The Day The World Came To Town by Jim Defede

When I announced to the daughters that I was heading off to Melbourne my youngest, the one who was a showgirl in a previous life, immediately told me that I must organise tickets for the musical Come From Away. Didn’t happen because I was too busy with Handel’s Messiah and other things.

Waiting for me on my return home was a copy of Jim Defede’s The Day The World Came To Town, the book on which the musical is based.

It recounts the real-life events that took place in Gander, Newfoundland, in the hours and days immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Hundreds of passenger planes were en route to the United States when the first of the Twin Towers went down that day. When the US Government closed the country’s airspace, those planes were diverted. Many were sent back to Europe, others to Canada. Gander, a town of around 8,000 people, took in 38 flights carrying 6,000 passengers and crew in the 24 hours immediately after the attack.

Gander’s population almost doubled overnight following one of the worst tragedies the world had ever seen.

Defede, a journalist, profiled passengers and pilots from several planes diverted to Gander. In doing so, we learn about the town mayor who declared a state of emergency, of the air traffic controllers and customs officials who safely brought in the most traffic the airport had seen in 40 years, and of all the citizens of Gander who donated clothes, toys and bedding to make the passengers feel safe and welcome. Residents found 4000 toothbrushes, clean towells, hot meals, and made the showers in their homes available to the influx of visitors who were unable to access their luggage.

In amongst the cargo were nine dogs, ten cats, and a pair of rare monkeys earmarked for a zoo also requiring constant attention. The local vet and a band of volunteers can most certainly hold their heads up high for their achievements over this period.

What a heart warming little book and a timely reminder of all that is good.

With the east coast of Australia deemed  to be in “catastrophic fire danger” today my thoughts are with the many, both in flight and in the fight. If its not drought, it’s flames, and in some of our country towns there is not enough water to even fight the fires. The air in Sydney and Brisbane is poorer in quality than in Beijing thanks to the smoke.

This morning I walked along the edge of the koala corridor just as the sun was arising. It was just wonderful to see how many of my neighbours have taken to putting bowls of water and bird feeders out for the wildlife. 

I’de love to comment on the bum fight currently happening between our pollies, scientists and the greenies, but the lesson to take from Gander is to take care of the people (and animals) first.

Hope the show comes to Brisi……

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