I had the pleasure of reading The day the world came to town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede.
The vague title only hints at the depth of a story about the patriotic cohesiveness of a small town that opened its heart to survivors of the September 11th disaster. Journalist Defede calls our attention to a sidelight of the September 11th events, when Gander, Newfoundland (pop.10,000) was overwhelmed by more than 6,500 air travelers grounded when US airspace was shut down.
This story includes many details of the town’s tireless efforts to comfort and reassure the survivors. The townspeople opened their homes to survivors to use showers and freely gave them clean clothing, as well as toiletries, clean sheets and towels for their use in the shelters. The Canadian Tire Store manager became the coordinator of a huge toy drive so each child would have a toy of their own. The local Walmart store opened their doors to the survivors for whatever they needed without any question of payment. Prescription medicines were refilled free of charge for survivors. Every person in town contributed food and time for food preparation to feed the survivors. One of the survivors lodged in a church, woke about 3am one morning to find the pastor awake and sitting by the door. When the pastor was asked why he was awake and sitting by the door, he replied “we felt we should watch over everyone”. In the Publisher’s Weekly book review it says, “They placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked nothing in return”. The townspeople were never concerned with the gender, race, religion, age or nationality of the survivors. Everyone’s primary concerns were making sure that the survivors were able to obtain lodging, food, clothing, toiletries, medicines, as well as communication links to their families. Some of the townspeople even retrieved the animals from the cargo hold of the jetliners, providing them with food, shelter, and clean bedding.
The day the world came to town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland is truly an inspiration to anyone who feels that the American people have lost their caring spirit when it comes to others. You will be spell-bound from the book’s beginning and as each chapter unfolds. This story will definitely restore your faith in humanity.