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Gander reflects on 'unbreakable bond' formed during 9/11.



Fifteen years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a Newfoundland town that hosted nearly 7,000 plane passengers will pause to reflect on the tragedy and their unexpected connection to it.

The Town of Gander is hosting several events commemorating the 15th anniversary of 9/11, with thousands expected to attend an ecumenical service, including U.S. Consul General Steven Giegerich and Premier Dwight Ball.

"There's been a very, very strong bond formed between the region and the 'plane people,'" said Debby Yannakidis, chairwoman of the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce.

"The town and the region will always pay our respects to 9/11."

Thousands of passengers were stranded for three days in Gander, when all flights were grounded there, and the people of Gander provided food, lodging and other assistance.

In a statement Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman said the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canadians in general "demonstrated profound and heartfelt kindness" in the aftermath of 9/11.

"The unbreakable bond between the United States and Canada was never more evident than on that day 15 years ago and in the days that followed," Heyman said.

"I reflect often on the generosity Canadians extended to the thousands of passengers from the United States and elsewhere whose U.S.-bound flights were diverted to Canada immediately after the attacks."

Yannakidis said Sunday's ceremony, organized with the Canadian National Day of Service Foundation and Wounded Warriors Canada, will commemorate the tragedy but also raise awareness about PTSD.

"Obviously, on the date itself, there was a lot of people as first responders ... who have experienced PTSD because of traumatic events," said Yannakidis.

Robert Pilon, who has portrayed the title character in the Phantom of the Opera in Toronto, will sing at the service alongside local choirs.

A piece of steel beam from the south tower of the World Trade Center is also en route to the airport in Gander, a thank-you gift from a foundation named for a New York firefighter killed while helping to rescue people from the towers.

An inscription reads: "This piece of World Trade Center steel was presented to Gander International Airport by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation on Sept. 11, 2016, in gratitude for the profound humanitarian role the airport and people of Gander played in the wake of the attacks on 9/11."

It's being towed by a truck donated by GMC and escorted by current and former firefighters on motorcycles. A ceremony with the beam will be held after the ecumenical service at the Gander airport.

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La Jolla Playhouse's 'Come From Away' welcomed warmly on Broadway

San Diego Union-Tribune, The (CA). 03/13/2017.


James Hebert

March 13--The reviews are in for the Broadway premiere of the La Jolla Playhouse-bred musical "Come From Away," and this uplifting show set on one of modern history's darkest days seems to have melted the hearts of most critics.

(Hey, I'm with them.)

"Try, if you must, to resist the gale of good will that blows out of "Come From Away," the big bearhug of a musical that opened on Sunday night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater," writes Ben Brantley in the New York Times.

"But even the most stalwart cynics may have trouble staying dry-eyed during this portrait of heroic hospitality under extraordinary pressure."

Brantley goes on to say that besides its artistic qualities, "Come From Away" has good timing on its side:

"(W)e are now in a moment in which millions of immigrants are homeless and denied entry to increasingly xenophobic nations, including the United States. A tale of an insular populace that doesn't think twice before opening its arms to an international throng of strangers automatically acquires a near-utopian nimbus."

"Come From Away" is based on the real-life story of how the tiny Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland, took in and comforted thousands of stranded air passengers on 9/11, when the grounding of air traffic after the terror attacks forced 38 jetliners to land there.

The show, directed by Playhouse artistic chief Christopher Ashley, had its world premiere in La Jolla in June 2015.

Writing for the Washington Post, Peter Marks said of the Broadway production:

"The lump that forms in your throat in the opening minutes of 'Come From Away' -- and remains lodged there for 100 buoyant minutes more -- is the physiological confirmation that this effervescent musical, enveloped in Canadian good will, is an antidote for what ails the American soul."

The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck wrote that while "the material might have lent itself to sickly sweet sentimentality, creators Irene Sankoff and David Hein have crafted a heartwarming and thoroughly entertaining musical. Especially in these politically fractious times, it should prove a true crowd-pleaser on Broadway following previous hit engagements in San Diego, Washington D.C. and Toronto."

While the reviews appear to be overwhelmingly positive, some critics did express reservations that "Come From Away" grapples only glancingly with the horror of the 9/11 attacks.

"(E)veryone, of course, is shocked by what's happening on the news," writes Newsday's Linda Winer of the characters in the show. "Over five days, however, they get distracted into what feels just a bit too much like hootenanny camp.

"When they finally fly home, they sing that 'something's missing.' Most people in New York that day can tell them what's missing from their show. The real thing."

The Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones writes, in a similar vein:

"It's a fair bet that many in the audience for this show will have been more impacted personally by the losses of Sept. 11 -- this show never explores that truth, nor sufficiently connects its stories to these bigger themes, even though there is one severely underdeveloped character (played by Q. Smith) with a New York relative in harm's way."

The show "would rather put the kettle on, and venerate the day when all of Gander showed the world what hospitality means.

"And, you know, we all need a good cup of tea when the world goes haywire, and we're adrift from those we love."

For more "Come From Away" reviews, check out Playbill's roundup.


Twitter: @jimhebert

jim.hebert@sduniontribune.com_ (c)2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

9/11-Tom Brokaw - Gander Newfoundland Canada