HALIFAX -- A solemn and poignant ceremony was held at the Maritimes largest airport on Saturday, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, and recognizing the compassion and courage that Nova Scotians offered strangers during that difficult time.

After U.S. airspace was shut down following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, dozens of planes with thousands of passengers were diverted to Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

On Saturday afternoon, officials from Nova Scotia and the U.S. gather at Halifax Stanfield International Airport to remember the thousands of lives lost and shattered twenty years ago.

“I’m sure everyone remembers where they were when they heard about the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania,” said Joyce Carter, President and CEO of Halifax International Airport Authority.

As the world tried to make sense of the horrific events unfolding in the United States on that day, Nova Scotians opened their hearts and homes to strangers.

Forty plans carrying about 7,000 passengers landed in Halifax after U.S. airspace was shut down.

“We watched senseless acts of violence that would changed our worlds together. It could have made us fearful and suspicious, but it did not. On the contrary, that day brought out the best of Nova Scotians.”

Churches and community centres opened their doors to travellers, and residents prepared hot meals, clothing and spare bedrooms for complete strangers.

The U.S. Deputy Consul General in Halifax says Nova Scotia’s courage and compassion did not go unnoticed on 9/11 and the days that followed.

“What happened in Halifax and all around Atlantic Canada on that Tuesday in 2001 provided the world with an example of how communities can care about and welcome strangers as if they were family,” said Daniel Bingham-Pankratz, U.S. Deputy Consul General in Halifax. “When they airport personnel here learned of what happened in New York, in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, they didn’t let fear stand in the way of safely getting 40 planes and thousands of passengers on the ground.”

Together, airport employees, red cross volunteer and Nova Scotians did their best to comfort the displaced passengers until the last diverted plane left Halifax Stanfield on Sept. 15.

“In some ways, 9/11 showed the worst instincts of mankind, and in some ways, it showed the best.”

Remembering a day that changed the world forever, and the world will never forget.