Tonight, my friend and I went to see the Broadway musical Come from Away, which is set during the week following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and tells the story of what happened when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander in Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada due to U.S. airspace being shut down as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon. Those 38 planes consisted of over 7,000 passengers plus 19 animals in cargo, which doubled the population of the small town. That is really mind boggling to think of now.
My memory of what happened and the media reports around September 11, 2001, are quite hazy. It was the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. I understood that a terrorist attack had happened, but I didn’t quite understand the background and all the events that led up to it. I only really started paying attention and reading news regularly that year. But given what others have shared, it sounds like for the most part and based on what I remember, the vast majority of the reporting was on what happened with the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon from the reports to the photographs, and relatively little was highlighted around these planes making emergency landings in Gander. But honestly, I wish I had known more about it then instead of learning about it 20 years later.
The musical showcases how everyday citizens of Gander welcomed these people from all over the world on these planes into their homes for meals, showers, and warmth simply because of the worldwide emergency that had erupted, just because of the kindness of their hearts. And it was just so heart warming to see this musical and see it on full display. And having visited Newfoundland and Labrador, I can definitely attest to the fact that it’s a beautiful Canadian province with warm, kind humans who do seem a bit different from other Canadians in accent and demeanor, but actually seem like better humans than the average American. I’m not really sure what would have happened if planes had diverted and landed somewhere in the U.S. Who knows how that would have ended up. But I think all these people who ended up in Gander were better off there than anywhere in U.S. territory.