Whitehorse 9/11

On September 11, 2001, Whitehorse was gripped by panic. Authorities reported a hijacked Korean airliner was headed for the city. Schools and government buildings were evacuated and traffic clogged the streets as people fled the downtown core.

On September 11, 2001, Whitehorse was gripped by panic.

Authorities reported a hijacked Korean airliner was headed for the city.

Schools and government buildings were evacuated and traffic clogged the streets as people fled the downtown core.

“Very little attention has been paid to what happened here,” said Max Fraser whose documentary Never Happen Here – the Whitehorse 9/11 Story, tells the tale.

“What we experienced, and what we felt was profound and dramatic,” he said.

“We suffered a major crisis. People here basically went through a near-death experience, and we weren’t getting enough attention paid to that.”

In retrospect it seems almost absurd Whitehorse would be the target of a terrorist attack, but at the time it seemed very real, said Fraser.

“We wake up that morning and hear about all that was happening in New York and Washington and we say, ‘Oh my God, thank God we live in the Yukon – nothing like that ever happens here,’” he said. “Four hours later, the police are on the radio saying they’re evacuating schools, there’s a hijacked airliner on the way and it’s accompanied by fighter jets. What do you do?”

What Fraser and many other parents did that morning was rush down to their children’s school.

“You don’t know what to believe, but you go get your kids, and nothing’s going to stand in your way.”

In 2007, Fraser set out to make a point-of-view documentary about the experience.

He began by interviewing parents, their children and school staff.

But as he researched the story, and uncovered more details, the scope of the film became much larger.

Here is what Fraser found out:

On the morning of September 11 a text message between Korean Air ground control and flight 085 on its way to New York City was discovered.

It read, “HJK,” or hijacking.

Air traffic controllers in Alaska contacted the 747, but the flight crew reported that all was well.

A short time later, the airliner, running low on fuel, was rerouted from Anchorage, Alaska to Whitehorse.

Fighter jets were dispatched with orders to shoot down the plane if it deviated from its new flight path.

And then, strangest of all, before it entered Canadian airspace the air-traffic controllers in Alaska ordered the plane to change its transponder code to 7500, the code that only hijacked planes would broadcast.

It was the first and only time an airliner was made to do such a thing.

Those orders came directly from Washington, and were so out of the ordinary that the air traffic controllers waited more than 20 minutes before they relayed them to the plane.

In the documentary you can hear the confusion in the pilot’s voice as

he asks the controller to repeat the request.

The film ends up posing far more questions than it answers.

“I’ve been trying to figure this out for three years,” said Fraser. “My hope is, with the documentary coming out and questions being asked, that it will force some answers.”

But those answers don’t seem to be forthcoming.

“It’s just so very strange and frustrating,” he said. “There’s no reason for authorities to hide anything, or to not give us an explanation.

“What possible reason could there be?”

The documentary premiered at the Dawson City Film Festival on the weekend and there were two screenings in Whitehorse last night.

It has been well received so far, said Fraser, who will soon be heading to the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto where he hopes to line up a deal with a broadcaster in time for the anniversary of 9/11.

“It’s a story that needs to be told,” he said.

Contact Josh Kerr at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read