By Rick Pusiak
When terrorists flew passenger jets into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 there was an outpouring of sympathy from Canadians.
Emergency workers and citizens at large freely gave of their time, equipment and money to help our neighbours to the south.
Earlier this year a 66-year old British Columbia psychologist and his wife decided to show support in a unique sort of way.
Bob and Dian Benson came up with the idea of travelling from coast to coast to raise funds for a Canadian memorial to the events of Sept. 11 and to collect signatures for a kinship book to be presented to New York mayor Richard Bloomberg.
They started out March 16 at Mile 0 of the Trans Canada Highway in Victoria and arrived in Sudbury on June 13, a journey of 4,100 kilometres so far.
Â?WeÂ?re just getting the ball rolling (for the memorial),Â? said the husband in a telephone interview.
Â?I have no doubt there will be the establishment of a foundation.Â?
What the memorial looks like and where it will be erected has yet to be decided.
Benson said a final design and location would be picked based on the opinion of the people the couple met on their journey.
He personally believes the monument should go up in New York City.
The spark that got the Bensons on the road was the simple truth that the world changed forever on Sept. 11.
Benson said fully armed troops are now stationed at border crossings like Sault Ste. Marie, our soldiers have died on foreign soil and Canadians now have to deal with the possibility of nuclear fall out from so-called dirty bombs that terrorists seem intent on sneaking in to North America.
The Bensons are walking and driving across the country. They separately pound the pavement, a minimum 26 kilometres a day, and then motor to the next designated stop on their map.
Benson had to put a cap on how much the couple walks after bursitis flared up in his hip in Marathon.
Â?The mental strength is probably more demanding than the physical strength,Â? said the psychologist.
Â?You get up in the morning and youÂ?re in a strange hotel room and youÂ?ve got to find the motivation to keep going another day. WeÂ?ve been through some horrible, disgusting weather, unbelievable record-setting low temperatures.
Now weÂ?re out of that and we feel that weÂ?re really glad that we toughed it out.Â?
Quitting is not an option said Benson. The only thing that may possibly halt the journey is a doctorÂ?s order to stop.
The psychologist said he and his wife have noted a bit of complacency about Sept. 11 in more rural parts of Canada.
The closer they get to big cities however the more fear there is about something terrible happening in a metropolis.
Â?It could happen in Toronto and our society is really what is at stake,Â? said Benson.
The couple will likely arrive in New York City a couple of weeks in advance of the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Benson and his wife are usually met by firefighters in every town they stop.
Emergency workers across Canada have always had a sense of kinship with their colleagues in the United States but that is more poignant than ever after hundreds of police officers and firefighters died Sept. 11.
Dian Benson said in a news release while everyone knows when the war on terrorism started we may never know when it will end.
Â?The memorial is to mark the beginning of what will be a long and costly struggle,Â? she said.
Â?ItÂ?s to help heal the wound we all felt when we saw the horror of the terrorist attack. WeÂ?re the closest kin Americans have, and itÂ?s appropriate that Canada be the first foreign nation to raise a memorial to the day that has defined our century.Â?
McDonaldÂ?s Restaurants and Best Western Hotels are sponsoring the BensonÂ?s journey.
The BensonÂ?s daily experiences are being captured online at www.anniversary911.com.