Sep 112017

As sorrowful as this day was in 2011, and as sorrowful as the memories still are, I want to share with you a story about a small Canadian town, population 11,688 (2016), who rose to the occasion in 2011 with little notice.  I say ‘who’ in referencing the town because this is about the people of Gander, Newfoundland and their response to the tragedy unfolding in New York 16 years ago.

From USA Today — They still don’t know what all the fuss is about.

Sixteen years ago, this small Canadian town on an island in the North Atlantic Ocean took in nearly 6,700 people – almost doubling its population – when the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York and Washington forced 38 planes to land here.

Their simple hospitality to the unexpected house guests drew worldwide accolades and even inspired a Broadway musical.

“Everyone looks at us and says that’s an amazing thing that you did, and the bottom line is I don’t think it was an amazing thing, I think it was the right thing you do,” says Diane Davis, 53, a now-retired teacher who helped 750 people housed at the town’s elementary school.


In a world today seemingly fraught with division, terrorism and hate, they’d do it all over again. Kindness is woven into the very fabric of their nature — they don’t know any other way to live.

“What we consider the most simple thing in life is to help people,” says Mayor Claude Elliott, who retires this month after serving as the town’s leader for 21 years. “You’re not supposed to look at people’s color, their religion, their sexual orientation — you look at them as people.”

An aerial view of the town of Gander. (Photo: Jasper Colt, USA Today)

Read the rest of the story.  Now you might wonder what can a little Canadian town seemingly on the edge of nowhere do?  First you should know that Newfoundland is one place where hospitality reigns.  Although Newfoundlanders have been the butt of a number of jokes over the years, they are a very warm and giving people.  Gander, as small as it is, has an international airport because of its proximity to Europe.  Wikipedia explains:

Gander was chosen for the construction of an airport in 1935 because of its location close to the northeast tip of the North American continent. In 1936, construction of the base began, and the town started to develop. On January 11, 1938, Captain Douglas Fraser made the first landing at “Newfoundland Airport”, now known as Gander International Airport, or “CYQX”, in a single-engine biplane, Fox Moth VO-ADE.

During the Second World War, as many as 10,000 Canadian, British and American military personnel resided in Gander. The area became a strategic post for the Royal Air ForceAir Ferry Command, with approximately 20,000 American- and Canadian-built fighters and bombers stopping at Gander en route to Europe.

I am a proud Canadian, and even prouder to know that Newfoundland joined Canada on 31 March 1949 becoming Canada’s 10th province bringing their caring and generosity with them.  Newfoundland’s name was official changed to Newfoundland and Labrador by constitutional amendment in December 2001.  Wikipedia gives some background to the name.

The name “Newfoundland” is a translation of the PortugueseTerra Nova, that is also reflected in the French name for the Province’s island part (Terre-Neuve). The influence of early Portuguese exploration is also reflected in the name of Labrador, which derives from the surname of the Portuguese navigatorJoão Fernandes Lavrador.[9]

Labrador’s name in the Inuttitut language (spoken in Nunatsiavut) is Nunatsuak, meaning “the big land” (a common English nickname for Labrador). Newfoundland’s Inuttitut name is Ikkarumikluak meaning “place of many shoals”.

A big Thank You to the people of Gander!!!



  8 Responses to “The Little Town That Could on 9/11”

  1. What a beautiful story!  Thank you, Lynn!  We owe a lot to Canada, not the least of which is many, many good examples, of which this is prime.

    I’m going to sneak an Irma update in here, that the Tampa Bay are, while not unscathed, seems to have been spared many of the biggest fears.  The Bay water got sucked out, but didn’t totally get thrown back in their faces (a huge concern).  Both my oldest BFF and Nameless’s brother and nephew are in that general area, so this is good news for PP.

  2. Like many people, I remember where I was and what I was doing when we received the news that there had been a terrorist attack on New York.  I was at work and approving mortgages because another manager was away.  Calling a short meeting of all the staff, I informed them of the situation as I knew it at that time and said the television would be set so people could find out what was happening.  We still had work to do, but this was of international importance.  I had one of my tech savvy employees rig up the television that was primarily used for training videos and attempt to get reception.  We did not have cable and in a metro area of over 1 million people, cable is a necessity for such things.  I don’t remember what he did, but we finally got reception, although it was somewhat fuzzy.  For us, it was about 900 – 930 hours as I recall.

    We of course had replays of the crashes later followed by live streaming of some of the rescue work.  It has been 16 years since this happened but in many ways, it seems like yesterday.

    In addressing a joint Session of the US Congress on 08 December 1941, President Franklin D Roosevelt said: 

    Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

    Substitute 09 September 2001 for “07 December 1941” and terrorists for “naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan” and we have a similar situation — another day which will live in infamy.

    There were 38 flights from all over the world heading into New York.  But now New York was now a no fly zone for obvious reasons.  Those 38 flights were detoured to the international airport in the town of Gander, Newfoundland, a small town of approximately 10,000 people at that time.  To hear the airport manager tell it, there was very little time to prepare, but the people of Gander rose to the occasion.  This post is part of their story.

    Thank You to the people of Gander!!!

  3. To those blessed with hearing, it’d be a shame not to mention the Oscar-Winning musical “Come From Away” that celebrates the warm-hearts and kindnesses of the people of Gander.

    I wouldn’t know, but the best songs seem to be “Me and the Sky” – although you have to listen to the very end to get the impact.

    And “Prayer”

    Nameless, the video above is not available. Is this the same one?
    Prayer from Come from Away

    • Probably.  My YouTube video plays for me just fine – but it has no CC so I don’t know if it matches yours – which does have CC..

      (The links I supplied were from an online Poll.  Obviously given my profound hearing loss I have no idea which ones are worthy.)

  4. Such a warm, loving, compassionate and beautiful story!!

    KUDOS, LOVE & HUGS to those folks up North, (Canada, Gander/Newfoundland) for serving up big plates of Hospitality to those in need. Thank you!

    Thank you, Lynn for post.

  5. What a truly lovely story, Lynn. I’m very happy to have learned today about the gracious kindness of the people of Gander, Newfoundland when it mattered the most.

  6. This is the first time that I have heard of this story. Kudos to the people of Gander for extending their hands, warm welcomes and kindness for those in need during the 9/11 crisis.

  7. Kudos to the people of Gander.  03

    My Brother-in-law was a B-17 pilot during WWII.  He collected war-birds, and during the 1960s, he was flying a surplus B-17 home from London, had a mechanical problem, and gad to divert to Gander, which was fogged-in.  He told me the controllers there talked him through a landing, in which he never saw the runway, and said they were the most skilled he had ever seen.  He had seen lots, because he owned Atlantic City Airport.

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