport and Norris Arm and everywhere in between, in an extraordinary but completely predictable way, opened their hearts and homes and gave comfort to those lost souls, and embraced these strangers as family. It was a powerful example of compassion.

Too few Canadians know that this is the genesis of Canada’s National Day of Service. Canadian Maureen Basnicki, who lost her husband in the attack on New York’s twin towers, appealed to several of us years ago to see if we in this chamber would follow the U.S. Congress and declare 9/11 to be a National Day of Service. On the tenth anniversary that plea was finally heard and formally recognized with the unanimous support of both the House of Commons and the Senate.

So now a day of grieving and reflection has also become a day to inspire others to engage in quiet acts of kindness, to honour the spirit of the first responders, the men and women of the military and ordinary folks on 9/11, and of course to remember those who lost their lives, including 24 Canadians.

Honourable senators, 9/11 changed all of us forever, but we must turn mourning into memory and anger into action, acts of kindness between strangers — hands reaching out to those in need. The folks of Newfoundland understood that, so let them be an inspiration to us all every September 11 to mark our National Day of Service with that spirit of generosity.