Addendum: TORONTO REUNION
September 13 – 17, 2001
I have taken the liberty to include the Toronto Reunion, which was supposed to be a TFI reunion, to honour the men and women who worked hard to get this reunion off the ground, in spite of the fact that they were not able to recruit enough TFI volunteers to form a TFI team.
During the 1999 reunion in Reno, it was decided that the next TFI Reunion should be held in 2001 instead of 2002. Toronto was selected as the next reunion location – the first time a TFI Reunion was to be held in Canada.
Oh Kong Ing and Liem Chiang Lam, two TFI alumni, were the organizers of the reunion that was to take place in Toronto, Canada, in 2001. As both Kong Ing and Chiang Lam live in Kitchener, Ontario, more than 100 km (60 miles) away from Toronto, they had to find TFI alumni living in Toronto to form their team.
TFI alumni Paul Masengi, Tan Bian Djoen and Sam Wardhana who live in Toronto became part of the team, but it was necessary to recruit more to complete the team. In addition to Chair- and Vice Chairpersons, the team needed two treasurers, a secretary and coordinators in charge of programs, hospitality, food, accommodation, entertainment and transportation. Although Toronto has the largest Indonesian community in Canada, there were not enough TFI-ers in Toronto who were prepared to complete the team. Friends and graduates from other Indonesian universities, such as Airlangga, Parahiangan, Pajajaran, IKIP (Institut Keguruan dan Ilmu Pendidikan, now known as UPI, Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia or Teachers’ College) and Trisakti jumped in and offered their help. After all, what are friends for? Although they did not share the same alma mater, they shared the same origin, homeland and ideals.
In the Toronto Reunion booklet, Kong Ing stated: “As you all know, this Reunion was first planned as a continuation of the ITB Reunions. We tried and tried, but we could not find enough ex-ITB volunteers to realize this plan. To be able to go ahead with this Reunion, we had to look for volunteers from other universities. We did that, and the full committee came into being. Beside the organizing committee, this diversity was also reflected in the composition of the participants. Our reunion motto is Friendship and Good Times. We were here to meet old friends and to bond new friendships, even those from different universities.”
Of the six Core Committee members, i.e., Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, General Coordinator and Program Coordinator, four (66%) were TFI alumni. The other two were graduates of other universities, i.e. UNPAD (Universitas Padjadjaran) and the University of Amsterdam.
The support team consisted of 13 volunteers, only two of which were TFI alumni. To justify a team with a majority of non-TFI members, the Chairman made the commendable decision to name it the Toronto Reunion although more than half of the registrants were TFI ex-students and alumni.
The Toronto Reunion was held at the Day’s Hotel, just two days after the horrific terror attacks on September 11 which had an immediate and substantial impact on international travel worldwide. Airports were closed and flights were cancelled. Dozens of would-be participants from the United States and Europe were not able to fly to Toronto to attend the reunion. These cancellations threw the whole Committee for a loop. The hotel was booked and trips and outings had been pre-arranged. Should they cancel the reunion? On such short notice it was clearly impossible, especially, because a number of people had already arrived prior to the terror attacks, and food for more than 200 people had been planned and ordered. Telephone calls were made, emergency meetings were held to deal with this crisis, and a decision was made to forge ahead and do the best they could.
A number of loyal TFI-ers from the United States did everything they could to get a flight to Toronto. After several futile and disappointing trips to their local airport, in the hope of catching a flight to Toronto, their persistence finally paid off. They managed to get on different planes leaving the United States for Canada and, although the Reunion had started, they were still able to join their friends for the last two days of the reunion. Of the 208 registrants, 100 were able to make it to Toronto using other means of transportation.
The Toronto Reunion stands out in my mind, not only because of the tragedy of the terror attacks that rocked the world and killed thousands of innocent people, but also because we were confronted with the horror of such a vicious assault. But, life goes on, regardless.
The horrific tragedy of that violent attack weighed heavily on our minds, and people were understandably in low spirits and rather subdued. Fortunately, Sunny Oey Pek Ho, a Presbyterian minister from Ogdensburg, New York, who happened to be one of the participants, was able to inspire calm. He led us in prayer for the thousands of victims, their friends, and families.
The shock of this frightful tragedy brought us closer together, not only as reunion participants but as friends and human beings who were reminded of how precious life is, and that it should not be taken for granted, as it can be snuffed out in a blink, when one least expects it.
In spite of the September 11 event that cast a heavy shadow on the reunion, participants were still able to enjoy each other’s company and catch up with friends. The tour organizers, hotel and caterers were very understanding and, as a result, the Committee was able to modify the reunion program and adjust it to the number of participants that was reduced by half.
Participants were still able to visit Casa Loma castle, the former estate of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, a prominent Toronto financier, industrialist and military man.They were treated to a picnic lunch in a park near the picturesque town of Niagara on the Lake, as well as a trip to Niagara Falls, one of the main tourist attractions of the world. On the last day of the reunion, there was a Toronto City Tour and a leisurely cruise on Lake Ontario from where participants had an amazing view of the city of Toronto with its sky scrapers and CN Tower, a symbol of Toronto and once the tallest free-standing structure in the world.
The organizers of the Toronto Reunion are to be commended for their courage and resilience in the face of disaster, and their ability to adapt to a difficult, most unusual situation.