My 17-year-old was born 11 months after the horrific events of September 11, 2001. I’ve struggled with how to explain the day to her and how to convey the intense emotions of that day and the days after.
We’ve been to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, where we listened to a recording about my husband’s beloved professor and family who were passengers on one of the planes. We have watched the video of the boat lift. We have listened to stories of those who were lost on that tragic day on StoryCorps’ September 11th Initiative.
I’ve tried to convey to her both the overwhelming grief and sadness and the incredible spirit of community and love that emerged in the following days.
And nothing I have said or done has come anywhere close to helping her understand that time like the musical Come From Away.
We saw it last month and I felt like finally, finally she had some comprehension of the impact of that day. It’s the story of the 38 airplanes that were in the air on that fateful morning and forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland. The town of 9,000 residents housed 7,000 travelers for several days until U.S. airspace reopened and the planes could leave.
The musical perfectly demonstrates the tragic loss and sense of being unmoored that so many felt on that day but also shines a light on how it brought people together and the good deeds that many did. If you are looking for the helpers, Gander is full of them. The shows speaks to how small acts of kindness and generosity can be incredibly meaningful, that friendships can form in unlikely places, and that we have more in common than we often realize.
You can see the trailer for the show here:
And this NPR Tiny Desk concert is great, too. You can see it, which gives an overview of the show, the characters and some of the songs here:
It also is about stories – that we often cannot know each other’s stories just by looking at each other and that taking the time to share and hear them is important. Stories also help us find that common ground and connect us. They are how we remember.
Come From Away resonated with each member of my family, including my teen. That’s because it’s about being human even more than it is a 9/11 story. It covers a great deal of ground – from identity to friendship to romance to prejudice to gender equality to religion to so much else. It’s proof of the power of music, food and humor to bring people together and bridge divides. It’s surprisingly funny and at the risk of being cliche, you really will laugh and cry.
I am so grateful that Come From Away helped my teen understand that day on a deeper level. I am also so grateful for the way it helps those who lived through the day heal and reminded us of the power of kindness and finding common ground with each other.
You can find the cast recording here.
If you can’t get to the show, the book The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede is an easy read that captures the story well.
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