Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Toronto Miracle

In the wake of the London bombings, Canadians questioned how we would react. Many criticized our systems (both for preventing an attack and mopping up afterwards) and our own character as a people. Air France Flight 358 answers at least two of those criticisms.

I happened to catch the beginning of the breaking news on this flight. For sure, we all thought we were looking at a 100 percent fatal situation. How could anyone survive? Someone speaking on behalf of Transport 2000 -- before we knew anyone had gotten off the plane -- criticized our emergency services, saying that whereas other countries focus on rescue operations, we're really only good at fire suppression, meaning passengers have to count on themselves in case of a disaster in Canada. We are a highly self-critical lot. And he was wrong.

Emergency services were there in 52 seconds, prepared to rescue passengers. Two Canadians (only one was in the news) raced over to help the passengers and even risked their lives to ensure everyone was off the plane. Canadians on Highway 401, where dazed passengers wandered onto, rescued and drove them to the airport to meet up with their families and friends. Not one driver mowed down one passenger, which if you know 401 is quite the feat! Hospitals went on orange alert and calmy and efficiently took care of the injured. Emergency services from Peel and Toronto leapt to assist the airport EMS. And the Canadian survivors interviewed were thankful, calm, and not hysterical. The full impact will hit them in the days ahead, but when they needed to help themselves and each other, they did.

We need to stop trashing ourselves and our systems. We didn't tame this country by being pansies, and that strong character still runs through our collective soul. We don't hear what goes on behind the scenes, but catastrophes like this show how well-prepared our EMS and various government agencies are.

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