Like most of us, Irene Sankoff and David Hein remember what they were doing on September 11, 2001. Given that they were then living in New York, their memories are particularly vivid. A phone call from Sankoff’s worried father alerted them to the fact that there was a terrorist attack and urged them not to go out. They turned on the television and saw the second plane fly into the Twin Towers.
The original Broadway production of Come From Away. Photo © Matthew Murphy
At that point, they had no idea about would then happen in Gander, in remote Newfoundland – affectionately known to locals as “The Rock”. With American airspace closed, 38 planes bound for the US were sent to Gander instead, where the large airport, which had once been used by transatlantic planes as a place to stop and refuel, offered plenty of available landing space.
When 6,579 passengers suddenly arrived with virtually no warning, the population of the small town almost doubled overnight. Instead of reacting with suspicion, the locals in Gander and nearby villages threw themselves into action and for five days billeted, fed, comforted, entertained and offered...