My Unexpected Connection to 9/11/01 in a “New-Found-Land”

My holiday trip to Newfoundland, Canada, was the direct result of the conviction of a friend who, after spending three months there, determined that the people of this area were the friendliest in the world. This turned out to be the absolute truth!

So during our travels, we found our way to the town of Gander. This was at the suggestion of other friends who assumed that we knew the vital role the residents of Gander and surrounding communities had played when thousands of travelers from Europe (including many Americans) became stranded there after New York airspace was closed on 9/11/01. I have to admit that I didn’t know the details of the story, so as soon as we arrived, we went right to the North Atlantic Aviation Museum in Gander.  There we saw evidence of the amazing account of the 6,700 passengers, a number almost equal to the total population of Gander (10,000), who were stuck in the Gander International Airport as their mandatory “stopover.” No one was allowed to leave the planes, because they and their baggage had to be carefully checked to make sure there were no additional dangerous people or items aboard. But finally, they were allowed to disembark, and here’s what happened, according to the report of the office of the Mayor at the time, Claude Elliott, who is still the current Mayor:

As word of the arriving aircraft spread throughout the community, donations of bedding and food began pouring in, even before arrangements could be made for collection and distribution. The still-new Gander Community Centre quickly became the main staging point.

Businesses were equally quick to step up. The local Canadian Tire store filled a truck with whatever stock they imagined stranded travelers might need, and Wal-Mart management ordered its cashiers to ring up purchases as usual, but to accept no payment from the “plane people”, as they would become known. Two local pharmacies would spend much of the next week verifying and filling prescriptions for the stranded passengers, again at no charge.

What amazed me the most, though, was the way in which the residents of Gander opened their homes, their hearths — and most importantly — their hearts to the stranded people.

“It truly was a community effort in every sense,” Mayor Elliott insists. “What the terrorists accomplished on September 11 only brought us closer together and gave us the opportunity to show the world how easy it is to bring care and comfort and how hard it is to break our spirit.”

Click Here for the Report

When I saw the television news reports in the museum, and heard what Mayor Elliott had to say about this effort, I knew I had a job to do! I then had the audacity to go directly to the Mayor’s office. There, with the able assistance of his Media Coordinator Greg Seaward, I gave him both a copy of The Power of Acknowledgment and my profound appreciation of and acknowledgment for the people of Gander and surrounding communities for the role they played during that incredibly challenging time.

Below is the video my husband took of this presentation to the Mayor, while we stood together before a piece of steel from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings, widely considered the most sacred symbol of the 9/11 experience.


Mayor Elliott summarized the power of this incredible generosity and caring displayed by all of the people of this area:

“One woman told me when she was leaving that September 11 showed us the very worst of mankind, but that her time in Gander restored her faith in humanity and that here she saw the very best of mankind,” he relates. “I can think of no better legacy from those events than the message to the world that hope and compassion will always triumph over hatred and violence.”

For all of this, I am truly grateful! Again, my belated, but deeply personal thanks and acknowledgment to all who participated in this effort!

One more very important acknowledgment! On this day, the anniversary, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to all those who were lost on this tragic day along with my thanks and deepest appreciation to everyone out there that did their part to help all those in need.