Whitehorse 9/11

Ten years after the September 11th attacks Max Fraser still has questions. But his inquiries are less about the tragedy in New York than the still mysterious and surreal experience people in Whitehorse went through.

Ten years after the September 11th attacks Max Fraser still has questions.

But his inquiries are less about the tragedy in New York than the still mysterious and surreal experience people in Whitehorse went through.

That’s the subject of his film, Never Happen Here – The Whitehorse 9/11 Story.

“Everybody in Whitehorse has a story,” said Fraser. “If they were in town on 9/11 they’ve got a story to tell.

“It was a pretty big experience for people.”

Whitehorse residents interviewed for the documentary tell of initially feeling safe and secure in their northern isolation when learning about the calamity that had befallen New York City that day.

However, that feeling was short lived.

The city was soon gripped by panic.

Authorities reported that a hijacked Korean airliner was bearing down on the city.

Schools and government buildings were evacuated.

Worried parents raced through traffic-clogged streets to retrieve their children as people fled the downtown.

It turned out the plane wasn’t hijacked.

But a decade later, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Questions that Fraser explores through his documentary.

Who sent the airline text message that led air traffic controllers to believe the plane was hijacked? The Korean Air ground crew, or the pilots themselves?

Why did American air traffic controllers order the pilot to change his transponder code to 7500 – the international signal for hijacked – before it entered Canadian air space?

And why, if it was thought to be hijacked, was it rerouted to Whitehorse at all?

These questions linger a decade later.

Fraser’s documentary tells the story through personal interviews and archival footage.

The film has been screened in several film festivals throughout North America.

It even picked up a few awards along the way, including best documentary film editing from the Colorado Film Festival and a special jury award for world peace and understanding from the Worldfest Houston International Film festival.

“The most ignominious award was from the Boonies International Film Festival, where I got a prize for being the oldest filmmaker,” said Fraser.

This Sunday there will be a special screening at the Yukon Arts Centre in commemoration of those tragic events 10 years ago.

The documentary is also being shown on the CBC Documentary Channel the same day.

“I’ve had a lot of local people express their thanks to me for doing the documentary in the first place so that our story could be told,” said Fraser.

Having this screening in Whitehorse on the anniversary of the attacks was important, he said.

“It was a pretty big event and this will be an opportunity for people to gather and talk about it.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com