Monday, November 13, 2017

The Day the World Came to Town by Jim Defede

This is the story of the 38 aircraft, and over 6000 passengers, that were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland and the surrounding towns in Canada when airspace over the US was closed on 9/11. After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and the downing of the airplane in Pennsylvania, hundreds of international flights suddenly had to find somewhere else to land. Those that hadn’t hit the halfway point merely turned back to their point of origin, but the remainder had to continue on to elsewhere, somewhere, anywhere.

The Canadian Air Transport Control quickly organized and diverted over 230 aircraft to 17 Canadian airports. In a nerve-wracking, but exciting read, we learn civilian and wide-body passenger airplanes were entering Canadian airspace at the rate of 1-2 planes per minute. Pilots were advised of the crowding over airspace and to pay attention to their proximity alerts and keep a visual eye out.
Canadian authorities dubbed this “Operation Yellow Ribbon.” Once planes were on the ground, they had to screen passengers, provide transportation to shelter, make food and medications available, and maintain security in the event other terrorists were still hidden on incoming flights.

Over 6000 passengers doubled the population of the Gander area. The book followed several passengers and “Newfies” (those living in Newfoundland) as they dealt with the horrendous events of 9/11 and the logistics of caring for so many visitors. One family had a son in the fire department that serviced the Twin Towers and they were awaiting word on his whereabouts. Two families were returning with adopted children. A few Orthodox Jews required kosher food. Several families didn’t speak English. Animals were in the cargo bays and needed tending. Yet the locals opened their homes and did everything they could to assist.

I discovered this book, in early October, in a manner like I do so many others – someone returned it to the library for check-in and it caught my eye. I had read several anecdotes on this topic that were posted on Facebook and was pleased to learn a book had been written, and that the stories were true (a scholarship fund really has been setup for the area students). This is a heartwarming, poignant, at times sad, other times humorous tale of strangers helping strangers.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Last Man Down: A Firefighter’s Story of Survival and Escape From the World Trade Center, by Richard Picciotto [973.931 Pic].]
[ official The Day the World Came to Town web site ] | [ official Jim Defede Twitter feed ]
Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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