“Come From Away” by Irene Sankoff and David Hein is a musical production based on the true story of how the people of Gander, NL (pop: 11,688) housed and fed, took in and cared for more than 7,000 complete strangers when 38 planes were grounded in the days following 9-11.
Logistically, what the community of Gander did was nothing short of amazing; a feat of sheer determination and ingenuity spurred on by the community’s sense of neighbourliness and compassion.
Most Canadians know the story about the generous little community of Gander because it was part of our news coverage at the time as well as part of the Canadian response (Operation Yellow Ribbon) to what was happening to our neighbours south of the border. However, few people in the USA ever heard the “Gander” story because following the events of that day their attention has been focused elsewhere.
The stories we tell have a lot to do with the way we see the world and approach life. If we tell and retell stories of hatred and terror we will live in fear and loathing. If we tell and retell stories of generosity and compassion we will live in strength and hope.
Gander is one of the stories that stands in stark contrast to all of the evident terrors of 9-11. It’s a celebration of the best of humankind. It’s a reminder that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1: 5)
All of which may be why the stage production “Come From Away” has become such a sensation on Broadway. Apart from the people who actually experienced the radical hospitality of the eastern Canadians, the people of the USA are first of all finding out, nearly 18 years after 9-11, how human kindness triumphed over hatred and fear.
As Broadway bills it; “Come From Away” does what all the best musicals do; takes you to a place you never want to leave”. I would suggest it also helps to reset our perspective on a dark time in history, not that we will ever forget what happened that day, but rather that we will remember in the coming days what it means to be human and to live with our minds, our hearts and our arms wide open.
There is a famous Buddhist saying that everyone appears as buddhas in the eyes of the Buddha and everyone appears as pigs in the eyes of a pig. This suggests that the world is experienced according to the state of one’s mind. When your mind is joyful and compassionate, the world is too. When your mind is filled with negative thoughts, the world appears negative too. And when you feel overwhelmed remember you are not powerless. When your mind rests, the world also rests.