I Am Here
Watching Come From Away on the Eve of 9/11
It is the night before the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States — September 11, 2001. Last night I was in the room with a group of people and someone mentioned the upcoming anniversary then asked, “Raise your hand if you weren’t born yet on 9/11.” Five people in the room raised their hands. The children were expected but there was a young lady that none of us had realized was quite so young. She is 18. She has only heard stories of something terrible that happened before she had even been conceived. Like my own children.
They feel it, though. Kid #1 and I have had multiple conversations about it. He feels at a deep level the ways his generation has been effected by that event. The world changed that day. It wasn’t just our nation. It was the world. And, our kids have never known what we knew before then — a nation without war, boarding airplanes without so much fear, neighborhoods that celebrated diversity in culture and religion.
I just watched the filmed version of the Broadway musical Come From Away. It was written by Canadians Irene Sankoff and David Hein. I find myself thinking about how important works of art are in our world. How would we have these stories if not for someone having the creative spark to turn them into a musical? It could be a painting or a book. I am partial to theater as I believe it transports us to other worlds in a way that no other medium can. Music comes close which is why when you put the two together, it can feel like a religious experience.
Come From Away is the story of Gander, the small town in Newfoundland that happened to have an airport big enough for planes to be diverted to on 9/11. Within hours, the town of 7,000 people doubled in size as they attempted to host travelers who got caught in the air during the tragedy. (It is on Apple TV and worth the time if you have it.)
Near the end of the play, the scene shows the 10th anniversary gathering of “The Plane People” back in Gander. The mayor says, “We have come to commemorate what we lost and to celebrate what we found.” It isn’t saccharine. It doesn’t shy away from the hard questions of that day. But, it doesn’t linger in the tragedy either.
It is mysterious to me the ways in which tragedy can be transformed for beauty and wonder. I happen to believe it is one of the great mysteries of God. Of course, we ask, “Why does there have to be tragedy in the first place?” Well, I ask that all the time. I don’t know about you. And, that too is a mystery. We can come up with all our human theories for why bad things happen to good people, but we still don’t know and we certainly can’t understand it. It simply is. And, it is something that is only manageable with a certain amount of acceptance. I don’t like it. I accept it. But, what really surprises me over and over again are the ways in which a tragedy can transform a person’s life for the better.
Tomorrow the world will remember. We will remember with ceremonies and prayers and times of silence. We will grieve again. We will wonder still. I hope we will also count all the light and goodness we have found along the way.
You are here.