Monday, September 11, 2006

The Best and Worst of Humanity

Five years after, the images of planes flying into buildings still seem like they could only be cartoons, something visually not real, something only in a movie scene. The visual shock of what happened still resonates with us emotionally. Amidst the senseless and incomprehensible tradegy of 9-11, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians responded to the sudden challenge to assist about 15,000 unexpected stranded airline travellers. Mostly American, they were scared, shocked, weary, and needed the basic necessities of life and somewhere safe to rest. Planes landed at Goose Bay, Gander, Stephenville, and St. John's. People in these and surrounding towns and communities, came to their rescue by offering food, shelter and communications to contact loved ones far away.

While the events of the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 showed the world the depth of hate that humanity can sink to, the acts of kindness from the people of this province showed the best that humanity has to offer.

People in small communities, towns, and cities who helped comfort the stranded guests have alot to be proud of. Businesses gave supplies, everything from foods, toothpaste, soap, blankets, etc., community and church groups, medical staff, social workers, crisis counsellors, government and university employees volunteered to help. Performers entertained, people brought passengers' prescriptions to be filled. Their generousity not only was immediately helpful, but it provided hope for people who were witnessing hatred against them. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians responded in a way that the world needed to see more of. Looking back, we can feel proud of not only how we served others, but how it inadvertently reinforced a public image of a kind and caring people.

Around 7,000 passengers found refuge in Central Newfoundland, about 1000 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, over 1000 at Stephenville, and almost 5,000 in St. John's. One of the buildings used to house the stranded was the old Thompson Student Centre of MUN campus. Hundreds of Memorial University's staff, including myself, volunteered to set people up with pillows, places to sleep, food and drink. It was such an unusual sight to see hundreds of bewildered people on campus, but it was also pleasing to know that our province was helping to meet their needs during the tragic but historic events of September 11. Newfoundland & Labrador played a large role in securing American and international travellers, and a big role in making Canadians proud.