Remembering 9/11 – Friendships formed at Gander, Newfoundland

From Al Jazeera, Sept 10, 2011, “Friendships formed in shadow of 9/11 attacks” (with video),

“For residents of the town of Gander in Newfoundland, off Canada’s east coast, the events of September 11, 2001, are not altogether negative.

The town was flooded with nearly 7,000 passengers from trans-Atlantic flights that were forced to land when US airspace was abruptly closed.

The local population spiked from 10,000 to almost 17,000 in just a few hours. Overall, Canada received more than 200 aircraft and in excess of 30,000 passengers. In Gander, the giant airport took 38 commercial airliners and the Plane People – as they were known – stayed for almost a week.

During their enforced lay-over, lasting friendships were formed with locals.”

From Huffington Post, Sept 9, 2011, “9/11 Anniversary: Obama Thanks Harper For Canada’s Help” (emphasis added)

From Presiden Obama, “On the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, we remember with gratitude and affection how the people of Canada offered us the comfort of friendship and extraordinary assistance that day and in the following days by opening their airports, homes and hearts to us. As airspace over our two countries was shut down, hundreds of flights en route to the United States were landed safely by Canadian air traffic control in seventeen Canadian airports from coast to coast. The small city of Gander, Newfoundland, population 9,600, received 6,600 diverted passengers, while Vancouver received 8,500 people. For the next 3 days — before our air space was reopened — those displaced passengers were treated like family in Canadian homes, receiving food, shelter, medical attention and comfort.

From Toronto Sun, Sept 7, “Gander, N.L., to receive 9-11 award from U.S.”

“The town of 10,000, which rallied to house and feed 6,500 stranded passengers for several days after North American airspace was shut down in the hours following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will receive the International Resilience Award from the Center for National Policy.

“The story is an amazing one. The townspeople, with literally no warning, took into their homes 6,500 passengers who were strangers in need at a time of crisis,” said Scott Bates, the centre’s vice-president.

“For us, this is a moment of community heroism,” Bates said. “It’s something that we want to showcase so that people in the United States remember what Canada did for us and also, perhaps more importantly, how Gander is an example of how communities across North America should respond in a time of crisis.

“Rather than coming apart, they came together.””

From National Post, Sept 10, 2011, “On 9/11, air traffic controllers worked on a wing and a prayer”

“Don O’Brien and his air traffic control colleagues had been trained to handle emergencies in the sky. They knew how to guide an airliner without engine power onto the ground, for example — but no one had ever conceived of the crazy, high-altitude challenges of 9/11.

“We’d never trained or rehearsed for anything like it,” says O’Brien, an air traffic control supervisor at the NAV Canada operations center in Gander, N.L.

“After they closed U.S. airspace that morning — which was totally unprecedented — we suddenly had a couple of hundred large airplanes coming at us, and we had to find them somewhere to land.”

O’Brien works inside a two-storey concrete bunker of a building, surrounded by high, barbed wire fences on the outskirts of this small town in central Newfoundland. This is the command center from which NAV Canada, the country’s private, air traffic control provider, controls the skies over Canada’s eastern seaboard and the entire western half of the North Atlantic.”

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