Come From Away
Come From Away was a surprise Broadway smash in 2017. It tells the story of the unforgettable day in 2001 when 38 planes – and 7000 passengers – were diverted to Gander, a small town on the island of Newfoundland, off the coast of Canada, after the US government shut down all American airspace and diverted all planes on September 11.
The bewildered travellers were grounded indefinitely and suddenly, and the island’s population almost doubled in just a few hours. Without exception, the locals opened their doors to the visitors, who they called the “Come From Aways”: housing them, feeding them, sharing their clothes and toys, and even inducting some as honorary Ganderites. Lifelong friendships were formed. Relationships began, while others ended.
Part of the show’s success is that it’s not saccharine. It doesn’t shy away from the horror. Some passengers did ultimately learn family members had been killed – and a sobering sense of fear and grief takes centre stage at several points in Come From Away. The show also explores the racism and xenophobia that proliferated against Muslims and people from the Middle East after the attacks.
But ultimately, a message of hope, cross-cultural understanding and togetherness prevails. And we need that as much now as we did back then.