This past week marked the 18th anniversary of 9/11, a reminder of hardship and loss that many people endured. Come From Away shows a glimmer of hope in a story of tragedy.
Two students from Sheridan College, David Hein and Irene Sankoff, shed light on Newfoundland through musical Come From Away. The musical focuses on the town of Gander and how Canadian support impacted people on the planes.
Roughly 7,000 people were forced to land in Gander when the American airspace was closed and with that, the population of the town practically doubled overnight. Gander had the biggest airport left over from World War two for the international planes to land in.
Come From Away is the term used to describe everyone that comes from somewhere else. The merchandise from the show boasts that we all come from away.
Working tirelessly over five days the people of Gander gave everything they had or was needed to the people that had landed there, affectionately known as the “plane people”. Meals, medication, clothes and telephones were provided to anyone that needed it.
Come From Away cleverly uses 12 actors to portray both locals and the “plane people”. The musical opens up with a number called “Welcome to the Rock” introducing the locals and setting the scene of them discovering what’s just made history.
All of the characters are based on real people, Hein and Sankoff spent five years on and off talking to the locals in Gander about their experiences and how those five days changed their lives.
The “plane people” feature a pilot who was grounded, a mother whose son was a firefighter in New York. As well as locals like a veterinarian and the school bus drivers who were on strike at the time.
Diana and Nick are two characters (and real-life people) from American and England respectively, who met on a grounded plane and after 9/11 Nick moved to Texas to be closer to Diana. They just celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary and honeymooned nowhere else but Gander.
The musical even touches on the ten year anniversary in 2011 when plane people returned to catch up with the friends they had made and to remember the events that had passed. Gander is the only place outside of America where there is a piece of steel from 9/11.