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Father Muench Says...

Cheers for those always ready to help out

Jan. 31, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I was thinking today of how reliable our North Country people are in helping others – especially in times of crises.  I do remember how many of our parishes mobilized to develop emergency centers for those in need during the ice storm in the 90’s.

This came to mind because of a book I was reading this week.  While down here in the Florida sunshine, I have been doing lots of reading.  I know I am fortunate. I have been keeping contact with many in the North Country and know that winter has not been easy for you all.  I am lucky.

So, while visiting here, I have been reading and finding time for long walks.  Recently, my sister-in-law, Mary Lee, gave me an interesting little book to read.   She and my brother, Tom, have moved to a new place down here and the previous owner lives in Newfoundland.  She left behind a book about Newfoundland which book centers on the events that took place in that Canadian country as a result of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

I am certain that you, like I, have vivid memories of all that happened and all that you were doing on that day and week.  Can you believe that it is almost 17 years ago?  I know I can tell you exactly where I was when I got the news.

This book I was reading is entitled, “The Day The World Came to Town 9/11” by Jim Defede.  Gander, Newfoundland, has always been an important airport for transatlantic flights.  In former days, Gander was a place for refueling for transatlantic flights.  Gander continues now as an important communications site for such flights now.

This is the story.  On 9/11, after the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, all airspace in our country was closed and all that planes that were in the air had to land immediately.  Transatlantic flights could turn around and return to Europe or land in Canada.  Nearly 35 commercial flights landed in the airport in Gander.

The passengers and crew had no indication of how long they would have to stay there.  Some thought it would just be hours.  It turned out to be four or five days.

That little book describes how the people of Gander – not a very large city – opened up their town and their hearts to the nearly 12,000 unexpected visitors.

It is quite a story.  Local groups opened up their club buildings and schools – cots and toiletries, even clothes were donated by stores and individuals to make these people comfortable.  Families were accommodated – needs for children and babies were found.  Groups were organized to prepare meals. 

Many local individuals actually opened up their own homes so that these folks could take showers and such.  This little book was filled with stories of the unselfish actions of the residents of Gander as they did what they could for all these visitors during that week.

There were many neat stories.  Two women who weren’t comfortable with the dormitory style of sleeping went to the local Walmart and purchased a tent.  They pitched it on the front lawn of the Knights of Columbus.
Many close friendships were formed during that time between the travelers and the people of Gander – and also among the travelers themselves – in just those four days.

The heart and soul of the story was the unselfish actions of the people of this Newfoundland city in this sudden turn of events in their lives – triggered by the deadly events in New York. 

The book also mentioned the story of a couple who were among the folks landed in Gander – whose son, a New York fire fighter, who lost his life in the action at the Twin Towers.  They found comfort and consolation at the Catholic Church in Gander – and attended Mass there many times. 

A Broadway musical – Come From Away – based on the events in Gander has been produced.  I have not seen it – but I have heard some of the songs from it. 

I am certain that I would find the same kind of resourcefulness in the people of the North Country – the people of the Diocese of Ogdensburg – the people I have known in the various parishes that I have served.  They would react in the same way – unselfish and ready to help wherever they were needed.

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