Good Ol' G.W. Bush was in Halifax today, ostensibly to say thank you for Canada's (and specifically Atlantic Canada's) help after September 11th. To me though, it seems too little too late.

I remember September 11th. Our student centre was filled with passengers from diverted flights and also with students who wanted to help. I worked at the information desk at the time, so I saw firsthand the students coming in to offer translating services for passengers who didn't speak English, offer their homes, their showers, and just a friendly face. Businesses donated toothbrushes, underwear, pharmacies helped supply necessary drugs. Students organized tours of the city to help pass the time and perhaps distract people's minds from the horrible reality of the situation. North America was in turmoil, but it was amazing to see the outpouring of support and compassion for those people who were stranded.

Now, three years later, Bush takes the time to thank people. In a speech to Congress a few days after September 11th, Canada wasn't even mentioned in his thanks to countries who helped immediately after the attacks. To me, it seems a pretty low attempt to garner support and smooth relations. The following is an email I received shortly after September 11th. It means way more then Bush stopping by for three hours, three years too late.

Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 17:57:39 +0000

By Edith Bajema

On the remote island of Newfoundland, pale and grey now with heavy mist and blowing drizzle, I write good news. The more good news there
is on this day of grief and remembrance, the better. The news is this: we
have found grace, compassion, kindness unlooked for, and an eager and generous hospitality we never imagined possible.

I was a passenger on Continental Flight 67 from London Gatwick to Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday, Sept. 11. I hoped to catch a flight to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from Cleveland and be home by evening that same day. had been in London for four days, shopping at a book fair over the weekend, and was returning with suitcases full of antiquarian books.

Our plane lifted from Gatwick at about noon, Eastern Standard Time. It
was only half full, mostly with returning American tourists or British passengers flying on business. We all shared the comfortable anonymity of private lives and destinations.

Two hours into the flight, as the cold Atlantic slid away beneath us, a
flight attendant took a call at the rear of the plane. Minutes later the
pilot left his cabin and came to the rear as well. They were quiet,
whispering, and very calm. We thought perhaps it was a call regarding a
personal or family matter.

A couple of hours later, however, we began to wonder at the huddle of
conversation in the service area. No signs of fear or anxiety, but
certainly an intensity of interest in the crew. The captain's voice came
over the PA:

"Ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed that we are changing course. We have received word that airspace may be a bit backed up over the U.S., and we may need to circle a while at Cleveland before landing. So we have decided to refuel in Newfoundland before going on. We'll give you more information after we touch down."

A half hour later, we were on the ground at St. John's. As we touched down and saw the desolate wilderness surrounding the airport, we
were amazed at the number of jumbo jets already clogging the runways.

The captain came back to give us the news of the terrorist attacks personally. The sick horror and grief we felt was much the
same as all of you who were at home. But there was a difference. Each of us knew it could have been us. We could guess what those other passengers might have felt.

I will not here write about it.

Six hours later, still sitting on the plane, we had lost our anonymity and
were telling each other about our children, our homes, our work. Rumours changed from minute to minute, and no one knew what would
happen to us.

We were finally told that there were 27 jumbo jets landed at St. John's,
and that we would be allowed to deplane one at a time. Another hour. We had wept, prayed, grieved. Now we were weary, and the one question
was what would become of us. Where would we sleep? What would we eat? Could we call our families?

Suddenly, it was our turn. We stumbled down the ladder, clutching our
pillows and blankets. Grim soldiers stood with machine guns, watching
for any passenger to bolt. We were ushered onto buses and told to

Finally, the buses lurched into motion, and we were carried through the
night into the lights of St. John's.

And that is where we began to understand the heart of the people who
live here. We were let off at the new ice arena downtown. We were
met by organized messengers, translators for six different languages,
even a sign-language expert. They led us through an orderly army of
volunteers who registered us, plied us with fresh fruit and sandwiches and pastries, bottled water and juice and coffee, and toothpaste, toothbrushes (good ones!), soap, Aspirin, and other necessities.

Medical help was available. Chaplains were there to pray with us. Free
phone lines had been installed. Stuffed animals were handed out to
children and to any adult who looked as though they could use that kind of comfort. And everywhere, there was concern and compassion.

We learned later that so many people from the town had volunteered to
help that night, they had to turn dozens away. The people of St. John's
worked through the night to process each of the planeloads as they
deplaned; the last passengers got to the arena at 4 a.m. The travellers in
the first four planes were shuttled to local hotels; the rest were brought to local schools, churches, Red Cross buildings, Salvation Army facilities, and a few to private homes. The hospitality was incredible.

Forget the bill.

The next day, our small group from Continental 67 wandered into the
hotel lobby. We thought we might buy at least a cup of coffee or tea
in the restaurant and then see if the Red Cross might be feeding us
breakfast later. We were told, "Please do find a table. All your meals
here have been taken care of. Don't worry about paying anything."

That day we were hopeful to be able to fly home. At noon air space in
the U.S. was opened. But our hopes died as news came that we were
here for at least a day or two more. Now, as I write, it has been four
days, and may stretch out to six or seven, due to confusion about
international security regulations and an incoming hurricane.

But we have been treated magnificently, and part of us does not want to
leave. As we frequent the local shops, strangers ask us about our flights,
our families, our homes. They offer to pay our bus fares, to buy us a
cup of tea in the pastry shop, to give us rides in their cars to the shopping

Those passengers staying in schools and churches have had both students and adults come in cars to take them on a tour of the town and to bring them to any shops they would like.

As I walked up to Signal Hill, which overlooks St. John's Harbour, carload after carload of citizens with their "refugee" guests drove up to see the magnificent views over the harbour.

At one school, students (delighted with having a day off from school)
took in pizzas for everyone. They brought T-shirts so that passengers could wear a clean shirt after three days in the same clothes. They fixed
sandwiches and hooked up computers for e-mail. They even went around collecting all their friends' cigarettes so that the stranded passengers
could enjoy a smoke.

Residents of St. John's have opened their homes at night to many
passengers staying in facilities such as churches that have no showers.
They bring them home each night to shower, converse and sleep, and return them in the morning.

We went shopping for deodorant and clean underwear in downtown St.
John's. Along the charming row of shops, a local musician was playing
on a Chinese zither. When I asked why he didn't have a cap out so that we could contribute some money, he said cheerfully, "Not today, love. I
just thought people could use some relaxing, soothing music after what's
happened. Today I just want to give some of my music."

That is characteristic of the outpouring of hospitality shown in St.
John's, a town noted for its kindness to strangers in need many times
over the past century. We, the passengers on Continental flight 67 who have been hosted at the Battery Hotel, want the United States to know the abundant hospitality of our Canadian hosts. And we want our hosts to know that they have, in their generous kindness, already begun to heal the immense grief we feel.

One of our group, a retired pediatrician, told us tonight at dinner she
has been looking at real estate in St. John's. She found two houses and is
talking to her husband about buying one.

"This is a fantastic place!" she says. "Such friendliness! Such heart!
Such kindness! This is somewhere I would like to spend much more time."

Though we are all homesick for our families and anxious about our
constantly changing flight plans, we share her feelings about this place.

And we want everyone to know why.

Edith Bajema lives in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Compared to that, George W. Bush's thanks in 2004 don't really mean much to me at all.