9-11 Tragedy Reveals Amazing Generosity of Small Canadian Town
Although 9/11 will always be remembered as a day of tragedy. It was fifteen years ago that terrorists hijacked airplanes and flew them into the Twin Towers and Pentagon. However, while most people are recalling the senseless deaths of almost 3,000 people, others are still giving thanks to the efforts of a small Canadian town.
Gander, Newfoundland, is a town of only about 10,000 residents on the east coast of Canada. When the terrorists struck, the United States government acted quickly. Since they didn’t know if there were more hijacked planes, it immediately closed down all airports and grounded all airplanes.
A story in the Washington Post says the action left hundreds of airplanes with nowhere to go. It was then that Gander stepped up to the plate in a big way. It decided its airport would remain open and soon planes were landing one after another on its runways.
The Washington Post reported that in all the airport accepted 38 wide-body planes that were arriving from trans-Atlantic flights. The Washington Post story went on to describe what was called a great human capacity for kindness, selflessness, and generosity. It said the town was soon trying to accommodate the sudden arrival of 7,000 stranded passengers. But being small, its few hotels and restaurants were unable to keep up with the sudden influx of people.
However, the residents handled it in their own special way. Realizing that the planes were full of mothers, daughters, sons and grandmothers they began opening their doors to the stranded travelers. Soon schools, churches, and community halls, even in the tiny fishing villages that dotted the area were setting up cots for the weary travelers.
In addition, striking bus drivers showed their support by abandoning picket lines to help ferry the airplane passengers. It was said hospital workers showed for work even though they were on days off and even bakers began working overtime. Even the 17 dogs and cats and two great apes were given refuge.
The daughter in law of Christa Folkes, of Norfolk described to the Washington Post the kindness offered to the matriarch of the family. She said the grandmother and other passengers spent 28 hours on the plane before they were bused to the small fishing village of Lewisport, where they were housed for three days. She said their hosts were so gracious, even the mayor was cooking meals for them and residents ushered them into their houses for a shower and a decent sleep. It was said some even lent out their cars.
Shirley Broker-Jones, who was on the same plane also described her experience in glowing terms. The experienced fund raiser from Ohio said she was so impressed when their hosts refused money, she decided to do something else for them.
She began asking fellow travelers for donations to fund a scholarship for the children of Gander. In total, she collected $15,000 which was grown to nearly $2 million. The Washington Post reported that 28 Gander students have received money from the fund. She has returned to Gander 26 times to meet the recipients, one of whom is a doctor.
Another story which makes sure Gander will be long remembered is the tale of a young woman and man who were strangers until they met in Gander. They fell in love there and are now married.
Although it has been 15 years since the generous actions of Gander, their efforts inspired a musical called “Come From Away” which is currently playing at the Ford Theater in Washington.