Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gander's Generosity

One thing I love about the Olympics is all the back stories...about the athletes, the sports, and the countries.

This weekend, I sat in tears watching one of those stories.

The story, presented by Tom Brokaw, focused on the small Canadian town (province? city?...don't know the right word) of Gander.

It was an amazing story of human kindness and generosity and one that was not widely shared.

We all know what happened on that Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001. But while we were all focused on the horrors of what was happening in New York and at the Pentagon, something else entirely was happening in Gander.

When the planes hit the Towers and in DC, all flights in the US were ordered to be put down. Also all international flights coming into the US were ordered not to come in. It was the first time in history that US air space was empty!

One of those places flights were diverted to was Gander. Gander is a small town of only 10,000 people. On the morning of September 11, the airport was expecting about 3 planes that day. Instead they got about 38 planes. A total of about 7,000 passengers...almost doubling the population of the town.

Can you imagine? 7,000 unexpected visitors show up at your doorstep and you're supposed to welcome them.

And that's just what Gander did. They transformed hotel rooms, churches, legion halls, schools into makeshift homes. To get the passengers to their temporary homes, school buses were the only mode of transportation that could accommodate the amount of people. However, the school bus drivers happened to be on strike that day. When they heard they were needed because of a national emergency, they didn't have a second thought about it.

Passengers weren't allowed to take their checked baggage so all they had were the clothes on their backs and any carry ons they may have had. Town residents came out of the woodworks to offer clothes to their new town members. Prescription drugs were also needed for those that had them in their checked bags, so the local pharmacies opened their doors and gave out medicines as of charge.

One man talked about how he was in line at the grocery store and the clerk invited him to her house so he could take a shower.

There were stories like that all over Gander.

Once they were allowed to fly again (3 days later) one lady wanted to pay back the community that had welcomed her so warmly. On the plane, she asked the pilot if she could make an announcement. She wanted to repay the community somehow. She asked if anyone would like to donate to a scholarship to the school that had been her home the last 3 days. That day alone they had pledged $15,000! Today, it's up to $900,000!

There was also a sweet story about a man from Europe who was going to a business meeting in Texas. (He was supposed to fly out Sept. 10, but the company changed it at the last minute). He met a lady flying home to Texas. They were both stranded in Gander, but struck up a friendship. And eventually married!

Brokaw said that when he was in Gander doing this story, the people just couldn't understand what all the big fuss was about. They didn't understand why because they just did what needed to be done.

I searched everywhere to find a video clip of the story, but couldn't find it anywhere. I'm hoping NBC will put it up there soon. Here is a good recap.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it or being to "religious", but I think it was a great example of God's love for us. He welcomes us with open questions asked. We show up with our baggage and He's there for us.


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