Windsor remembers September 11, 2001 –

Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. We look back at how the attacks affected tourism, our relations with the U.S. and the border.

trump and 9 11

In this file photo, smoke rises from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. (Richard Drew/Associated Press file)

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, the U.S. shut down the border with Canada, causing back-ups of traffic at the bridge and tunnel in Windsor. City officials set up a command centre to deal with any further attacks and in the days and weeks that followed, Windsorites signed books of condolences, gave blood and attended memorial services.

“We wish you blessings my friend and we share with you certain resolve that right will prevail,” said then Mayor Mike Hurst at a ceremony honouring Americans and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.

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A crowd gathered for a special ceremony in Dieppe Gardens in the days following the September 11, 2001 attacks. (CBC News)

Windsor counsellor Karen Sears joined an international group that went to New York to counsel victims of the attacks.

“It affects us all when something like that happens and certainly being neighbours to the U.S., such close neighbours here in Windsor, it affected our community too,” Sears said. 

But Sears saw the ugly side of the local reaction in the form of reprisals directed at Muslims, some who faced abusive harassment from motorists. Muslims also had a tough time crossing the border, including one extreme example.

“They searched him. They cuffed him. They took the tires off of his car and they gave a really, really hard time,” said Sheikh Abdullah Hammoud, now Imam and director for Religious Affairs at the Al-Hijra Mosque.

WATCH | A CBC Windsor look back at Sept. 11: 

Archival footage from 9/11 newscasts shows what was happening in Windsor. 1:28

The stepped-up enforcement affected Windsor’s tourism industry as well. Prior to 9/11 the tourism industry depended mostly on U.S. visitors, but after 9/11 the U.S. eventually required passports for anyone entering the country which dramatically reduced the number of Americans coming here.

“So it really put us at a disadvantage because of the extra cost incurred and the fact that it killed the spontaneous traveller. If you’re in a car with three people and only two have a passport you can’t cross the border,” said Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex and Pelee Island.

Only 33 per cent of the tourists coming here now are American, something that Orr hopes will eventually grow over time.

“What we’ve done is we’ve really grown the domestic market and our own local market and we’ve identified that is definitely a need to sustain businesses,” said Orr.

In the years following 9/11, U.S. law enforcement stepped up patrols at the Canada-U.S. border. Eventually in 2009, a program called Shiprider was launched in Windsor and Detroit with U.S. and Canadian law enforcement co-operating to patrol the border along the river. 

9 11 anniversary

A Canadian Coast Guard boat patrols the Detroit River in this file picture from 2009. (CBC News)

Another change in US border security resulted in freight trains entering the U.S. being X-rayed to search for contraband. That slows the trains down, leading to underpasses being built at Howard Avenue and Memorial Drive and at Walker Road and Grand Marais. What were once level railroad crossings have become underpasses, otherwise the long trains would have blocked traffic.

Twenty-four Canadians died in the attacks, including a former Windsorite, 70 year-old Alexander Filipov.

Filipov was a graduate of Walkerville Collegiate. He was living in Massachusetts at the time, and was aboard American Airlines flight 11 that crashed into the north tower of the trade centre.