Come from Away, currently playing at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa through Broadway Across Canada, tells the true story of how the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, welcomed and supported passengers and crew of planes that were diverted there on September 11, 2001. For 22 years, people around the globe have been inspired by this remarkable tale, but here at home in Canada, we’re not only inspired, but proud to claim Newfoundlanders as our own.
Canadians are known worldwide for their kindness but anecdotally it’s my feeling that the further east you go in our country, the nicer people get. I know this because my family hails from Cape Breton Island, and falls just a smidge under the high kindness bar Newfoundlanders set. My eastern Canadian parents were eager to see Come From Away, and so it was such a treat to have them join me on opening night in Ottawa.
On that fateful morning in September, planes from around the world were diverted to Gander International Airport due to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The town of Gander, which normally had a population of around 10,000 people, suddenly found itself hosting nearly 7,000 stranded passengers and crew members.
Ask anyone over 40 what they were doing on 9/11 and you’ll no doubt receive a thorough and detailed account. The horrific images and heartbreaking stories are burned into our brains from unrelenting media coverage, but what unites us 22 years later is not the horror of that day, but rather the beautiful humanity that sprang up from it. And nowhere was that humanity more on display than on The Rock.
The logistics of unexpectedly taking in that many people at once are mind-boggling, yet the residents of Gander sprang into action without hesitation or complaint, working together to provide food, shelter, and other necessities to stranded passengers for days while the world tried to make sense of what happened. Moreover, it was the sincere and genuine hospitality, given without any expectation of reciprocation, of the Newfoundlanders that won the hearts of the world.
Come From Away will move you through tears, laughter, moments of pain, and regret (namely to see how Muslims were instantly vilified), but mostly, if you’re Canadian, you can’t help but be filled with immense pride. In my opinion, it’s the best Broadway Across Canada production I’ve seen to date and I can’t wait to see it again. With no intermission, the 1 hour and 40 minute Come From Away kept me riveted, if not a little antsy to jump out of my seat, take a shot of Screech, kiss a cod, and start steppin’ to the music.
Catch Come From Away now until January 8th in Ottawa before it moves on to Montreal for a limited engagement.