‘Come From Away’ Musical Recounts Untold Story Of 9/11
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – “Come From Away” tells the story of what happened when international flights were forced to land in Newfoundland on 9/11 and stay for days.
The Broadway Touring Company of the musical is opening at the Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, on Tuesday, November 6.
Set to toe-tapping music and filled with heart-warming moments, “Come From Away” begins with America’s greatest modern tragedy.
We all know what happened in our country on Sept. 11, 2001, but because of that, a remarkable story took place in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland.
A Utahn was on one of the planes rerouted to Canada.
Dean Reeder was the state travel director at that time. He was on his way home from London where he’d had a meeting with the British Olympic Team.
“We were flying on a beautiful day over the Atlantic,” he said.
That’s when the plane made a very noticeable change in direction, Reeder said.
“The pilot came on and told us, ‘Nothing to worry about, so we’re going to divert, probably to Newfoundland…'” he said.
Reeder wondered if they were going to Gander to refuel. Then he noticed the crew.
“We knew something was unusual because one of the flight attendants broke down and was crying,” he said.
When his Delta flight landed in Gander, a town of 10,000, Reeder and his fellow travelers saw a tarmac filled with international planes – 37 of them.
“I saw the whole fleet of every large, what they call heavy airlines, that fly the Atlantic,” he said. “All the countries’ flags were represented. That’s when I knew this was something very unusual and maybe something catastrophic.”
Reeder found out exactly what was going on thanks to a fellow passenger who had a transistor radio in his carry-on luggage.
“All of a sudden everybody was crowded around where his seat was, about halfway back,” he said. “That’s when the news traveled, of course, through the plane.”
Because his plane was one of the last to land, the flight crew and passengers stayed on board until the next morning as passengers from other flight disembarked first. There was also no cell phone service.
“Technology is great, except when it doesn’t work,” Reeder said. “The plane had those phones you could pull it out of your seat in front of you, and no one could get a line. People were calling, dialing constantly on those phones without success.”
The airlines had blocked on-board phone lines.
“I’ve got to tell you, though, the people in the cabin and the crew were fabulous,” said Reeder.
Suddenly, the townsfolk had to feed and house 7,000 visitors for five days. That’s what the musical brings to audiences – the emotions, the coming together of strangers, the personality of a town that dropped everything to help.
“We may have had uncertainty of not knowing how long we will be there, but we were all of a sudden in good hands,” Reeder said. We were comfortable people were going to take care of us.”
As the Gander town hall began to fill up with food and cots to take care of those who had “come from away,” the passengers on Reeder’s flight were bused to the even smaller fishing village of Gambo.
“Our checked luggage stayed at the airport,” he said. “We didn’t see it again until it was time to fly out, which was the following Saturday. We were there on a Tuesday and we stayed there through Saturday.”
“I also don’t want to be overly dramatic,” he added, “but I tell people that we were terrorism suspects until what they could find out we weren’t.”
In Gambo, he and his fellow passengers stayed in a fishing lodge.
“Gambo turned out to be just a magical place,” Reeder said. “It was wonderful.”
He was welcomed with open arms by people he didn’t know.
“Oh, I’ll never forget,” said Reeder. “Yes, I think I still see the faces.”
“There was an outpouring of humanity that I will always remember,” said Reeder. “I’m glad it became a play and I’m glad that it’s come to Salt Lake. I think that’s a super thing.”
“Come From Away” sends the message that, though we will never forget 9/11, we must also remember a warm embrace from our friends up north.
There are eight performances of “Come From Away” at the Eccles Theater through Nov. 11. Go to artsaltlake.org for tickets and information.
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