Orthodox Christians across Canada shared the grief experienced by their American brothers and sisters as they learned the tragic news of the terrorist attacks in the US.
While a number of Canadians had been in or near the World Trade Center on Monday, September 11, America’s “northern neighbors” displayed outstanding hospitality, hosting thousands of travelers whose international flights had been diverted to Canadian airports on the day of the tragedy. In a scene repeated in countless US cities and towns, Canadians flocked to churches to offer prayers for the departed, the missing, the survivors and their families.
“The day after the tragedy, word quickly spread that after our usual Vespers service, a Service of Prayer would be held for the victims of the tragedies, both the living and the dead,” said the Very Rev. Andrew Morbey, Dean of Ottawa’s Cathedral of the Annunciation and Saint Nicholas. “After all the tension and horror, after all the ‘talking heads’ and commentary, it was such wonderful relief to stand in the temple, filled to capacity, and to pray.”
The cathedral’s parishioners “stood in prayerful solidarity with you [in the US], counting ourselves among the weeping and the grieving, and clinging to consolation in Christ,” said Father Morbey.
“Canadians from sea to sea to sea not only shared in this grief, but swung into action,” Father Morbey noted. “Volunteers headed south, blood banks were tremendously busy, communities to whose airports flights had been diverted responded with accomodation and meals for stranded passengers, memorial services, both secular and religious, were held, and donations poured in.”
On Friday, September 14, a National Day of Mourning in Canada, Canadians across the nation turned their minds and hearts to prayer and reflection.
“As we concluded an especially poignant festal Liturgy for the Exaltation of the Cross, well over 75,000 people were gathering at downtown Ottawa’s Parliament Hill for a service broadcast throughout the nation,” Father Morbey noted. “And on the following Sunday, during the reading of the Hours, the cathedral was already packed. People, including some non-Orthodox neighbors who just wanted to pray somewhere, had to stand outside on the stairs.”
His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada also expressed his sorrow in the wake of the dissaster.
“The events of September 11 have shown us all our vulnerability - not just in imperfect security systems - and have revealed that there is still compassion on earth,” Bishop Seraphim said. “If only we remembered always to turn to the Lord and live in His love, and not just in times of need and pain! The whole world has been affected by this disaster and, perhaps especially, Canada. Because of the multitude of deep ties between Canada and the USA - ties of blood, business, economy, communication, friendships - the pain, anger, fear and revulsion felt in the USA is felt here also. I have heard and seen this across this sea-to-sea Diocese. As Americans rushed to help, so have Canadians. All here feel the need to help and support in whatever ways possible. Canadians are, characteristically, known to be peacemakers. True to this trait, we will not only be helping in whatever way our neighbor asks, we will also be praying and working for ways to enable the USA and the world to live in peace, in reconciliation, and in forgiveness. That will be the chief challenge of us Orthodox, as we struggle with intense emotions, and as we pray for, and support, our neighbors.”
On a personal note, Father Morbey echoed the feeling of Canadians who had witnessed their US neighbors in action as events continued to unfold.
“The US is blessed with some remarkable civic leaders, men and women of great and exemplary character, and I cannot begin to express our utter admiration for your fire-men, police, paramedics, construction workers, volunteers and blood-donors,” he concluded. “This heroism and such fundamental decency is something we cannot help but admire and give thanks for. It takes away our breath!”