A few years ago I was riding in the car with my mom. She was listing to a book called The Day The World Came To Town. It’s about how the small town of Gander, Newfoundland came together when 38 commercial planes were diverted to their airport on 9/11 when airspace over the US was shut down. When I got home, I downloaded the audiobook and started listening to it. I was intrigued by how the small town of barely 10,000 people came together to help 7,000 people who were stranded there for about 5 days. It shows how there are still good people in the world that care.

The terrorist attack against the United States could have turned many people against each other and left people with no hope in humanity, but in the small town of Gander, people came together to support people they didn’t know. Because the Canadian government was worried about possible terrorist threats in the belly of the planes, passengers were only allowed to take their carry-on baggage off the plane into the town of Gander. Some people had medications stored in their suitcases in the belly of the plane that they weren’t able to access. Pharmacists in Gander spent many hours contacting pharmacies and doctors all over the world in order to fill those prescriptions for free for the passengers. It overwhelmed me to hear about the drug store donating 4,000 toothbrushes, grocery and department stores donating anything on their shelves the passengers might need, and townsfolk emptying their closets of towels, sheets, blankets, and old clothes for the passengers. Homeowners offered spare bedrooms to passengers to sleep in and free showers. Young women volunteered their spare time to clean the showers at the gymnasium so that passengers could keep clean. Everyone came together to help people they had never met before.

The Canadian government knew that there were possible terrorist threats on the incoming planes, but they still allowed them to land at Gander in order to help America. This taught me that no matter what country you live in, we all need to rely on each other sometimes. The book mentions how the only way to live in Newfoundland was with the help of others. Newfoundlanders had built a huge sense of community together. If anyone needed anything at all, they just needed to ask a neighbor and they would help out.

Hearing this spectacular story made my faith in humanity grow stronger. It still amazes me how such a terrible event like 9/11 could bring so many people together. It changed my perspective on 9/11 and made me realize that, although the terrorist attacks were in New York City, it didn’t just affect the people living there. Not only did it cause Americans to unite, but people all over the world. A passenger on Lufthansa flight 400, Werner Baldessarini, was able to experience the strong sense of community that the folks of Gander fostered, noting “There was no hatred. No anger. No fear in Gander. Only the spirit of community. Here, everyone was equal, everyone was treated the same. Here, the basic humanity of man wasn’t just surviving but thriving” (DeFede 194). The feeling of community and togetherness was so strong that in his short 5-day stay, he was able to see it. The people in Gander welcomed the stranded passenger into their town, their schools, and their homes, they didn’t see them as strangers, but as friends. This book helped me to realize the importance of strong communities, and that good things can come from bad situations.

DeFede, Jim. The Day The World Came To Town: 9/11 In Gander, Newfoundland. Harper Collins, 2003.

– Donna Rich (HS Senior)