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Kittiwake Economic Development Corporation

The eKubator Project

Newfoundlanders chip in to help stranded passengers.
August 24, 2001
{Author: eBerg Staff}


  In the span of a day, Gander's population temporarily doubled as one of the worst contemporary terrorist acts sent a seismic shiver across the globe.

In the wake of terrorist attacks on the United States, the FAA took extraordinary measures to ground North American flight traffic. As a result, 38 wide-bodied aircraft were grounded in Gander Tuesday carrying 6,200 passengers and 450 crew. About 3,500 of those were given accommodations in Gander while the remainder have gone to Gambo, Lewisporte, Glenwood, Grand Falls-Windsor, Appleton and Norris Arm. Some people were accommodated at camps in central Newfoundland.

Many of the grounded passengers had not known of the hideous attacks, and were, like the rest of the world, devastated to learn of the news. More were frightened. But, as a local man put it in comforting a passenger, "Don't worry, my dear, you're in Newfoundland now."

Local schools were packed to brimming with temporary residents as gyms and offices were converted to sleeping bays. Teachers worked around the clock in shifts as interpreters, couriers, consultants and chauffeurs. Video games systems were fetched for young people. A distinctly international-flavored soccer tournament was organized. Striking workers put down their pickets and focused their energies on helping out.


The passengers came from all backgrounds: a SWAT team leader from New York, a writer from Liverpool who sought pen and paper to document the experience, the Mayor of Frankfurt, Germany and the President of Best Western Hotels were all among those here. There was a cluster of families en route to Disney Land, which had in fact been closed. Two news crews from New York came to Gander to cover the situation.

On Wednesday, beneath a hospitable September sun, local coffee shops were filled with foreign tongues, clusters of people reclined in green areas and other passengers shopped for souvenirs.

The community was bustling with volunteers - and nearly everyone volunteered - scrambling to provide assistance for stranded passengers. A telephone center was set up at NewTel Communications for travelers to check in with their loved ones. E-mail was made available for those, some of whom were expected to be in New York, could communicate with loved ones. Car dealerships formed assembly lines to make sandwiches. Businesses and offices teamed up to prepare meals and donate bedding and blood. The grocery stores provided food. Community groups cooked meals. People invited those stranded into their homes.

There were also stories of animals, among them dogs, cats and apes, stranded, as were their owners.

Beneath a terrible shadow cast be a terrible act, people worked to restore some semblance of comfort and order in a decidedly unsettling situation.

Many of those stranded, fascinated with the culture and beauty of the area, have intoned they will return, under more pleasant experiences.

Newfoundlanders had shown their heart, far from where smoke billowed, tears poured and the whine of sirens rolled across the republic. No less was expected from a people famous for their hospitality and perhaps more famous for their compassion.