We all remember where we were on September 11th, 2001 when reports came in of planes hitting the Twin Towers in New York City. I was sitting in English class, when my teacher wheeled a t.v. in. We all sat in shocked silence, watching the terror unfold and automatically thinking of those who were on the planes and those who were in the towers and surrounding area.
Immediately, United States airspace was closed and aircraft were ordered to land at the nearest airport. Thirty-eight planes were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland. Right away, the people of Gander started making preparations for the 6,595 passengers and crew that would be landing in their small town of 10,000 over the next couple of hours.
The Day the World Came to Town – 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede, tells the stories of the “plane people” who found themselves in Gander and the friendly Newfoundlanders who welcomed them with open arms. From the moment the first plane landed, everyone in Gander and surrounding towns stopped what they were doing and did everything they could to help. People began setting up shelters, cooking and supplying meals and snacks, and chauffeuring the people from the planes to anywhere they wanted to go, or just giving them a tour of the town.
There was always someone available at each of the shelters twenty-four hours a day, just in case anyone needed something. They invited people into their homes to use phones, computers and showers and did whatever they could to help the passengers during their stay in Gander, which lasted almost a week.
During this time of devastation, people stripped their houses bare of sheets and towels, and offered the use of their vehicles. Pharmacists filled prescriptions from all over the world at no cost. Local businesses emptied their shelves of food, clothing, toys and toiletries. The Canadian Tire in town was given instructions by its head office to provide whatever was required at no expense.
It was a time of sharing and camaraderie between the locals and those who had been displaced there. Meals and stories were shared and some of the lucky passengers were made honorary Newfoundlanders after being “screeched in” at a local pub. (This involves drinking locally brewed liquor called Screech and kissing a codfish!)
9/11 was a day of terror and loss; but in Gander, Newfoundland, it was also a place of love, compassion and humanity