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The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

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Perfect for fans of the hit Broadway musical Come from Away.
When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill. As the passengers stepped from the airplanes, exhausted, hungry and distraught after being held on board for nearly 24 hours while security checked all of the baggage, they were greeted with a feast prepared by the townspeople. Local bus drivers who had been on strike came off the picket lines to transport the passengers to the various shelters set up in local schools and churches. Linens and toiletries were bought and donated. A middle school provided showers, as well as access to computers, email, and televisions, allowing the passengers to stay in touch with family and follow the news.

Over the course of those four days, many of the passengers developed friendships with Gander residents that they expect to last a lifetime. As a show of thanks, scholarship funds for the children of Gander have been formed and donations have been made to provide new computers for the schools. This book recounts the inspiring story of the residents of Gander, Canada, whose acts of kindness have touched the lives of thousands of people and been an example of humanity and goodwill.

256 pages, Paperback

First published September 3, 2002

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Jim DeFede

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,206 reviews
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,191 followers
February 1, 2021
I wanted to read an uplifting book and it might seem contrary to that to read a book which opens on 9/11, that horrific day. I had heard about this place Gander, Newfoundland and the generosity of the people there to the approximately 6,600 people who landed there from 38 planes, when American air space was closed after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. I knew that this would most definitely be the uplifting story I was looking for. It’s about the kindness and generosity and beautiful humanity that was present that day, and the days after, when the people there opened up their town, their homes and their hearts to so many stranded so far from home. While “more than 250 aircraft, carrying 43,895 people were diverted to fifteen Canadian airports” this is the story of just one of the places in Canada.

It’s a story of the events, of the passengers and of the numerous people in Gander, who under circumstances that were staggering, managed in a very short period of time to set up shelters in churches and schools, who fed and offered clothing and diapers, lent their phones and computers, their showers and their towels, open their homes and most of all friendship to complete strangers. It’s the story of so many heroes beginning with the air traffic controllers who on a moment’s notice had to manage the air space and land these planes, to the women of the town who stayed up through the early morning hours washing towels, to the restaurant owners and store owners who provided food and necessities. It’s also the story of some of the passengers, a German mayor, a corporate executive, two sets of parents and their newly adopted children on their trip home, a worried family whose son was a firefighter in New York City, a group of Moldavian refugees, and so many others.

How does a town of 10,000 people welcome and accommodate 6,600 stranded people from the world over ? With generosity that knows no bounds. I’m uplifted. I’m in awe of these beautiful souls in Gander. I know that there is a musical “Come From Away” about these events and this place and these lovely people. I hope I can see it one day. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for something to soothe your soul, to restore your faith in humanity during these difficult times.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,992 followers
October 22, 2019
Every year, around September, I start to refresh my memory of the stories of 9/11. Whether it is reading books (this year I read 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers), shows on TV about the events of that day, or reading articles online. While I was doing some of that this year I turned to my wife and asked if she heard about the story of the city in Canada where all the incoming planes from Europe had to land? A few years ago, one of the shows I watched about 9/11 discussed the city, but I hadn’t heard much more about it since then. She hadn’t, but thought it sounded interesting.

Now, this is where it gets a bit eerie. Every year for Christmas, my in-laws give us a subscription to the Broadway series – a series of shows that are travelling around the United States straight off Broadway. Usually there is one big anchor show for the subscription (this year it is Hamilton), maybe a classic or two (this year its Cats), but there are always one or two lesser known, more obscure shows. The day after the discussion with my wife about the city in Canada, I was looking through the description of one of the shows I had never heard of:

Come from Away is a Canadian musical . . . It is set in the week following the September 11 attacks and tells the true story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon. The characters in the musical are based on (and in most cases share the names of) real Gander residents as well as some of the 7,000 stranded travelers they housed and fed.” (Wikipedia)

What were the chances!? I go from asking my wife if she has ever heard about this 9/11 story I last heard about almost a decade ago to finding out we are going to see a musical on it!?

And then . . . as I am finding audiobooks for my vacation a couple of weeks ago, I run across The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland. Well, you know I had to get it! Seems I am destined to revisit this story this year.

It is not a long story, and the heroes in it do what you hope any good person would do, but it is amazing the impact the simple gestures of a small community can mean to hundreds of suddenly displaced and frightened airline passengers; forced to land in a country that is not their own with no idea exactly what is going on or when they might finally make it to their destinations. And, while it might seem like common sense that human nature would be towards kindness and compassion, hearing these stories and finding out how amazed the people were that they would be treated so well shows how we may not have been going in the best direction as a society and maybe Gander’s selfless approach to the situation shows us a bit of how we should all try and be.

This is a fantastic and heart-warming story. If you are interested in learning more about 9/11 but the stories of the twin towers, terrorism, etc. are hard to stomach, try The Day the World Came to Town. It should only take a few hours to read, but it has some of the most important messages from that fateful day.
Profile Image for Lori.
371 reviews439 followers
September 11, 2019
On 9/11 thousands of passengers from thirty-eight international flights were stranded in Gander, Newfoundland. Unable to get off their planes for many hours, hungry and uncomfortable and with babies crying, these people, once allowed to disembark, were welcomed with open arms and generous hearts by the citizens of Gander and surrounding towns. People who on the surface had nothing in common had their lives entwined and became close.

One stranded couple DeFede follows had a family member who was thought to be at the Trade Center. For days they were unable to get information about their loved one but their hosts in Gander never stopped trying and ultimately succeeded in learning his fate. The animals stowed in cargo were treated with tender loving care. Some inhabitants turned their entire houses over to passengers, with instructions to take what they wanted and just close the door on their way out. In this small town solutions were found and accommodations made for an Orthodox Jew and a number of passengers who spoke no English.

The author does a very good job of juggling many different stories and locations. DeFede's book shines a light on the best of humanity during the darkest of times.
Profile Image for Kristyn Dayton.
47 reviews4 followers
January 16, 2023
Oh. My. God.

Everyone should read this book. No, seriously. DeFede is such a fantastic journalist and a fantastic writer. As someone who personally leans more toward fiction than nonfiction, I don't think I could have read this entire book without someone like DeFede weaving creativity and passion throughout the pages. A+ job, man.

Aside from the fact that it was a quick and simple read (I read it in a matter of hours while sitting at my desk at work), the story itself is pretty damn unbelievable and SO inspirational. It almost feels as though it could be made into one of those made-for-TV movies that has you embarrassingly wiping tears away as you have to sternly remind yourself that it's just a movie and that the characters aren't real. The catch is this: it's a true goddamn story. And the characters are more real than you could ever hope for.

I'll probably re-read this book again and again in the future - with a message this enlightening and beautiful, I wouldn't expect any less.
Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
September 18, 2019
On 9/11/2001 I was working in the basement of ACT doing data entry work. Word got out that there was an attack in New York and even though we were in Iowa, anyone who wanted to go home, could. I have a photo of my mom on the ferry to Ellis Island and the Twin Towers in the background that was taken on a family vacation in 1994, our first trip there since my grandparents moved to Florida in 1981. I have a cousin who worked as a volunteer firefighter, and both my grandmother and my great aunt did not feel safe until they knew that he was safe. As someone with a huge imagination, after 9/11 I haven’t flown much in the last eighteen years and still get nervous if an immediate family member is in the air, even if the statistics show that it’s safer than driving. What lead me to read The Day The World Came to Town is a poster on the bulletin board at my grocery store advertising the Broadway musical that has indeed come to town. What has been labeled a heart warming tale with no violence, I decided to honor 9/11 by reading journalist Jim DeFede’s book.

With United States airspace closed for the foreseeable future, planes from all over the world were diverted to Canada. Gander, Newfoundland had been home to a military air strip and had long been a refueling stop for planes before jets modernized, eliminating the need for fuel stops. Gander’s airport was the closest one for European planes to land at, and before the close of the day, 36 jets would touch down at Gander International Airport. An island province and a city with less than 10,000 residents, Gander would house nearly 6,600 people and hundreds of pets over the course of the week. Pilots and flight personnel would call the town’s hotels homes, and countless churches, schools, legion halls, camp grounds, and private homes would open their doors to the stranded passengers. DeFede tells the story of humanity’s propensity to do good unto their fellow person in a heartwarming tale that I read in one day. Other than the mention of the planes crashing into the towers and the President’s address to the nation, there was no violence in this book, only goodness. Here are some stories that stand out:

•SPCA workers and town veterinarian moving pets and two bonobo monkeys from the bellies of twelve planes into an airport hangar and caring for them around the clock. Because of their tender loving care, all the animals on board planes survived.

•High school principal Eithne Smith providing kosher food for stranded religious Jewish passengers and opening the school for them so that they could observe the sabbath. In a moving moment, a rabbi from London met with a Gander resident who had lived as a hidden Jew for nearly his entire life. This passage moved me to tears.

•Catholic church parishioners lead by Beulah Cooper and Tom Mercer opening their doors and homes to stranded Aer Lingus passengers, showing compassion to Dennis and Hannah O’Donohue, whose son Kevin was among the NY firefighters assigned to cover the Twin Towers. Every time the narrative turned to Hannah I needed to have tissues near by.

•Clark and Roxanne Loper of Alto, Texas had traveled to Almaty, Kazakhstan to adopt a two year old girl named Alexandria. Their travels took them away from their one year old named Samantha, also adopted from Kazakhstan, for nearly three weeks. Gander residents went out of their way to make sure that the Lopers and two other families on the way home from adopting children had everything they needed for the week, especially as these children had to adapt to new surroundings.

In all, the World Came to Gander for six days before all the planes and their passengers were able to return home. Volunteers gave their time, homes, food, clothing, and smiling faces. They threw children a Disney themed birthday party, drove hours to bring a fashionista fresh undergarments, and gave something of themselves with nothing asked for in return. Over the week, they asked passengers to kiss a codfish to become honorary Newfies, but asked for zero monetary compensation from these passengers stranded from all over the world. These newly forged friendships in some cases have endured and all are examples of compassion that is a trademark of Newfoundland. I still do not enjoy flying and may never see the musical, but The Day the World Came to Town is an example of people doing unto others only what they would do for themselves and highlights all that is good in the world.

4+ heartwarming stars
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,152 reviews59 followers
July 6, 2023
As the events of 9/11 unfolded and American airspace was closed, incoming flights were forced to turn around or be diverted to Canada. Strategically located, Gander, Newfoundland welcomed 38 planes and nearly 6,700 travelers to a town of just over 10,000 people.

The resulting ripple effect of those diverted flights created many potential mini-crises that the quick-thinking and quick-acting citizens of Gander worked hard to abate. Residents of Gander and the surrounding areas stepped up to help in any way they could, offering their household goods, clothing, cars, homes, time, and money. Hearing about all the ways people mobilized to support the stranded travelers warmed heart and soul and reminded me of the genuine goodness in people. Newfies are characterized as the neighbors and friends next door we'd all like to have, and we were and are truly blessed to have them as our neighbors and friends to the North.

I could see how some would find this writing disjointed, but I found the content so interesting that it didn't bother me so much. The narrator often sounded like Tom Hanks which also helped distract me from any flaws in style or technique. A comforting read that brings rays of light to contrast with the darkness of 9/11.
Profile Image for Cindy (BKind2Books).
1,598 reviews35 followers
April 5, 2014
Read as a Bookcrossing bookring.

The only thing that kept me from rating this higher was the lack (?) of proofreading and fact checking. I can only assume that since this was published days before the one year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America that there was a rush to get this on the booksellers' shelves.

Examples (some, at least in my eyes, very glaring):

- the author discusses the Gander tragedy that occurred in December 1985. This involved the members of the 101st Airborne, headquartered since the 40s at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. How do I know? Well, I work at Fort Campbell. It sits on the Tennessee-Kentucky border. I pass the Gander memorial on Ft Campbell. I see the Gander Memorial bridge on my way home. Every December there is a ceremony to honor these men. So when the author states that they were returning home to North Carolina for Christmas - I think not!

- the author states that a person needs a prescription to obtain nicotine patches in the US but that they are OTC (over the counter) in Canada. Not so. I am a pharmacist. They are OTC and have been OTC in the US since 1999.

- the author also spoke of the problems with identifying drugs and named a drug called Atenol, a blood pressure medication. There is no drug called Atenol in either Canada or the US - it's called Atenolol. A quick search of my database found that only Italy and Brazil call it Atenol.

- the author spoke of Boze headphones they'd taken from the plane; if these are the ones I'm thinking of, the company is called Bose, not Boze.

- the author also speaks of a warrant officer school in Dothan, Alabama at a Fort Rutger - wrong! The Army post is called Fort RUCKER.

All in all, it speaks of sloppy work and if this is what I see, how much don't I see?

Ok, now that I am off my rant. I liked this book - I liked it a lot. The story was heart-warming and needed to be told. When the terrorists attacked America, this small corner of Canada opened their hearts to folks that had been displaced. A town that numbered only about 10,000 took in over 6,000 people of all backgrounds and nationalities and welcomed them and made them feel a part of their community. Against the backdrop of the horrible terrorist attacks, it was important to see that people could be good and kind. Gander is the Mayberry of Canada - a place where people don't lock their doors and welcome total strangers into their homes to rest or take a shower or have a cup of tea.

I also found many items that reflect those "6 degrees of separation" that we all hear of so many times. There were things that popped up that mentioned those I knew or had a connection to in some way. My connections:

The general that was mentioned in the book came from US European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. My husband's last assignment before retiring was at USEUCOM in Stuttgart. We were stationed there from 1992 to 1994.

The general mentions later in the book that she counted several friends among the dead at the Pentagon, including Lt Gen Timothy Maude, the highest ranking officer killed on 9/11. General Maude was my husband's commanding general at US EUCOM while we were stationed in Germany. He truly cared for the men and women under his command and his marker at Arlington reads "He took care of soldiers". I am sure he would think there was no higher praise.

Of course, as I mentioned above, I work at Fort Campbell, the home of the 101st Airborne. Fort Campbell is also home to the 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) and the 5th Special Forces. These men and women have served our nation from D-day to Korea to Vietnam to the Gulf War and beyond. They are the men and women of Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest and Black Hawk Down. They are also the pilots that flew in Seal Team Six when they found Osama bin Laden. They are also the soldiers that perished in the Gander disaster - coming home from a peacekeeping assignment in the Middle East. The widows of these soldiers are still living in our community and we honor their sacrifice every December. It was nice to read of the memorial that the people of Gander erected in their memory.
Profile Image for Blaine DeSantis.
923 reviews118 followers
July 13, 2017
What a wonderful book that tells the story of the town of Gander, Newfoundland when over 30 planes were diverted to this remote area on 9/11. The book garners these stars not so much for the quality of the writing, but rather for the people and acts of humanity that town provided to over 6,000 passengers and crew that were forced to land there when US airspace was closed. We follow a few main passengers, a lot of the townfolk and a whole lot of compassion that this area of Canada was able to give (at no cost) to these unfortunate people whose lives were put on hold that day and for almost 6 days thereafter.
It is a quick read and I wish there was even a more recent update as to the people involved and the friendships that were made both among the passengers, as well as among those kind kind people of Newfoundland.
This is was humanity is all about, this is what makes us have faith in society. It is not governments or corporations, but rather the acts of kindness and love that were displayed at a time of great distress and how so few people could touch the lives of so very many passengers.
Great story and a definite read for all who want an uplifting book!
Profile Image for Brandice.
913 reviews
September 5, 2022
On a day you wish had never happened, despite unimaginable tragedy, it is touching to hear the stories of strangers who came together to help each other, from NY to PA to DC, and in Canada — The Day the World Came to Town follows the small town of Gander in Newfoundland, where 38 planes traveling to the US were forced to land on 9/11 when the US closed its airspace following the terrorist attacks. 6,132 passengers, not counting pilots and flight crews, unexpectedly found themselves in Newfoundland.

This is the story of Gander uniting to help others — Schools setting up shelters, residents donating spare bedding and clothes for those who were now “stranded” and without access to their luggage, stores donating toiletries to makeshift shelters, bus drivers who at the time, had been on strike and set their grievances aside to assist with transportation. Many Gander residents also offered the use of their home showers and their cars or offered to give rides around town to their new temporary guest residents. It was a community offering endless kindness in a time of fear and uncertainty.
Profile Image for Angela.
190 reviews1 follower
January 15, 2016
Great topic and the people of Gander were heroic and amazing, but I did not care for the way this book was written. It was choppy and just never seemed pulled together. i would have rather read a few stories all the way through. I also think this book was just redundant and would have made a better magazine article than a book. It just seemed a bit superficial (not profound or thorough, really just grazed the surface). But I have never really heard much about what happened to all of the diverted planes so that was interesting to me.
Profile Image for Stacey B.
321 reviews83 followers
March 24, 2023

I loved this book for the emotions and reactions the author made me feel.
From the moment the pilot announced there was an airspace problem, to what would possibly be his short term plan, and nothing more than that- I began living it.
On the morning of 9/11 the United States was struck by terror in NYC.
Totally shocked and shaken people watched this nightmare unfold for days as they noticed our country would be changing at this point.
Within that change came an empathy and a genuine kindness from all over the world. Yet being in the air there were different sets of fears.
Newfoundland happened to be the closest country outside North America . When airspace was shut down, Canada immediately made sure that US planes would be protected in potentially dangerous airspace by allowing planes to land in Gander, Newfoundland, which would be a total of 38 planes.
There was an article of stats showing if you break down the number of planes, it equals about 6,500 people.
With short notice, the people of Gander would be playing host to 38 planes that were on their way for an unknown period of time.
But playing the role of hosts was never a question.
The question was how fast they could execute what was needed... Deciding in priority order, all necessary arrangements needed and planned to making their new guests feel secure and welcome under somber and unknown circumstances.
The surprise came when relationships were formed, friendships cultivated, and no lack of understanding to specific needs of their guests.
Gander, in its own right is filled with very proud and accomplished people.
Written with humanity and humility, the book is a must read. This was also part of the inspiration for the Broadway play "Come From Away"- which was great. This play was filmed and shown on television free of charge to anyone during covid, to make a point.
"Nothing in life is permanent" - they say.
Decades later, 20 yrs ago since 9/11, the acts of goodness in humanity changed once again.
Profile Image for Anne .
455 reviews376 followers
January 2, 2022
If you need something to make you believe (again) that there are good, kind and generous people in this world read this book. Inside it's covers is an uplifting and incredible story about the 38 planeloads of passengers (6,600 people) who had to be diverted to the very tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland after the events of 9/11. It is also very much about their hosts, the citizens of Gander who made every person feel comfortable and welcome.

With 6,600 passengers from international flights you can imagine the level of diversity amongst these people. For me, some of the most moving parts of this book were about a couple of these people and their experience in Gander. Another fabulous story was about the men's fashion designer who bought some new underwear at Walmarts. What happens after that is both funny and moving.

There are many reviews which go into more detail about this book so there is no reason for me to write more. Plus, I recommend reading it without knowing much more. This is a short book which I finished in less than a day. A perfect start to the new year.
Profile Image for Dana Stabenow.
Author 99 books1,954 followers
June 16, 2022
Okay, let me give the consumer warning up front--do not attempt to read this book without a box of Kleenex on standby. There. Got it? Good.

I saw "Come From Away" in NYC last month, the musical about the 38 planes that were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11, and I immediately googled to see if there was a book about it. There is, this one, although it's missing some of the stories the playwrights found in their series of interviews on which they based the play (in particular the story of Captain Beverley Bass who is mentioned only in passing here. Bet DeFede was mad at himself for missing that.). It is still an amazing story, and you end it hoping that if your community is ever called upon in such a crisis that you and it will respond even half as well.

The gist is this: The US instituted a full ground stop after the 9/11 attacks and refused to let any aircraft into the U.S. This meant that literally hundreds of airplanes already en route had to land somewhere else. Thirty-eight aircraft landed in Gander with almost 7,000 people from 97 countries on board. Gander has a population of 10,000, and it sounds like every single citizen, along with the people of all the surrounding, much smaller towns as well, threw open the doors to the strandees.

When I say doors I mean not only the emergency shelters put together at local churches and Salvation Army buildings and schools, I mean their own homes. The "plane people," as they were called by the locals ("Hey, are you the plane people?" Ganderites would shout out from their cars, and would immediately offer the walkers a ride to wherever they were going, Walmart, the pub, the Arrow Air memorial, which image is on the cover of this book) were offered the use of showers and shelters and beds and the kids got toys and the ones with birthdays while they were on the ground got a party and presents. Schools in every community were shut down so the plane people could use the showers and the kitchens and the computers and phones to call and email loved ones, most of whom had no idea where they were. Of course, some of the plane people didn't know where they were, either.

A volunteer had taped a large map of the world to the wall and with a crude red marker drew an arrow pointing to Gander. YOU ARE HERE, the volunteer wrote on the map. Exhausted passengers would stop and stare at the map for several minutes, trying to regain their bearings.

It wasn't just the people, it was the businesses, too.

The local Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway sandwich outlets, as well as the local pizza joints, sent carloads of food to the airport on Tuesday and Wednesday to help feed the passengers stranded on the planes...Newtel, the telephone company for Newfoundland, set up a long bank of tables on the sidewalk in front of its offices and filled them with telephones so passengers could make free long-distance phone calls to their families...Rogers Communications, which provides cable-television service to Gander and the surrounding area, made sure every shelter had cable television so the passengers could watch CNN and the other round-the-clock news stations.

Not forgetting that the local hockey rink did duty as a walk-on refrigerator. The local pharmacies banded together and

In the first twenty-four hours...filled more than a thousand prescriptions. All at no cost to the passengers.

More stories like this one are on every single page. One stranded passenger told one of the Canadians "how wonderful everyone in town had been. It made her feel part of a family."

We're all Americans tonight," replied McKeage.

Kleenex. Lots of it.

And if you get a chance, see "Come From Away." You will laugh and yep, you will cry, and it will have been so worth it.
February 20, 2020
My goodness, imagine what the world would be like if all people took care of each other the way the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland took care of grounded air passengers on 9/11/01. Sure helped to restore my faith in humanity, which takes a beating after reading world news nowadays. I wish there was a follow-up book, so I could learn what happened to the passengers after they left Gander. I’ll bet some of them returned; it seems like such a wonderful place that I want to go there myself someday!
Profile Image for Barbara.
286 reviews246 followers
November 24, 2019
Such an uplifting story born of such a horrific event. This is an affirmation of human kindness and generosity - much needed and appreciated.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
May 11, 2021
The beauty of this book is that it captures the good that does exist in man. The news predominantly tells us of the bad. Hearing constantly about the bad, certainly does not make us better. Hearing about good people does! They set an example. They warm our hearts. They give a person the necessary extra little “umpf” to go on. I needed this book now. It is important books such as this exist.

This is a book of oral history, researched and written shortly after 9/11. It takes talent, albeit of a particular type, to create a winner book of oral history. Extensive research must be carried out. Check—this has been done here. The author must decide which of the interviewees’ stories to include and which to discard, the background information to be added and how the selected components should be arranged. Check, check, check—all of this has been executed with finesse. Information is clearly expressed. The difficult and sad have been properly balanced with the humorous, uplifting and glad. One’s heart goes out to those suffering after 9/11 AND one rejoices in the generosity and kindness showered on passengers by the people of Gander, Newfoundland.

With the closing of the US airspace following 9/11, thirty-eight jetliners were directed toward Gander International Airport. Six thousand eight hundred passengers and crew landed—the population jumped from ten thousand three hundred to over seventeen thousand. Stop, look at the size of that increase, think about what this increase means in terms of providing food, a place to sleep, the requisite care for the elderly, infants, the infirm and animals onboard. Consider the telecommunication facilities required. Ground transport of the passengers had to coped with. There was at this time a bus driver strike in progress. To help the stranded, it was cancelled.

The author gives us the personal stories of the passengers on the airplanes. All sorts of different people landed. No two stories are the same. Here follow examples of the wide variety of passengers onboard--couples returning home with newly adopted orphans, a mother of a missing Twin Tower firefighter, a New York state trooper, a high up CIA officer, the Beatle Boy singers, an orthodox rabbi, a young woman treated for ovarian cancer, a group of Moldovan immigrants, Werner Baldessarini the chairman of Hugo Boss, a representative of the Rockefeller Foundation and, I finish my list off with an elderly man born in Newfoundland, absolutely thrilled to revisit his homeland. These and others speak of how the people of Gander welcomed them, took them in, did their very utmost to help them. They were generous with their time, with their labor and their heartfelt understanding of the passengers’ worries. Financial costs were never an issue. The stories relating what the people of Gander gave of their heart, their time and physical labor is the beauty of this book.

The narration of the audiobook by Ray Porter is very well done. He captures the mood of each moment. His words are simple to distinguish.

Four stars for both the book and the audio narration. Don’t miss this book. You will be surprised; it is much better than you think. It makes you happy to be human.
Profile Image for Brendan.
56 reviews6 followers
May 19, 2019
This book was a painful read. The writing was like a talentless middle schooler's work, full of cliche, absolutely shallow. If the events it was describing weren't so inherently interesting I'm not sure I could have finished it.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
March 5, 2021
3+ Stars.

September 11, 2001 - 38 planes of people landed in Gander, Newfoundland.

All the news coverage repeatedly showing the nightmare of 9-11 and not once did I see or remember anything about Gander and "the nicest people in the world." If you must be stranded somewhere, Gander is the place to be.

So many personal stories of interest are depicted here as the passengers and animals are welcomed with open arms and hearts after long 24 hour wait times on board.

These people are a wonder!!!

Profile Image for Darla.
3,518 reviews619 followers
August 24, 2021
Thank you, Ray Porter, for so expertly narrating this engaging and inspiring story about the role Newfoundland played in providing shelter for thousands of passengers, crew members, and even a few animals after the 9/11 attack. I have heard bits and pieces about these flights over the years and kept putting off reading the book. Now that we are almost to the 20th anniversary, I checked out the audio book. It was amazing! Jim DeFede captures the breadth and diversity of the people involved along with the huge heart of the Newfies. There are stories that will make you laugh and make you cry. I highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Kelli.
851 reviews403 followers
December 6, 2019
A few friends saw and raved about Come from Away at the Boston Opera House. I had never heard the story of Gander, which makes sense, I suppose. This book was pretty typical in structure but for the people of Newfoundland...5 billion stars. It’s hard to believe it’s been eighteen years. Never forget.
Profile Image for Joy D.
2,070 reviews241 followers
September 11, 2021
Story of compassion, hospitality, friendship extended by the residents of Gander, Newfoundland to the crew and passengers of 38 aircraft diverted from their destinations during the 9/11 tragedy when US airspace was closed. It is amazing the number of details that had to be addressed – just getting over six thousand extra people housed and fed was a massive task. As time passed additional needs became evident – animals in the cargo holds, people with religious-based diets, specific medication requirements, and communications with people from many countries.

The narrative focuses on a small number of personal circumstances. It recounts vignettes from interviews the author conducted. It could have used a map and a few more photos. The writing is only passable. I particularly enjoyed the Epilogue that provides updates. It is nice to read about the best of human nature shining through in a crisis of major proportions.

Profile Image for Paul Haspel.
563 reviews82 followers
September 11, 2023
The day's name alone is enough to bring back memories of the pain and grief and fear we felt, to reopen old wounds. Tuesday, September 11, 2001. September 11th. 9/11. For all of us who were alive that day, and are old enough to remember it, each anniversary brings back painful memories, even for those of us who were lucky enough not to lose a friend or loved one in the 9/11 attacks. The memories of 9/11 are so grim, so disheartening, that it might seem impossible that someone could write a 9/11 book that could be described as inspiring; but Jim DeFede achieves that seemingly impossible task in The Day the World Came to Town.

The main action of DeFede's book takes place in a locale that seems worlds away from Ground Zero, or the Pentagon, or Shanksville. As the book's subtitle indicates, DeFede's focus is on 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland. That small city (population 11,688, according to Statistics Canada 2016) has always been an isolated place, even amidst the vastness of the Canadian landscape; indeed, Newfoundland itself is so isolated that it did not officially become part of Canada until 1949. As DeFede tells it, Gander had come into its greatest prominence in the early years of the aviation era, when smaller fuel capacities meant that transatlantic flights used Gander as a jumping-off point for eastbound trips across the pond. But as planes and their fuel tanks grew larger, Gander became less important in aviation terms, and the city largely faded from the public consciousness -- until 9/11.

The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by suicide hijackers using jet planes as weapons. In response, for the first time in American history, the airspace over the United States of America was closed. U.S.-bound flights from Europe therefore had to either turn back or land somewhere else in North America. The overwhelming majority of crews of those flights chose to continue their flights, and were rerouted to Gander. Over 40 planes, with more than 6,000 people, were suddenly on their way to a place that many of those people had probably never heard of.

What happened then was a not-so-small miracle -- something that remains a truly inspiring example of the goodness and kindness of ordinary people. Air traffic controllers and customs officials handled with grace and aplomb the Herculean task of accommodating all those airplanes and their passengers. Ordinary citizens of Gander opened their doors and invited passengers from the planes into their homes -- made sure the displaced travelers had a place to take a shower, a hot meal, a place to sleep. Birthday parties were thrown for children whose holiday plans had been cancelled. Stores donated food, clothing, and incidentals. Prescriptions were filled by Gander pharmacists, free of charge. Terrified pets were taken from the holds of planes, where many would no doubt have died, and were given safe shelter. Every good thing that could be done for those who were tired and frightened was done. As DeFede puts it, quite simply, "There was nothing the passengers needed that the people in town weren't prepared to provide" (169).

In response to the cruelty of the acts carried out by the hijackers on 9/11, the actions of the good people of Gander provide strong evidence that what is good in human nature will in the long run prevail. Newfoundlanders and other citizens of Canada may read this book with particular (and justifiable) pride; DeFede quotes Gander's town constable as saying, "A Newfoundlander likes to put his arm around a person and say, 'It's going to be all right. I'm here. It's going to be okay. We're your friend. We're your buddy. We've got you.' That's the way it's always been. That's the way it always will be. And that's the way it was on September eleventh" (p. 5). At the same time, its themes are universal.

Going over this review more than 20 years after the 9/11 attacks, I recall how, after September 11th, we all found ourselves waiting for the other shoe to drop -- for a September 12th, or a September 13th. Indeed, we all know that inevitably, someday, fanatics motivated by some violent ideology or other will perpetrate, somewhere in the world, some mass attack that will claim many innocent lives. We will mourn those who died, and we will try to make sure that those responsible are brought to justice.

But what I want to focus on here is the idea that something else will happen. Nice, ordinary people like the people of Gander, Newfoundland -- not rich, not famous, just good ordinary people -- will quietly, unobtrusively, gather and assemble and start offering help to the people who need it. They will not make a big deal of it; they will not ask to be thanked. They will simply act with kindness and compassion, doing good on behalf of others because it is the right thing to do.

DeFede captures this theme so well that I find The Day the World Came to Town to be one of the most important books I have ever read.
Profile Image for Jonathan K (Max Outlier).
644 reviews130 followers
April 15, 2021
While I prefer fiction, it's true stories like this that restore faith in the human spirit. Amid one of the worst tragedies in history, the people of a town in Newfoundland shine as they embrace forlorn air travelers forced to land there. As literature goes its no masterpiece, but it's the facts that matter most. Every chapter evokes introspection, joy and faith in humanity. It's no wonder a Broadway play resulted!
Profile Image for Jim.
371 reviews91 followers
March 3, 2018
No one had to sell me on the character of the Newfies. I served with a good many since they join the military in numbers all out of proportion to what the population of their province might suggest. They do absolutely nothing to dispel the popular conception that Canadians are a bunch of amiable bumpkins. They are a breed apart, friendly and unpretentious, and their generosity in welcoming the passengers of diverted aircraft after the attack on the WTC is truly remarkable. Where others might have sought to profit from the stranded passengers, the people of Gander threw open the stores and pantries to make the best of a bad situation.

Jim DeFede's book is an easy read, chronicling the extent of Newfie generosity and outlining the plight of the passengers through several story lines following different stranded people through the ordeal. He provides some follow-up on these characters toward the end of the book. There are photographs of the principal characters, but in the copy I read these were small and grainy. When did the world get away from glossy pages for photographs? And why so small? The book reads something like a "Reader's Digest" story, truncated and a bit rushed, as I guess a human interest story would be.

I can't read something like this without much shaking of the head at the human race. Imagine trying to run a disaster response in which much of the air traffic destined for the USA is suddenly dumped in your lap. Just picture the turmoil involved in sorting that mass of humanity out, when your top cop gets a call from a law enforcement agent in the states who wants you to find her sister and give her a hug! Or the woman who called a shelter on an hourly basis to see if her son was back yet.

Probably a 3 1/2 star read, rounded up to four because it has Newfies in it!
Profile Image for Jocelyn Green.
Author 31 books1,316 followers
September 15, 2019
I needed this. The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede tells the story of how a town of 10,000 Canadians rallied around more than 6000 strangers whose flights were redirected to their town when airspace closed over America on Sept. 11, 2001. This is the true story of neighbors being neighborly, going above and beyond, and proving there is still goodness in the world. I found this little volume very cathartic and life-giving.
Profile Image for Martine.
178 reviews50 followers
January 10, 2023
Having just seen the Broadway musical Come From Away, which I absolutely loved, I wanted to learn more about this historic moment. The musical brought me to tears and I felt great pride in my fellow Canadians. Reading this beautiful story made me feel that and more, many times over. Lots of interesting facts and anecdotes. A tense, heartwarming and at times, funny read. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Carmel Hanes.
Author 1 book136 followers
March 14, 2021
It's been a tough year. A year when I've said repeatedly, "I've never seen the like." A pandemic, social justice unrest and demonstrations, a devastating ice storm in our city, devastating fires nearby, political dissension and violence, economies shutting down...the list seems endless. It's been a time where hope appears anorexic, shrinking before my eyes.

And then there's Gander. And 911. And hope just got an I-V infusion that plumped her right up. I love Canadians. I already knew that, having visited Canada a number of times; having been on the receiving end of their generosity and friendliness. But this book...oh, my.

This book captures the unparalleled kindness a small town extended to those in need, to those stranded, to those enduring the hardship of being grounded far from home when the towers fell. What most impressed me was how quickly and thoroughly they anticipated the many needs that would occur, and responded when something unexpected came up. What delighted me was how selflessly they gave what they had...towels, blankets, food, showers, a place to sit quietly, medication, underwear, toothbrushes, baby formula, rides, conversation, company, hugs. What gives me hope is the dividing line between those who deliberately flew into the towers and those who deliberately offered a hand up. I want to believe there are more of the latter in this world. I want to believe when the outside world appears to be metaphorically cannibalizing each other, we can still pull together when we need to, to create a greater good, to support and help each other in times of need. What I want to believe is you don't have to be Canadian to make this happen...but bless them for their fabulous example.

I finished this book thinking...."I've never seen the like.", but this time it felt magical and satisfying. And just what I needed.
Profile Image for Judith E.
571 reviews195 followers
September 25, 2021
On September 11, 2001, 38 airplanes in the midst of international flights were diverted to the Gander, Newfoundland airport and landed within hours. The city of Gander and a few neighboring communities absorbed 6,600 passengers and crews for 5 days. A Herculean feat for air traffic controllers and the population of Gander.

This is an anecdotal account of the the kindness and generosity of the Canadian citizens who without question took passengers into their homes, fed them, transported them, and entertained them. I’m taking it as a positive sign for humanity.

An easy audible listen with straightforward writing, although the event was anything but.

8/21 Listened for the second time with hubby on a road trip. Just as easy and engaging as the first time.
Profile Image for Lynn.
900 reviews131 followers
July 19, 2019
4.5 stars rounded up.

On 9/11/01, after four commercial planes were used as weapons by terrorists and were crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, the airspace over the US was shut down. Planes already in the air had to find the nearest airport and land. Immediately. Planes coming in from other countries were redirected to Canadian airports. 38 planes landed at a small airport in Gander, Newfoundland, depositing 6,597 people in a town that had barely 10,000 people.

When the townspeople realized what was happening, they immediately welcomed and cared for the passengers and crew, providing places to stay, food to eat, clothes, other necessities and most of all, friendship. All the animals in the cargo holds were also cared for. Prescriptions were obtained for the passengers free of charge, rides were offered to wherever they needed to go, showers in private homes were offered for use, as were telephones, computers and fax machines.

There are a lot of people mentioned in this book and at times it was hard to keep track of them. Apparently there are a few factual errors, places misnamed, etc. I didn’t catch them but other reviewers did. These minor issues do not detract from the main storyline, at least for me. The people of Gander, and all Canadians, opened up their hearts and their homes to a huge group of stranded people at a time when it felt like the world had erupted in hatred and fear. The story is told very simply, with humor and pathos. There are some heartbreaking stories and some extremely funny stories.

I read this book because we are going to see the play Come From Away in a couple of weeks in Chicago. This book gives context to the play. At times it felt like I was reliving 9/11. It has a vey emotional impact at times.

If you want to read a book that reaffirms your faith in humanity’s inherent goodness, this is the book for you.

A definite recommend.
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