The occasion was Appleton’s way of marking the 16th anniversary of the 9-11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., which killed nearly 3,000 people. It was also a chance to mark the province’s – particularly central Newfoundland communities – part in looking after nearly 7,000 stranded passengers and crew diverted to Gander after American air space closed.
“It was a time that brought out some of the worst in humanity, but here in this area, it brought out the best in humanity,” said Appleton mayor Derm Flynn.
It was a message reciprocated by Gander MHA John Haggie, Lieutenant Governor Frank Fagan, Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame MP Scott Simms, U.S. Consul General Steven Giegerich, and David Hein and Irene Sankoff, writers of the Tony award winning Come From Away musical.
Giegerich applauded the community’s commitment to remembering 9-11.
“Many things have changed since that day 16 years ago; however, one thing has been a constant – every Sept. 11, people have gathered here in the Appleton Peace Park to commemorate the combination of horror and humanity that occurred ,” he said.
“Mayor Flynn (and the town) showed the world that strangers who land here are to be embraced and not feared, and for that we are thankful to him and all the citizens of Newfoundland who opened their hearts and homes to strangers.”
Now-retired American Airlines captain Beverly Bass recalled landing in Gander. Her plane was number 36 of 38.
“I once read a letter from a passenger that said they had landed in the most peaceful place on earth, and I would have to agree with that,” Bass said.
“I am certain that I speak on behalf of every single passenger and crew member when I say to all of you that you made the best of the most horrific tragedy in U.S. history.
“Our lives were no doubt changed forever as a result of what happened that day, we are honoured that you remember and recognize every year and that Canada calls it a day of service. For this we will be forever grateful and we say thank you.”