The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede
It is the season to remember that there is goodness in the world, is it not? I found this audiobook to keep me company while I wrapped packages in brown paper and tied them with strings.
I have studiously avoided all things September 11th-related since the date itself but this book, and the wonderful people in it, reminded me of the best there is in people.
Perfect for fans of the hit Broadway musical Come from Away.
When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill. As the passengers stepped from the airplanes, exhausted, hungry and distraught after being held on board for nearly 24 hours while security checked all of the baggage, they were greeted with a feast prepared by the townspeople. Local bus drivers who had been on strike came off the picket lines to transport the passengers to the various shelters set up in local schools and churches. Linens and toiletries were bought and donated. A middle school provided showers, as well as access to computers, email, and televisions, allowing the passengers to stay in touch with family and follow the news.
Over the course of those four days, many of the passengers developed friendships with Gander residents that they expect to last a lifetime. As a show of thanks, scholarship funds for the children of Gander have been formed and donations have been made to provide new computers for the schools. This book recounts the inspiring story of the residents of Gander, Canada, whose acts of kindness have touched the lives of thousands of people and been an example of humanity and goodwill. from Goodreads.
I probably only took the recommendation of Carol @ Reading Ladies Book Club because Carol’s review describes me perfectly,
“If you’ve avoided reading books about 9-11 because of the overwelming grief and sadness of collapsing buildings and loss of life, this might be a good read for you because although we know what is transpiring in New York City, this story is especially inspirational despite the tragedy. Most of all, this story celebrates hospitality, doing your small part, strangers helping strangers, making a difference, diverisity, and the goodness of humanity (juxtaposed to the evil of the 9-11 attacks.”– Reading Ladies Book Club
Also, if you have read this blog for any amount of time then you know, I am obsessed with all things Canadian. The story centers around Gander, Newfoundland. Which is in Canada. “Which is in Canada,” seems like a weird thing to say but, honestly, I’m not sure I knew that Newfoundland was part of Canada until I looked into it while reading this book. Since 2021 is also the year I admitted that I didn’t know Edgar Allen Poe was an American, it feels like I should just go ahead and double down and say that I didn’t realize that Newfoundland wasn’t in Europe. Mea culpa. I will just reassure everyone that I am always learning.
Gander, Newfoundland is a town of 10,000 people. On September 11, 2021, it became host to 38 planes and nearly 7,000 stranded passengers when airspace over the United States was suspended. Some were headed home to New York. Others were on a longer journey through the United States. None planned to be in Gander, without their luggage, for several days. Thank goodness they landed where they did!
The town came out in droves to welcome, “The Plane People,” in any way that they could. People donated the sheets off their beds, the clothes from their closets, and the towels out of their bathrooms to make sure that the reluctant visitors were cared for during their time in Gander. Many have stayed friends for years.
From those with the very most, the chairman of Hugo Boss to name one, to pregnant 17 year old immigrant, the Plane People came from all over the world and from every walk of life. And they were all greeted with the kindness and generosity that, really, I only believed existed in movies. It is heartwarming and inspirational.
For a long time, I remembered September 12, 2001 as the day Americans all came together. Sadly, I didn’t stop to consider the Muslim Americans and, basically, any other people of color who were now given the suspicious eye. This book is largely about the best in humanity. But, even thought it was published in 2002 it shined a light on the dramatic shift that happened when the towers came down. The locked down security, the hyper suspicion, and the general discrimination towards anyone brown. I’m glad that, for a book that is mostly about the best in humanity, it didn’t turn away from the reality of what people were experiencing.
I will admit that my eyes filled with tears time and time again while listening to the stories of the amazing people of Gander, the fortitude of those stranded, and the stories of the people who lost others that day. This book reminded me that there are good people in the world just waiting to help us when we need it most.
Tell me, please! What’s a book you read that reminded you of human kindness?