|Photo courtesy Mark G. Pakaluk|
"On September 11, 2001, 39 heavy aircraft were diverted to Gander International Airport when airspace was closed in the United States because of tragic terrorist hijackings. Runway 13/31 was converted to a temporary aircraft parking ramp. The airport terminal was turned into an aid centre as food and clothing was distributed to stranded passengers. The airport and its surrounding community afterwards received high praise for their response to the tragedy."That's from the main page of Gander International Airport's website. Ten years ago, the airport and community of Gander were a beacon of light for the "plane people" -- the 6,579 airline passengers and crew members who were stranded in Newfoundland on Sept. 11, 2001 and for the days following the tragedy known forever as 9/11.
A decade later, Gander is being remembered for its generosity and kindness, from Peter Greenberg's piece on CBS to President Obama praising the people of Central Newfoundland. And the community and its residents are also remembering. There are many events this weekend, including a Beyond Words Tribute Concert at the Gander Community Centre featuring Mick Davis & His Skinny Jims, The Navigators, Shanneyganock and Blue Eyed Blonde.
A group of amateur radio operators from Central Newfoundland will be on the air Sept. 10-11, using the call sign of VO1GAM9, a special event call sign that will commemorate to ham radio operators around the world the role that Gander played in 9/11.
I've never been to Gander, a town of nearly 10,000 people located on the northeastern part of the island of Newfoundland. In fact, I've never been to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and it's next on my Canadian bucket list. I found it interesting that many of the streets in Gander are named after such famous aviators as Amelia Earhart, Marc Garneau (Canada's first NASA Space shuttle astronaut), Charles Lindbergh, the Wright Brothers and Chuck Yeager.
10 years later and it still sends chills down my spine when I think of that morning watching the horror on T.V. I remember speaking to my mother on the telephone as the first tower fell, I'll never forget her voice, almost a whisper, repeating " this is real, this is real".
The Gander story is a wonderful one and because of the size of the town compared to the amount of passengers gets all the attention. There were many other cities and towns that also took in planes and passengers, Vancouver actually had to deal with more passengers than Gander, but being a big city it was easier. Here an interesting CBC link, the interactive map near the end gives some details of passengers and planes landed.
Good people do good things because it's the right thing to do and don't expect thanks, but I still remember Bush's speach a few days after 9/11 where he thanked many people and countries by name, except Canada.
Whoops, meant "speech" of course not "speach"
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