9/11 and Gander Lori Todd’s wake-up

In terms of extreme givers I think of 9/11, but not in the usual way.  My name is Dr. Lori Todd.  I just had ACL surgery and my parents drove from NYC to be with me.  I remember waking up from surgery at UNC hospital and being attached to my morphine drip.  I loved that drip.  A nurse came in crying and turned on my TV and we watched the second plane go barreling into the World Trade Center.  I was both upset and detached.  Morphine is quite powerful.

While we were all shocked that week and dealing with the loss a miracle was occurring in Gander Newfoundland.  Shortly after the World Trade Center was attacked, US air space was closed and all the planes that were in the air were ordered to land.  Did you ever wonder where all of the airplanes went when they were not allowed in US airspace that day?

More than 250 aircraft, prohibited from entering U.S. airspace due to the terrorist attacks, were diverted to Canadian airports. Of those, 38 planes bearing 6,595 passengers landed in Gander, Newfoundland, a town with a population of barely 10,000.

When they landed in Gander, no one seemed to know why.  They were kept in the dark for a while and then slowly, one by one, each plane was emptied and the passengers were screened through customs then transported by bus to different community centers in the area.  Soon, people learned about the horror that happened in NYC and the world.

This town stepped up and extreme givers showed up in everyday people.  The people of Gander are indeed Extreme Givers. The residents of Gander opened their doors to welcome the unexpected strangers and without exception they poured out love and compassion.  One passenger later remarked, “I was on a flight from London to New York and landed in Heaven.”

Since the town of 10,000 had few hotels, students were sent home so classrooms and gyms could be used as dormitories, along with local churches and clubs. Residents took the sheets and blankets off their own beds to deliver to the passengers. Passengers were invited them into homes to shower. As the passengers arrived at the Lions Club, Mayor Hooper, wearing a Molson Canadian baseball cap, stepped aboard. “An awful tragedy brought you here,” he said, “but we hope you’ll see how welcome you are.”

Due to security reasons, passengers had to leave their animals and luggage on the airplanes.  If they had prescription drugs on the airplane, they could not retrieve them.  Gander pharmacists made thousands of calls worldwide to verify prescriptions and then filled them for free.  Shop owners gave away their stock to those in need and, when they ran out, bought more from the competition and gave that away as well.  Volunteers crawled into the bellies of the planes each day to feed all of the pets on the aircraft.

After the end of their involuntary visit to Gander, many of the passengers have since returned to Gander to visit people who gave unconditionally to them.  Many of the passengers said their lives would never be the same because of the people of gander.  One said, “I am a far better person for having experienced 9/11. I am truly blessed!”

Hearing about thee people have inspired me to give, be and do more.

Dr. Lori Todd