Monday, August 7, 2017

Currently Obsessed: Come From Away

When the World Trade Centers in New York City were attacked on September 11, 2001, the United States Airspace closed. All flights already in U.S. airspace were immediately grounded at the nearest airport, but that left around 500 U.S. bound international flights in the air with nowhere to go. Many of these flights were able to turn around and return to the country from which they departed, but for those already past the point of no return (the point where they no longer have enough fuel to turn around safely), there was no option but to continue forward. In what was called Operation Yellow Ribbon, 255 planes were diverted to 17 different airports across Canada. Thirty-eight of these planes were sent to Gander, Newfoundland, effectively doubling the population of the small town and resulting in the declaration of a state of emergency.

Currently Obsessed: Come From Away | kathleenhelen

The Broadway musical Come From Away tells the story of the town of Gander and the crews and passengers stranded there following the attacks of September 11th. At its heart, it’s not a musical about 9/11 but one that speaks of the generosity and kindness of the people of Newfoundland at finding themselves besieged by thousands of individuals from all over the world on September 12th. It’s a story that deals with the fear that came as a result of the attacks and how passengers, crews, and a small town at the edge of the world turned that fear into hope and love.

The musical’s opening number, Welcome to the Rock, describes the people of Newfoundland perfectly as hardy, kind, and always welcoming. The lines “when the sun is coming up and the world has come ashore, if you're hoping for a harbour then you'll find an open door” accurately depicts the welcoming attitude of Newfoundlanders to those they see in need. The musical goes on to describe the way the people of Gander immediately began preparing for the arrival of the “plane people” and how they went days without properly resting in order to do everything possible to make these visitors feel comfortable and at ease.


The days following September 11th are the centre of the Come From Away story. Told through upbeat folk rock music that feels like it’s straight from the rock, listeners experience both the highs and lows of those in Gander that week. The music is super catchy and tugs at the emotions in all the right ways. The first time I listened to the soundtrack, I audibly cheered when Captain Bass announced their flight had entered U.S. airspace in one of the final numbers.

Come From Away was nominated for 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, as well as a whole host of other awards, and won the Tony for Best Director (Christopher Ashley). I think everyone, especially fans of musicals, should give this soundtrack a listen through at least once. If, after that, you want to dive deeper into the story of Gander and Operation Yellow Ribbon, I would recommend picking up The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede. It’s a short, quick, easy to read account of the days following 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland and compliments the story told in Come From Away beautifully. Make sure you have a box of tissues nearby when you listen or read, because you're heart strings will be tugged. 

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