9/11 and the Hospitable People of Gander, Newfoundland

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, our Canadian neighbors sprang into action to help clear American airspace of any other potentially dangerous flights. The action was known as Operation Yellow Ribbon, and in those uncertain first hours after the attacks, it was hugely helpful. The mission also made a tiny town in Newfoundland world-famous for its hospitality. Canadian authorities began diverting flights headed to the U.S. to various locations around Canada to help neutralize any lingering threats. The ideal landing spots for these planes had to be relatively remote, while also having a large enough airport to accommodate all the traffic. As luck would have it, Canada had just such an airport in Gander, Newfoundland. The tiny town only had 10,000 residents, but what it lacked in population, it more than made up for in airport capacity. Landing the planes in Gander was easy, but figuring out what to do with 6,700-plus passengers and crew members was a bit tougher. Gander’s population might have been small, but the town was immensely hospitable. Gander’s citizens made homemade bagged lunches to hand out as flyers stepped off their planes, and the town converted its schools and large buildings into temporary shelters. When those lodgings filled up, citizens took strangers into their own homes. Medical personnel saw patients and filled prescriptions free of charge. When the stranded passengers finally got to fly home a few days later, they couldn’t believe how wonderful their Canadian hosts had been. To thank the town for its role in helping thousands of temporary transients in the wake of the attacks, New Yorkers gifted Gander with a piece of steel from the World Trade Center's south tower in 2016. The story of Gander and its people also made its way to Broadway in early 2017 via the musical Come From Away.