Genres: Historical, Nonfiction
Published by HarperCollins
Setting: Newfoundland, Canada
When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill.
I had heard the story of a small town in Canada where many airplanes had to land on 9/11 but I didn’t know the details.
The reason all the planes went there was because Gander used to be a major airport. When planes had to refuel before crossing the Atlantic, they went to Gander. Private planes still do. The U.S. military had a lot of planes here. Because of the history of military use, the runways are long. This allows it to be listed as a secondary landing area for the space shuttle in case of trouble on takeoff.
This book details the lengths that people went to when they needed to suddenly accommodate an influx of people on an island. They weren’t allowed to get their luggage off the planes so medications had to be found. Clothes and toiletries were in short supply. Bedding was collected from houses all around the island. People opened their homes to let travelers take showers.
All kinds of people were stranded. There were government and military officials who needed to help coordinate emergency response so they needed to get out of Gander. An executive for the clothing company Hugo Boss was horrified to have to buy new underwear at WalMart. Refugees settling in the U.S. were confused to find themselves in a whole different country.
I was particularly interested in the stories of the animals on the planes. There were two bonobo apes moving to a new zoo. They weren’t allowed out of their transport cages but they helped out by cleaning their own cages for the handlers and entertaining themselves by watching the dogs and cats near them.
I’d recommend reading this book to take a glance at a little known slice of history.
Next week I’m going to see the musical Come From Away which is based on this story. I wanted to make sure I finished this book ahead of time so I could be properly obnoxious with stories of, “Well, actually, what had happened was…” I’ll report back with how close the musical is to the real story.