But there was much beauty and love found on that day...in a place that most people have never heard about. That place is on an island to the north of my island in Gander, Newfoundland. And it was there that beauty, love and generous hospitality flourished on such a horrible day.
Gander, Newfoundland is a town of 10,000 people and is situated at the easternmost edge of North America. The Gander International Airport was a refueling stop on early transatlantic flights of the 1940's and 1950's. But the advent of long-haul jets in the 1960's ended its life as an aviation hub. The Gander International Airport still has a big runway, but big jets touch down there much less often now.
All of that changed quickly and suddenly on September 11, 2001. In the space of only 3 hours, the Gander International airport landed 39 jets carrying 6,600 passengers from all over the world. With such short notice, a major city would be hard-pressed to shelter and house that number of people. But Gander, one of Canada's poorest provinces, housed and fed all of the 6,600 passengers for four days! The people of Gander, and the people from nearby towns, provided food, shelter and in some instances, clothing, to all of those scared passengers who did not know when they would be able to finish their flights. Many of the passengers were Americans who must have been terrified and worried for their families back home.
Many international passengers were surprised at the level of generosity and hospitality that was shown to them by the people of Gander. But for most Canadians - we were not surprised at all - Newfoundland/Labrador is known as a place of great generosity and hospitality, and the people there have huge hearts.
Letters, cards, e-mails and gifts are still pouring in to the town of Gander and the Gander International Airport from passengers expressing their great thanks. And even though the town did all that they could without ever expecting anything in return, their grateful guests even donated over $60,000 to the town.
(i don't usually do copy and paste posts but i felt that this article needed to be shared. the article marked the 10yr anniversary of 9/11 last year, but i think it is fitting to be reminded on this anniversary.)
Gander on 9/11 told 'you were the best of us'
U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson paid tribute to the town of Gander, N.L. for its generosity on 9/11, hailing its residents for their grace and good humour and representing "the best of us."Jacobson was a key speaker at the memorial ceremony held at the town's hockey rink, where two steel girders from the World Trade Center were presented by a New York City firefighter to thank the town for its hospitality toward stranded air travellers on Sept. 11, 2001. The girders will remain in the town's aviation museum.
With a tremor in his voice, Jacobson reminisced about the tireless efforts of all the town's residents and surrounding communities during that day 10 years ago, and the days that followed.
"This could well be the motto of this town: 'Without waiting to be asked,'" Jacobson said.
He spoke about one stranded passenger, a child, who turned four in Gander soon after 9/11. All his gifts were stuck on the plane he had been on, so to make him feel better, a local Gander family threw him a party.
"They consoled and they cooked, they cooked and they cooked," Jacobson recalled.
Jacobson also thanked the hundreds of Canadians, including those in Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal and Toronto, who helped thousands of stranded passengers.
The Gander ceremony began with a group prayer with its mayor, Claude Elliott, taking the podium first to honour the "beautiful acts of humanity" that happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
"Good can triumph over evil all the time," said Elliott who was recently in Washington D.C. to accept an international resiliency award for town residents. Gander, with a population barely hitting 10,000, welcomed 6,600 stranded passengers that fateful day.
Elliott told Jacobson that residents didn't need any accolades for their generosity.
'We wanted to do it'
Residents have been singled out for their tireless efforts in making strangers feel at home, opening their houses, filling prescriptions without charge and making sure people felt comfortable bedding down in schools and church halls.
"We wanted to do it. The smiles of the people who left Gander was sufficient for us," said Elliott, who ended his speech with a quote: 'What you do for yourself dies with you but what you do for others lives on.'"
Monica Burke, 44, a 911 dispatcher from Seattle, was one of three strangers Beulah Cooper, 70, welcomed into her home. Burke told the audience she has returned to Gander twice since that day, maintaining close ties with Cooper.
Burke recalled feeling "tired, scared" and breaking down crying when Cooper offered her shelter. "[Beulah] reminded me that kindness and humanity can light even the coldest, darkest night."
'Light in the midst of darkness'The province's premier, Kathy Dunderdale, said the day helped further define the friendship between Canada and the U.S.
"What binds us are the values of liberty and justice," said Dunderdale, who exalted town residents for doing what most people in her province consider "second nature."
"[Gander was] a beacon of light in the dark … [residents] showed the way to hope and humanity in a time of death and despair."
Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews also thanked the people of the area for the example they set: "Places like Gander … galvanized our resolve to be light in the midst of darkness."
And in a statement released later Sunday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay asked Canadians to remember not just those who lost their lives in the attacks, but also " those who sacrificed in the years since." "Canada's soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen faced the threats that challenged the security of our nation, accepted the fears of their compatriots, marched to the front lines of one of the most dangerous places on Earth and fought to defend the ideals and values that shaped Canada and made this country great. … On behalf of all Canadians, I thank the members of the Canadian Forces for their service, sacrifice and selflessness."
In between speeches, the white-clad Gander Academy Grade 2 sang songs. The three-hour ceremony wrapped up with The Last Post.
'Incredible acts of courage'
Elsewhere, Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended the Ground Zero ceremonies in the U.S. after formally designating Sept. 11 a national day of service, honouring both the victims and the Canadian communities who aided stranded travellers 10 years ago.
“While Canadians share in the grief of all those mourning loved ones lost, we also honour the incredible acts of courage, sacrifice and kindness by those who served in the rescue efforts,” Harper said in statement released Sunday.
The prime minister said Canada would stand with its allies to "help ensure such a tragedy never happens again."
“Terrorism will not undermine our way of life … We will steadfastly defend, protect and promote our democratic values and principles, the very foundation of our free and prosperous society.”
Harper met with family members of some of Canada's 24 New York 9/11 victims on Saturday night. On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Harper thanking all Canadians for their support during that difficult time.
"We remember with gratitude and affection how the people of Canada offered us the comfort of friendship and extraordinary assistance that day and in the following days by opening their airports, homes and hearts to us," Obama wrote.
Plaque for Halifax airportSeveral other communities across Canada had unexpected visitors when U.S. air space was shut down to all but military aircraft, with about 200 flights diverted to Canadian airports. Many flights also ended up in Moncton, N.B., and in Halifax, where 8,000 extra passengers showed up.
U.S. Consul-General Anton Smith presented a plaque to Halifax airport managers early Sunday to thank employees and residents for their aid.
In Ottawa, an open-air concert "of hope and remembrance" began precisely at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first plane hit the World Trade Centre.
Jean Chrétien, who was prime minister when the attacks occurred, attended the Parliament Hill event along with several hundred others.
After the concert, Chrétien recalled how tens of thousands of Canadians turned out on Parliament Hill to express their solidarity with Americans in the days after the terror attacks.
“We had 100,000 people on the Hill," he recalled "And the greatest moment, when I asked for three minutes of silence, it was probably the three minutes the most moving of my life to not hear a noise for three minutes. People praying in their own faith for the American people."
You can read the complete article here.
On this September 11, may we remember everything that happened - not just the bad stuff, the deaths, the terror and the panic - but also the love, generosity and humanity that was shown by ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
UPDATE BEGINS HERE:
i just received a wonderful comment from a person who was in Gander on that day and who played a pivotal role in taking care of the stranded passengers! to say that i am touched is an understatement...to say that i am honoured that such a heroe would take the time to comment here - well, i am simply blown away.
please see lazydaysnl's comment below...and please go and read their post about being in the thick of providing for all of those stranded passengers here. please leave a comment and thank them for their selflessness...they are the unsung heroes of a tragic happening that through their good works, made many lives easier. please give a standing ovation to lazydaysnl and all of the work that they, and other unsung heroes did during this tragic time.
lazydaysnl...i thank you from the bottom of my heart!