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swissair Commendation Marks Efforts of RCMP's H Division
Tuesday, April 9, 2002 Back The Halifax Herald Limited

Swissair commendation marks efforts of RCMP's H division

By Christine Kay

Almost four years ago, Claudia Blakeney stepped into a hangar that contained the personal effects of those lost in the Swissair tragedy. Immediately, her eyes focused on a deserted little stuffed toy.

"I remember looking at it and thinking this is very unfair. This toy is totally whole and it looks normal, yet the child to whom it belongs is not."

As the program manager for the RCMP's community assistance program in Halifax, she organized more than 100 volunteers to help the families of the crash victims.

Last week, Ms. Blakeney was at RCMP headquarters in Halifax as H Division received a commendation for its efforts after the Swissair crash.

The division is one of the first in the country to receive the award - the Commissioner's Unit Commendation - which is given to RCMP teams that perform above and beyond the call of duty.

Two flags will mark this honour for a year - one on display inside headquarters and the other flown out front.

The red, blue, yellow and white flags bear the force's crest - a buffalo head, maple leaf and crown - and the commissioner's rank insignia.

Ms. Blakeney said the flags will be a reminder of the team's co-operation and support.

But the award is also for the families of team members, she said. "It was very difficult for the families."

She said her husband learned how to buy groceries and gladly picked up the slack while she worked.

"I needed to focus on what we were doing and what we were accomplishing. I couldn't take away what happened, but what I could do was not make it any worse."

Ms. Blakeney said she still thinks about what she witnessed in Peggys Cove but it never comes back to her in a negative way.

She said at times team members didn't even know they were helping. "In the early days, we took a member of one of the families through the hangar and showed them a lot of things.

"Afterwards, the person said thank you and I couldn't understand why."

But the explanation was simple, she said. It provided a sense of closure.

The commendation marked the efforts of H division, which includes volunteers, chaplains, forensic technicians, detachment members as well as people from the employee assistance program who also provided support.

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