18 years ago, the events of 9/11 captured the attention of the entire world and became a tragic place in American history. As America came under attack by terrorists, all of American air space was shut down, all planes were grounded.
Any planes that traveled along the east coast or were international, were grounded , for the most part, in Gander, Newfoundland. a total of 38 planes landed at the small airport, in a town of only 10, 000. 6, 700 passengers got off of those planes and into the arms of hospitality of Gander residents for a total of five days.
As each plane landed, and the passengers waited for news; the town bustled with activity. Volunteers readied makeshift shelters, every school, gym, community centre, church and campsites. Gander’s 500 hotel rooms were reserved for pilots and flight crews.
Bus drivers who were in the middle of a strike, put down picket their picket signs and held up themselves to help in any way they could. Collections consisting of toiletries, clothes, toys, towels, toothbrushes, pillows, blankets and bedding piled up. For security reasons, passengers weren’t allowed to take checked bags, so the donations were a great resource.
Gander residents began to cook a lot. Grocery store shelves were almost completely emptied. The local Walmart ran out of practically everything and the local hockey rink transformed into the world’s largest refrigerator for the enormous amount of cooking taking place.
The helpful residents of Gander refused to accept money, though passengers later donated thousands to the town and created a scholarship fund for the children of Gander.
Because every year, as Sept. 11 reminds America of the unfiltered evil in our world, it’s also necessary to remind ourselves of the human capacity for kindness, selflessness and generosity. It also reminds us in Canada that opening our hearts with generosity isn’t always a bad thing.