HALIFAX -- When 7,000 international travellers were stranded in Halifax three years ago, Archie Kaiser and his wife, Anne Derrick, did the Maritime thing; they opened their home and took in four shell-shocked Americans from New Jersey.
When a more famous American arrives here tomorrow to thank them for that long-ago generosity, Kaiser and Derrick will offer a very different kind of welcome: placards and anti-war chants.
"I do not want Mr. Bush's belated appreciation for our role in the aftermath of 9/11," Anne Derrick told reporters yesterday.
"I do not like Halifax and Haligonians being used as a photo-opportunity for a world leader who has blood on his hands and desperately needs any good international press he can get."
U.S. President George W. Bush arrives in Halifax at 10 a.m. for a speech in which he is expected to thank Haligonians for taking in more than 7,000 air travellers when 42 planes were diverted to this city on Sept. 11, 2001. Thousands more were stranded in Newfoundland.
Derrick and Kaiser, who are well-known local human rights lawyers, were among those who rushed to help dazed Americans who found themselves far from home, their country suddenly under attack.
Kaiser couldn't get through on the Red Cross emergency line to offer his help, so he drove down to Dartmouth High School, one of dozens of public buildings converted into emergency shelters. He found a family travelling home to New Jersey from an Italian vacation, and brought them to his Halifax home.
"Archie's a take-charge kind of guy, so he took charge," said Derrick.
No one knew how long the crisis would last, or when the travellers might be able to return home.
Kaiser picked a family with two daughters, thinking they would be compatible with his own three daughters.
He says they spent most of the time talking, wondering about how the world would change and how the U.S. would respond to the terrorist attacks.
"Like millions of Americans, we are deeply disturbed by the Bush administration response to 9/11," Kaiser said yesterday.
"We are horrified by the suffering that has been inflicted upon innocent citizens in Afghanistan and Iraq. We know that there are thousands of families in these countries who are devastated by the destruction of their homes and communities and the deaths and casualties that continue to grow."
Derrick said she plans to protest against Bush and U.S. foreign policy outside Pier 21, an immigration museum where he is scheduled to speak.
Several people who took in stranded travellers have been invited to the event. Derrick wasn't one of them.
"If I had an opportunity to speak out, I would go," she said. "It's important that Bush and others hear what ordinary Canadians really think."
"It isn't as if Atlantic Canadians have been waiting breathlessly for recognition from Mr. Bush. We did what we could to help out and we would do it again. But this thank you is unreal, belated and sort of silly."
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