The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

4.6 45
by Jim DeFede
     
 

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"For the better part of a week, nearly every man, woman, and child in Gander and the surrounding smaller towns stopped what they were doing so they could help. They placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked for nothing in return. They affirmed the basic goodness of man at a time when it was easy to doubt such humanity still existed."

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Overview

"For the better part of a week, nearly every man, woman, and child in Gander and the surrounding smaller towns stopped what they were doing so they could help. They placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked for nothing in return. They affirmed the basic goodness of man at a time when it was easy to doubt such humanity still existed."

When thirty-eight jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland, on September 11, 2001, due to the closing of United States airspace, the citizens of this small community were called upon to come to the aid of more than six thousand displaced travelers.

Roxanne and Clarke Loper were excited to be on their way home from a lengthy and exhausting trip to Kazakhstan, where they had adopted a daughter, when their plane suddenly changed course and they found themselves in Newfoundland. Hannah and Dennis O'Rourke, who had been on vacation in Ireland, were forced to receive updates by telephone on the search for their son Kevin, who was among the firefighters missing at the World Trade Center. George Vitale, a New York state trooper and head of the governor's security detail in New York City who was returning from a trip to Dublin, struggled to locate his sister Patty, who worked in the Twin Towers. A family of Russian immigrants, on their way to the Seattle area to begin a new life, dealt with the uncertainty of conditions in their future home.

The people of Gander were asked to aid and care for these distraught travelers, as well as for thousands more, and their response was truly extraordinary. Oz Fudge, the town constable, searched all over Gander for a flight-crew member so that he could give her a hug as a favor to her sister, a fellow law enforcement officer who managed to reach him by phone. Eithne Smith, an elementary-school teacher, helped the passengers staying at her school put together letters to family members all over the world, which she then faxed. Bonnie Harris, Vi Tucker, and Linda Humby, members of a local animal protection agency, crawled into the jets' cargo holds to feed and care for all of the animals on the flights. Hundreds of people put their names on a list to take passengers into their homes and give them a chance to get cleaned up and relax.

The Day the World Came to Town is a positively heartwarming account of the citizens of Gander and its surrounding communities and the unexpected guests who were welcomed with exemplary kindness.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Journalist Defede calls our attention to a sidelight of the events of September 11, when the town of Gander (pop. 10,000) was overwhelmed by more than 6,500 air travelers grounded when U.S. airspace was shut down. For a week, DeFede relates, the locals provided food, shelter and supplies and reassurance; "they placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked nothing in return." Here the generous Newfoundlanders get due recognition. Photos. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Through selective interviews, this book describes events surrounding the 6595 people on board 38 planes whose transit across the Atlantic was disrupted when they were vectored to the airport in Gander, Newfoundland, on September 11, 2001. As a chronicle of the heartwarming reception these passengers received from touchdown until departure six days later, the volume resounds with tributes to the kindness and acts of generosity on the part of local residents (population 10,000). Quick-thinking initiatives led by the mayor, constable, air-traffic controllers, and local heads of professional disaster-relief agencies organized a process for greeting deplaning passengers; checking luggage; fulfilling immigration/security requirements; and then transporting groups to churches, schools, and community centers where they were housed and fed. One account tells of volunteers from Gander's SPCA who crawled through the cargo spaces of the jetliners, locating pets and animals in cages, and bringing them food, water, and fresh bedding until they could be moved to a vacant hangar. Separate vignettes focus on the parents of a New York City firefighter who was missing, on a Texas couple returning from adopting an orphan in Kazakhstan, on a teenage cancer victim en route home following a "make- a-wish" trip to Italy, and more. Each of these stories will resonate with teens.-Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062103284
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/12/2011
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
31,096
File size:
8 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Roxanne and Clark Loper were homeward bound.

Nearly three weeks had passed since they left their ranch outside the small Texas town of Alto and embarked on a journey to adopt a two-year-old girl in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. It was a journey more than fifteen months in the planning and saw the young couple race through airports, bounce along bumpy roads, and wind their way across the Ural Mountains. They dealt with bureaucrats in three different countries and spent their life savings, all for the sake of a child whose picture Roxanne had seen one day on the Internet. Every minute, every dollar, was worth it, though, because now they had Alexandria, and by dinnertime they'd be home.

Over the last seventy-two hours, the three of them had flown from Kazakhstan to Moscow to Frankfurt and were now on the final leg of their trip, a direct flight from Frankfurt to Dallas. They all felt as if they hadn't slept in days. Shortly after takeoff, Alexandria climbed out of her seat and curled up on the floor to take a nap. Roxanne thought about picking her up and strapping her back into her seat, but she knew Alexandria liked sleeping on the floor. She felt comfortable there. It was something the child had grown accustomed to in the orphanage.

As the Lopers' plane, Lufthansa Flight 438, proceeded northwest out of Frankfurt and climbed to above 30,000 feet, Lufthansa Flight 400 began preboarding its first-class passengers. Settling into her seat, Frankfurt mayor Petra Roth was excited about her trip to New York. That night there would be a party in honor of New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Roth and Giuliani had become friendsduring official visits to each other's city, and Roth was happy to travel the 4,000 miles to pay her respects to the outgoing mayor.

Sitting near Roth was Werner Baldessarini, the chairman of Hugo Boss, who was flying to New York from the company's corporate headquarters in Germany for Fashion Week -- an eight-day spectacle of clothes and models in which more than one hundred of the world's top designers show their latest wares in giant tents and on improvised runways. A good show at Fashion Week can guarantee the success of a manufacturer's collection. On Thursday evening, Baldessarini would premier Hugo Boss's Spring 2002 line at Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan. In addition to the financial implications of having a good show, this event was also important to Baldessarini for personal reasons. After twenty-seven years with Hugo Boss, he had made up his mind to retire in 2002. The news hadn't been leaked publicly, but this would be one of his last shows and he wanted it to be a success.

While a flight attendant offered Roth and Baldessarini a glass of champagne before takeoff in Frankfurt, a few hundred miles away in Dublin, George Vitale was taking his seat in coach aboard Continental Flight 23. As one of the people responsible for protecting New York governor George Pataki on a day-to-day basis, Vitale had flown to Ireland in early September to make advance security arrangements for the governor's visit there later that month. Unfortunately, a fresh round of violence in Northern Ireland caused the governor to abruptly cancel his trip, and the New York State trooper was told to come home.

If he had wanted to, Vitale could have stayed in Ireland to see friends and family. The forty-three-year-old is half Irish and he's made several trips over the years to the Emerald Isle. This wasn't a good time for a vacation, however. He had a number of responsibilities waiting for him at home in Brooklyn. In addition to being a senior investigator with the state police, Vitale was also taking night classes toward a degree in education. Assuming everything went smoothly, he'd be home in time for his class at Brooklyn College.

An hour after Vitale's flight ascended into the sky, Hannah O'Rourke stood outside the boarding area for Aer Lingus Flight 105 and cried as she hugged brothers and sisters good-bye. The sixty-six-year-old O'Rourke was born in Ireland's County Monaghan, about forty miles north of Dublin, but had emigrated to the United States nearly fifty years ago. She made a good life for herself in America. Along with her husband, Dennis, she raised three children and now lived on Long Island.

In recent years, she'd returned to Ireland as often as possible to see her family. This time around, she spent three weeks in the countryside with her husband. She hated saying good-bye to her kin, but her family in America was eager for her to come home. Waiting to board the plane, O'Rourke dreaded the flight back. It was no secret she hated flying, especially over water.

The scene was no less emotional for fellow passenger Maria O'Driscoll. Although the two women didn't know each other, the seventy-year-old O'Driscoll was born in County Louth, a stone's throw from O'Rourke's birthplace. O'Driscoll had come to the United States when she was a young woman. Her reason was simple: "I fell in love with a Yank." That was back in 1954.

Standing alongside her at the airport in Dublin was her husband, Lenny.

Lenny O'Driscoll wasn't "the Yank" that prompted Maria to move to America. That fellow, Maria's first husband, died in 1987. When Lenny met Maria a short time later, he, too, had lost a spouse. They married in 1993, and since then, they had been over to Ireland almost every year.

The occasion for this trip -- not that they ever needed one -- was the wedding of Maria's niece. Of her six brothers and sisters, Maria had been the only one to come to America...

The Day the World Came to Town. Copyright © by Jim DeFede. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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