All three of our kids were at sleep-away camp for the past month, which was a first for us. A great, but weird, first! Our time “off” was bracketed by the absolutely amazing story of Come From Away. One of the first nights after the kids left, we saw the show on Broadway (Broadway show web site here, Wikipedia entry about the musical and story synopsis here). Then the last night before they came home, we saw Tom Brokaw’s ~45 minute documentary, entitled Operation Yellow Ribbon, which you can get to here or below.
Come From Away is an amazing edge story to 9/11 that I’d never heard of before. It’s hard to believe there’s a 9/11 story that is this positive, funny, and incredibly heart-warming that isn’t better known. But thanks to the show, it is starting to be. It’s the story of the small town Gander in Newfoundland to which a large number of US-bound flights were diverted after the planes hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It’s the story of how a town of 9,000 people warmly absorbed over 7,000 stranded and upset passengers for 4-5 days before North American air traffic was flowing again following the attacks.
We were both on the edge of our seats for the entire 2 hour (with no intermission) show and were incredibly choked up the whole time…and had a hard time talking for a few minutes after. I’m sure for us, some of that is wrapped up in personal connection to 9/11, as our apartment was only 7 blocks north of the World Trade Center with a clear, 35th floor view of the site, and all that came with that. We didn’t lose anyone close to us in the attacks, but we knew dozens of second degree people lost; I had worked in one of the smaller World Trade Center buildings for a couple years earlier in my career; our neighborhood felt a bit like a military zone for a few weeks after the attacks; and we saw and smelled the smoke emanating from the site through Christmas of that year.
After seeing the show, we researched it a bit and found out just how close to real the portrayal was. So we watched the documentary. I always have a great association with Brokaw’s voice as the calm voice of objective but empathic journalism. He does such a great job of, to paraphrase him from the documentary, showing the juxtaposition of humanity at its darkest moment and its opposite.
Both the show and the documentary are worth watching, and I’m not sure the order of the two matters. But whatever order you take them in, put both on your list, even if you weren’t a New Yorker on 9/11.