Canadian Red Cross Jacket

Date / Period
Nova Scotia
Object Type
Textiles and Uniforms
Canadian Red Cross
Disaster Management

It was a foggy night that few could forget when Swissair Flight 111 crashed into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia, killing 229 passengers on September 2, 1998.

Very soon after the crash was reported, the Canadian Red Cross initially mobilized to support survivors. However, it was quickly evident that the chance of survivors was slim to none and the objective moved to providing emergency support on the ground.

This included partnering with the Provincial Departments of Health, Education and Community Services to provide support for first responders, the RCMP and family members of lost passengers who began to arrive from all over the world.

An Emergency Operations Centre was immediately established at the Red Cross building in Halifax as the central location for coordinating the Swissair Relief Operation. Within the first week, more than 250 Red Cross volunteers from across the Maritimes were working out of the centre.

Ismael Aquino, current Provincial Director of the Red Cross in Nova Scotia, was in charge of the on-site operation and he has held onto the Red Cross jacket he wore that night. It was one of the first times Ismael had pulled on the jacket in the field as they were issued earlier that year to replace the classic Red Cross armbands from that time.

The jacket became a symbol of the Red Cross’ involvement in the response as it was featured on the front pages of newspapers and television newscasts all over the world.

Aquino wore this particular jacket during  the Swissair disaster response and subsequent Red Cross operations including support to Kosovo refugees and responses to Hurricane Juan, 9/11, New Brunswick floods and other events over 20 years with the Red Cross. “I wore this jacket alongside hundreds if not thousand of volunteers over the years including retired director general, Disaster Management, John L. Byrne, who had been my mentor for so many years,” Ismael says.

On behalf of the volunteers involved in the response, the Red Cross received a Humanitarian Award from the Canadian Psychological Association in 1999. The award is given to outstanding individuals who are whose commitment and persistent endeavors have significantly enhanced the psychological health and well being of the people of Canada, at the local, provincial or national level.

Canadian Red Cross Jacket

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