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Never Happen Here

- The Whitehorse 9/11 Story

On 9/11, the safe, quiet world of a remote northern town is shattered when police suddenly announce on the radio that a hijacked airliner and fighter jets are en route, and schools and government buildings are being evacuated. Terrified parents, already shaken by the horrific events in New York, can't quite believe what they're hearing; many worry and fear the worst. Powerful instincts kick in: thousands of moms and dads flee their jobs and homes and race with hearts pounding to reach their kids and get them to safety -- or at least hold them close in what might be the final moments of their lives. Whitehorse is gripped in chaos and terror as a huge 747, with armed USAF fighter jets on its tail, dominates the sky during its excruciating descent to the runway right above the downtown.

  • - best documentary, Oregon Film Awards

  • - best documentary editing, Colorado Film Awards

  • - honourable mention: best documentary, Mississauga Independent Film Festival

  • - Special Jury Remi Award, WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival


Director's Statement:

It took ten years for the Whitehorse 9/11 story to be told. It's not only a unique northern story, it's a unique Canadian story – one that raises questions about the Canada-US military alliance known as NORAD. This film started out as a simple point of view documentary. Whitehorse acquired an unusual connection with cities in the United States that were targets of terrorist attacks on 9/11. While no one died in Whitehorse, for a while the terror felt here was very real. So real that the Prime Minister agreed in principle to shoot the 747 and its 215 passengers out of the sky. I began my quest in 2007, first by talking to other parents of children who attended Whitehorse Elementary on that day. Between parents, teachers, administrators and students was a microcosm that could fairly represent the Whitehorse experience. It became clear that the experiences of people that day were still very strong. Much like any other near-death experience, it's something they've never forgetten. The interviews are interwoven with CBC Radio News clips of the day, television footage of the scene at Whitehorse International Airport and excerpts of interviews with the military and political leaders who made the decisions as the drama unfolded. The documentary took an unintended path into the world of air traffic control, military bases and emergency procedures, and access to information requests. It yielded an unexpected bonus: 90 minutes of audio recordings of Anchorage Air Traffic Control talking with Korean Air 085 and then with the fighter jets that were prepared to shoot it down. Re-enactment footage of RCMP Emergency Response Team, evacuation of Whitehorse Elementary School, 747 flights and USAF F-15s help portray the drama. Animated maps show the strange flight of KAL 085 over the North Pacific, Alaska and Yukon, based on routing information taken from documents provided by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. B-roll images in HD of peaceful falltime Yukon scenes provide the ironic contrast to the threat from the skies, while ravens – the ubiquitous northern bird -- play nonchalantly in the air above and along the cliffs that divide the airport from the downtown in the Yukon River valley. In their space is a hawk in solitary flight. The protagonist is the collective citizenry of the town; the antagonist is the mysterious threat from the “hijacked” Korean airliner, then the fighter jets which circle the town, and, later, the decision-makers who brought this near-tragedy to a town whose citizens believed that such a thing could “never happen here.” As we hear the parents say, the events pushed their protected corner of the planet into the place of fear and uncertainty that envelopes many parts of the globe. Whether by design or accident, Whitehorse's sense of itself was forever changed. And parents responded much as they would anywhere: they’d do anything to get their children to safety and hold them close in what they feared could be the final moments of their lives.


Never Happen Here -- The Whitehorse 9/11 Story

Genre: Documentary

Released 2011

Length: 45 mins


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