Kathy's Reviews > The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede
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's review
Jan 03, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: inspirational, nonfiction, newfoundland, september-11
Read in January, 2011

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this heartwarming book. Here's a little blurb from the summary: "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." I loved reading about how the people of this small community and how the passengers reacted to such an extreme and unusual circumstance and how they really went above and beyond. I still strongly remember how I felt on 9/11 when I learned about the attacks, the gradual dawning of understanding of the magnitude of what had happened, the shock, the fear, the anger. At the time I read all the newspaper articles I could and watched a lot of TV coverage, just trying to understand. Then a few months ago when it hit the 10-year anniversary I watched some of the television programs about it. I am always fascinated by the stories of people, what their first hint was that something was wrong, how they realized what had happened, how they reacted.

I actually found this book when I did a search for books about Newfoundland. My parents leave in February to serve a 2-year mission there and I hope to visit them during that time. I wanted to learn more about the area and people and this book was a good choice. The people were amazing. They jumped right in to take care of all these stranded passengers in any way they could. They set up shelters in churches and schools and many offered up their homes. They brought in all the towels, sheets, clothes, toiletries, etc that they could round up. The passengers did not have access to their checked luggage. They offered comfort and support, rides around town, and friendship. They cooked for them and watched over them in the shelters. One store offered up anything they had for free to those in need including tents, sleeping bags, toys, etc. The local pharmacist spent hours and hours on the phone working out prescriptions for passengers who needed them. The local vet and animal lovers diligently cared for the animals from the flight, which were not allowed to be released from a hangar at the airport. An employee at a school that had set up a shelter worked to find kosher meals for three Orthodox Jews that hadn't been eating. She also arranged to convert the kitchen to kosher, including acquiring new pots, pans, utensils, etc, so they could cook there. So many stories of people going above and beyond! It was really touching.

It was also interesting to hear the different stories of how people learned what had happened and reacted to it. Imagine being on a flight to the U.S. and then being told that due to an emergency in the United States all air space had been closed. One passenger describes hearing that and how the man in front of her said that he had never heard of the United States closing all its air space. He kept repeating, "Never." They couldn't imagine what it meant, what could have happened. It told of the pilots piecing together what had happened and the fear that there could be another terrorist on their plane. One couple had a son who was a firefighter in New York and the fear and uncertainty they felt the whole time as they waited for word on him.

I was tearing up through probably the majority of this book just from the intensity of all the feelings, the fear, the sadness, the enormity of the situation, and also because of the touching kindness of the people. The residents offered up all they had with such generosity and kindness and the passengers handled a difficult and confusing time in an admirable way. It's a part of the 9/11 stories that is always so inspiring, people coming together and finding strength and hope in the midst of the horror and fear.

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