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9/11 20 years later: Terrorist attacks put Delta on high alert

Until the horror of that Tuesday morning, the then municipality gave little thought on its international port of entries

From Boundary Bay Airport to Roberts Bank, the impact on the shocking 9/11 terrorist attacks in Delta was immense.

Until the horror of that Tuesday morning, the then municipality gave little thought on its international port of entries. That was about to change dramatically.

Upon learning four U.S. commercial airliners had been hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda members, three of which were subsequently crashed into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, various local authorities went into action.

By 8 a.m. (PDT) that day, the Boundary Bay border crossing, Roberts Bank and Boundary Bay Airport were placed on high security alert or closed. By noon, then Mayor Lois Jackson had Delta emergency service on standby.

“We are monitoring it and it may be that we will requested from a provincial or federal standpoint to help contribute manpower,” Jackson told then Optimist reporter Maureen Gulyas. “If they require our services we will definitely be there.”

Canada’s immediate role after the attacks was accommodating stranded U.S.-bound airliners that had nowhere to land after American airports were closed to all air traffic. Jets could be seen circling over the Delta skies that morning and there was even some talk they could end up at Boundary Bay Airport if YVR had no further room.

However, Boundary Bay’s infrastructure could not handle the landing of heavy aircraft and, with the exception of accommodating a helicopter en route to Squamish, the airport was closed for 24 hours.

The Point Roberts border crossing remained open, but security was at a level never seen before.

“We’re on a heightened alert, 100 per cent of all vehicles are being checked and the PACE lane is closed,” said an immigration official at the time.

The Deltaport container terminal remained opened but an emergency plan was activated.

“We want people to assured that we prepare for all kinds of events and we’re bringing all of that to bear now,” said Vancouver Port Authority’s Linda Morris.

After the initial shock and fear from the attacks, reality and sadness began to set in over the near 3,000 victims killed in New York City, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. Among them were 343 New York City firefighters who responded to the tragedy at the World Trade Centre’s twin towers. Another 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority officers also were killed.

More than 200 people attended a candlelight vigil in Point Roberts while Vancouver Fire department union local 18 president and Tsawwassen resident Rod MacDonald had a memorial outside his Tsawwassen home. He had met some of the firemen who were killed at the World Trade Center

Meanwhile, three Delta men were preparing to go to New York as part of a Heavy Urban Rescue Team that had been organized and trained by the Vancouver Fire Department.

The impact of the attacks was evident in local schools, including South Delta Secondary where art teacher Julie Lymburner had two of her classes work on a mural that was sent to New York as a message of hope.