Hopefully you saw Tom Brokaw’s 40+ minute documentary of how Gander, (pop. 10,000) Newfoundland and Labrador stepped up in an enormous way to become a safe haven for 38 jets containing some 7,000 passengers that were grounded when America completely shut-down its air space following the attacks. This inspiring feature was broadcast during the Vancouver Olympics last month.
In case you didn’t see it, this is one to look up; maybe they’ll have portions of it available on YouTube soon. This is a feature I would purchase if it was available. It was a moving tale that left me disappointed to only be learning of it now.
For a small airport that generally handles only 8 domestic flights a day, landing 38 jumbo jets and accommodating 7,000 people (which nearly doubled the population) was a massive undertaking. All of these passengers had to be processed through immigration and taken to temporary shelters, as Gander’s hotel beds are quite limited. The passengers were bussed to schools, churches, legion halls - and what is more, much more, the residents of this most easterly province of Canada, went above and beyond the call of hospitality. They brought cots, blankets, pillows, clothes, cooked hams, casseroles, home-baked goods, bottled water, cell-phones, toys for children...grocery stores gave products away, pharmacists refilled prescriptions at no cost... people were driven to local churches to pray...all passengers were accommodated with incredible generosity.
It really warms my heart to know this about my northern neighbors...and it makes me wonder why I never read a single headline about it in 2001.
Some of the passengers formed friendships that continue to this day ...and, when it was discovered that the residents of Gander would not accept money from the thankful multitude, a college scholarship fund was created. Would you believe $15,000 was pledged by Americans on the flight returning to the US after their heart-warming stay in Gander? That scholarship, for students in Gander, has now grown to over $900,000 and several of the stranded passengers from that horrific day in September ’01 have returned to visit their hosts and friends.
God bless you, Canada. Thank you for the generous care and grace you showed to our people...
...and, depending on how the healthcare vote goes tonight in the US, I’m wondering, would you welcome another family? ;-)