It was a beautiful, sunny Tuesday. Bright blue skies, not a cloud anywhere to be seen. It was almost like nothing could go wrong, I remember it well. But at 8:46AM, as the first of the towers of the World Trade Center, the North Tower, was hit by American Airlines Flight 11, it was like time stopped for me.
At 9:03am, as I sat in my Women’s History Class, we all watched the television as the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, flew right into the South Tower. As I saw that, I felt as if my heart had stopped too. It hadn’t, but that was what it felt like.
We still watched the television, with rapt attention as we learned that American Airlines Flight 77 had crashed into the Western Facade of the Pentagon at 9:37am. This worried me too, as this was now the THIRD plane that had crashed into an important building.
But when we learned that United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03am, because the passengers had attempted to subdue the hijackers, I found I couldn’t stop crying.
Classes were cancelled for the rest of the day, for the rest of the week, to be honest, but that didn’t really mean anything to me. You see, I’m a New Yorker born and bred, and I knew a number of people whose parents worked in the Towers. And on top of that, I have family who live/work in and around the area of the Pentagon. What made it all worse was that I couldn’t get through to my family either in New York or the DC Area right away. That was a very scary time for me, and for a lot of others too.
I think it would always be a scary time for us even to think back to, BUT that it would help us to know what had happened in Gander, Newfoundland and its surrounding areas on that day and the days following. Back in 2001 I had NO idea anything about the kind and caring, loving and helpful people of Newfoundland and throughout Canada who took in people from all over the world (The Plane People or Come From Aways), feeding them, clothing them, keeping them safe, trying to help them feel better and doing anything they could do for them. Those people, the Ganderites or Newfies, changed the lives of these people for the better.
Plane People like Hannah, or Kevin, Diane, Nick, and more, needed help, needed places to stay, food to eat, but most of all, they needed love. And the Newfies not only gave those things, but they gave even more. They gave themselves, they showed love and caring, and took care of these people who were so far from home. They made it possible for the members of their communities and the plane people to become more than strangers, more than friends even, they made them their families! It wasn’t until I was introduced to Come From Away that I found out about what had happened in Newfoundland and other areas of the world, as a New Yorker, my mind was focused on what was going on here, and in DC and PA, but as I think back here in 2019, it would likely have helped me to know that there was still good happening out there in the world.
The Documentary, You Are Here explains the story from the people who were there, and from the standpoint of those who were missing their family members in that time. The documentary was directed by Moze Mossanen and featured a number of the people who were in Gander (and other areas) at the time, and also some of the plane people and some survivors, and it describes in their own words, what had happened to them in those days.
The film premiered on HBO Canada on September 11, 2018 and was the channel’s highest rated broadcast of the year. It got a few follow up screenings at selected film festivals after that, and won many awards as well. We in the USA have only been able to see it at the festival in Colorado, however, but now come September 11, 2019 we can see it all across the country for the first time on the big screen! I, personally, have been looking forward to seeing this since the link to the documentary information was placed on my Come From Away Facebook group months ago, but it hasn’t ever come close enough to me. But it will be close enough to see in the coming weeks and I’m so excited about it that I’m working on getting my tickets already!
Not everyone is able to take a day in New York City to take in the memorial or the museum, or is able to afford tickets to see the musical Come From Away, but this documentary can take you back to September 11th and the five days following and personally, I see it finally coming all across the United States might help continue the positive movement that the real Kevin T has started!
After 9/11, Kevin Tuerff felt the need to pay the kindness forward that the people of Newfoundland gave to him and the other Plane People. He was not, as he has said on his Pay-It-Forward website, succumbed by fear of new Terrorist Attacks, instead, he wanted to change the sadness and anger into kindness and love. He decided to thank the Newfies by paying their kindness forward and in borrowing from the book titled “Pay It Forward” by author Catherine Ryan Hyde, his movement was started.
Kevin was a co-owner of a small business and he broke his staff into teams of two and gave each a 100 dollar bill on September 11, 2002, for random good deeds to strangers. He closed the office and they all went off to do nice things for people and at the end of the day, they met back up again to discuss what they did with the money. Kevin has done this every year since, with his company before he sold it, and then after that, with each company of Come From Away (Broadway, Tour, Toronto, UK and now Australia).
Kevin told me that last year he did a pilot project, one which paired 18-22 year olds with 9/11 survivors, recovery workers ,and Muslim-American Adults for an active listening and learning session. He told me that the young adults don’t remember much but that after the discussion they went outside to read the names of those who’d been killed in the attacks and he handed out 100 dollar bills to them to use for his movement.
And this year not only is he adding to the ripple effect the new casts of Come From Away UK and Come From Away AU to the mix, which he tells me they’re very glad to be continuing the tradition. He is also going to be working with the Cathedral of St. John’s in New York City (both the church and the school) to share his story and participate in his annual event.
It became bigger than just him when people around the world started doing it too. I heard about it last year when I spoke to Kevin for my interview piece and I’ve been saving up money each week to have 100 dollars myself by 9/11/19 and I’m joining the movement too. I do want you all to know though, that money is NOT required in order to pay it forward! There are many acts of kindness which don’t cost a dime.
On a similar note, there are many ways to honor the day, and those lost in the attacks as well as honor those who helped anyone in need, here is a list of just a few that any person can do, anywhere across the globe.
THINGS THAT CAN BE DONE TO PAY IT FORWARD:
1. Leave inspirational messages around you to help others feel better. Even just SMILE at someone else. If someone’s having a bad day something even as simple as a SMILE can help someone to feel better! If you see someone who looks like they’re having a really hard day, give them a genuine compliment. They won’t be able to stop smiling for a while.
2. Hold open a door for someone else. You never know if someone has the strength in the moment to open a door, but if you open it for them, they can find that they can do anything!
3. Tell someone at the coffee shop or drive through that you want to pay for the person behind you. Give a little extra tip to a server or coffee barista who’s made a difference to your day/ Be nice to customer service personnel, tell them how much you appreciate them. Jobs that deal with people aren’t easy and you can change their whole day by saying something nice to them. Buy something from a kid’s lemonade stand or toy sale, that’ll put a smile on their face and make their day.
4. Do something (ANYTHING) for someone who doesn’t have much, getting them food/drink, a place to sleep, anything of the like, even for ONE night…
5. Donate blood or parts of blood (plasma, platelets, etc) that can save a life! Donate any clothes you don’t need or want anymore to someone who needs it, or to a place which can get it to those who need it. Donate food to someone who needs it, or to a food bank or shelter to feed those in need. Give someone who doesn’t have a home, an extra blanket so they’re warm come winter. Ask for others to donate money to a charity of your desire rather than getting you a present.
6. Take a neighbor’s trash or recycling out for them. Bring a neighbor’s recycling pail or trash pail back to the side of their house for them. Shovel snow, mow lawn, or rake leaves in an elderly neighbor’s yard, or offer to carry packages they’ve brought home from shopping for them.
7. Go to a shelter or food bank or soup kitchen and give food to those in need. Pay a visit to local animal shelters and lend them a hand by loving on the puppies and kittens, even taking the pups for a walk. You can even ask if they’d like any old, clean blankets and plastic bags! Volunteer at a local hospital. Read to children at schools, libraries, preschools, hospitals, any place that needs it.
8. Give up your seat to an elderly person, someone who has a disability, a pregnant woman, or anyone else who might need it. They will appreciate your good deed. Share your umbrella with someone who doesn’t have one in the rain.
9. Listen to someone’s story, show them that they are important!
10. Sponsor a child, there are always underprivileged children in our own country and others. And your help might save their life.
This can help us all pay it forward!
I promise to personally see this documentary, and what’s more I will be paying it forward in any way that I can, not just monetarily, and not just on September 11th, but every day of the year! Who’s with me?
MOVIE TRAILER - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcbFkqVZt3U
FIND OUT WHAT THEATRES WILL HAVE YOU ARE HERE - https://www.fathomevents.com/events/you-are-here/theaters
Image is a promotional image for the documentary.