Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Bright Light

I have been blogging about some fun, hidden gems of New York.  #3 will be here soon but today, this is on my mind.

“What would you do if 6, 579 people landed at your doorstep?” That is part of a trailer for the musical, Come From Away, which I saw last week. 

It’s the true story – several true stories, woven together -  of what happened on Sept 11, 2001, in Gander, Newfoundland, population 11,678.  This is the easternmost  bit of Canada, poking out into the Atlantic. In the early days of flight travel, it was the refueling point before trans-Atlantic flights and that is why it has a large, unused airport. As the people of Gander say, everyone came there then. Movie stars. Frank Sinatra. The Queen.

On September 11, 2001, 38 US-bound planes were diverted there.

 And then the  people of Gander and surrounding towns made a miracle.

They found shelter, food, clean clothes, showers – and medicines and diapers and animal care- for the stranded crews and passengers. Striking school bus drivers suspended the strike to  transport the stranded travelers from the airport.  The supermarket  opened its doors and said “Take what you need.” Hockey was cancelled and the mayor declared the rink a gigantic walk-in refrigerator for the accumulating food supplies. The SPCA said there must be animals  - there were pets and two rare bonobos!- on the planes and set up a shelter overnight.

 Over several days, prayers are shared. Jokes are told. Whiskey is drunk.  Lifelong friendships are made.

 The writers of the show have woven together a tapestry of true stories developing over time. Music and dance bring it to life.  There is humor, sadness, fear, and tragedy. Lives are changed forever.

In that dark moment in history, we meet people at their best. I can’t stop thinking about the show and would like to see it again. See it if you can. Bring tissues.

When the grateful exiles are able to head home, and they say thanks and offer money, the people of Gander only say, “You would have done it for us.”  Would we? In this dark time, I have to wonder.