The attack on September 11, 2001 by terrorists was a terrible event. It affected, and still affects millions of lives. I have been watching the past few weeks headlines leading up to the 10 year anniversary to the event and am amazed how fast it can all come back to memory. It sure doesn’t seem like 10 years ago. I haven’t really talked to my kids (7 and 4) about it much and struggle with how and when to teach it. I don’t want to live in fear, but there is clearly enough evidence in the world to suggest that as a feasible response.
I got a book from the library yesterday called “The Day The World Came To Town –9/11 in Gander Newfoundland” by Jim Defede. It was on a display with lots of other 9/11 books that dealt with grief, conspiracy, revenge and strong emotions. I will never read a book like those. I am sure they have great factual knowledge and I don’t doubt conspiracy, but I cannot handle the emotions, the fear, the distrust and the victim mentality that they seem to bring out.
Defede’s book was different. Published 1 year after 9/11 it records, with story telling genius, what the week was like in Gander, Newfoundland. Gander was a town of barely 10,000 people. It had been a big airplane gas stop before the big jets were invented being able to fly much farther.
On 9/11 when American airspace was closed and all planes were forced to land Gander hand to handle diverting air traffic to other parts of Canada and land 38 planes and 6,595 passengers and crew members at their small town. The book was 244 pages of amazing Newfoundland hospitality… though by reading the stories, the word hospitality doesn’t come close. The town literally stopped with people and businesses coming together with time, energy, money, and their belongings. They treated those stranded like long lost relatives and friends, by going way beyond just making sure they were fed and housed… in a way only Newfies could.
The truth is that terrible events have been happening all through history. Events have been caused by war, greed, hate and nature. Unfortunately, they still, and will still happen no matter how much we try and change it.
Tragedy is something we can’t control and if we focus on it, past, present or future, we have lost the battle and become a victim of it. What we can control is us. We can choose who we are and how we chose to react. The villagers of Gander were victims of 9/11 just like the passengers who got stuck there for a week were victims. They had a impossible housing and feeding problem on their hands with no warning. However, from reading the stories, the fact that they were victims never seemed to cross their mind. For them it was a chance, even a privilege, to help all they could with the situation.
What is amazing about 9/11 and other tragedies is that it both reveals and strengthens this kind of people. At 9/11 these people weren’t just in Gander, but were all over the world reaching out and helping in small and large ways. Beyond that these people were the people in the past working with the underground railroad, hiding Jews and many more examples I don’t have the brain power or room to list here. In a world of pain and hate true love and selflessness can be seen.
The verse I kept thinking of was Hebrews 13:2
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
I want to be a person like that. I don’t know when or who will come into my path, but I want to be the person who goes above and beyond to make the difference and help in the situation. I pray I won’t be too busy or two distracted by stuff that seems important at the time to miss the chance to make a difference.
In looking at 9/11 and reading this book I am proud to be American, I am proud to be from Canada and I am proud of my distant connection to the little rock island of Newfoundland. I am excited that through terrible things good can be done and found. It is truly inspiring.
So as you meditate and remember 9/11 this weekend don’t forget to celebrate and be inspired by the amazing moments that came out of the tragedy, and resolve to move forward changed and better from the experience.
On another note, I also gleaned from this book that it doesn’t take much for everybody to be sleeping side by side on cots. The rich and the poor with the important and unknown. All our cultural ladders can easily get knocked down leaving us all in the same spot.