Every year I try to watch some coverage or retrospective of the events of September 11. It’s impossible to not remember the sadness, confusion, horror and fear from that day. I’ve been watching the replay of the “Today Show” from that morning. I was at work that day had only watched “hi lights” on the news. It is surreal and horrifying to watch in real time as the time on the bottom of the screen inches forward and know what is coming.
In Canada the events spawned a different news story: that of dozens of passenger jets that were diverted from their destinations in the US to airports in our country after US airspace was closed. The goal was to safely land the planes as quickly as possible so while many went to larger airports, many others went to smaller communities that would rarely see a large passenger jet, let alone many all at once. Places like Moncton and Halifax saw their tarmacs crowded with planes, but most notable was Gander, Newfoundland. 38 planes landed in Gander that day with around 6,500 people on board; the population of Gander is 10,000. What happened in Gander from September 11-16 was chronicled in the book “The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland”
I’ve just reread the book in the last couple of days. The stories of people from the area doing their best to look after the people who unexpectedly ended stranded in their community make me teary each time I read them. People stepping in to do whatever they could to try and make a tragic situation as good as it could be. Coming from a small, relatively isolated place, I can understand and have seen how people will pull together to do what needs to be done. From opening their homes to strangers for showers to donating food and supplies people came forward to do what they could. The response from the stranded passengers was also memorable: from donations to the organizations that provided shelter to scholarships established local students. The collections of stories are a bit of hope from a dark day.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
― Fred Rogers