One of the lesser-known acts of compassion following 9/11 came from Gander, Canada — a small town of roughly 7,000 people who voluntarily cared for thousands of stranded Americans.

Following the devastating attacks that killed thousands of Americans in New York City, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, hundreds of passenger jets traveling to and near the affected areas had to be re-routed. As NBC News reported, the re-routing of those flights to towns like Gander — in Canada’s Newfoundland province — became known as Operation Yellow Ribbon.

Gander, as well as more than a dozen other airports throughout Canada, took part in Operation Yellow Ribbon to divert a total of 255 aircraft in the wake of 9/11, when the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted air traffic. However, the Area Control Center, which was housed at the Gander International Airport, led the way in re-routing American passenger jets to all of the 17 airports in Eastern Canada that took part in Operation Yellow Ribbon. Gander itself had roughly three dozen American jets on its runway.

But with air traffic suspended, and passengers on the jets being stranded far from home, the people of Gander took it upon themselves to provide food, clothing, showers, and shelter to thousands of U.S. passengers. Many of Gander’s residents opened their homes to the stranded Americans. And some of the passengers themselves were so moved by Gander’s compassion that they reciprocated with their own acts of kindness:

Among them were the parents of a New York City firefighter who was an emergency responder at the World Trade Center; a retired Ohio State administrator who was so inspired by Canadian hospitality she helped to organize a scholarship fund for local students … and a Texas woman and British man who found true love during that fateful week in September 2001.

On the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, then-U.S. President Barack Obama wrote a letter to then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper thanking his country for their actions in the wake of the attacks.

“The small city of Gander, Newfoundland, population 9,600, received 6,600 diverted passengers… those displaced passengers were treated like family in Canadian homes, receiving food, shelter, medical attention, and comfort,” Obama wrote. “The United States is fortunate to share a border with a country that understands that, in your words, ‘There is no such thing as a threat to the national security of the United States which does not represent a direct threat to this country’. ”

Tuesday morning, current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a statement honoring the victims of 9/11. President Trump thanked former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (who is now representing Trump in the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller).


Nick Jewell is a freelance political writer, and a proud resident of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Email him at nickjewell@yahoo.com. 

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