Come From Away

4 Jan

I didn’t anticipate writing a piece about one of the most tragic days in history as we just rang in the New Year and I optimistically look forward to good things ahead. But I saw a show in NYC last night that will forever change the way I look at September 11, 2001.

I knew very little about the show “Come From Away” going into it. I knew only that it was about the passengers on 38 planes that were diverted to a small town in Newfoundland on September 11th when airspace was locked down following the terrorist attacks in the U.S.. I was curious and not quite sure what to expect.

I saw the musical with my daughter, who was barely 2 months old on September 11, 2001. Throughout the show, I was cognizant of the fact that we sat in those seats, just a short distance Ground Zero, with two very different perspectives. She obviously doesn’t remember that day, but as I looked around and saw the tears on the faces of the men and women around me, I knew they remembered it probably as vividly as I did. I felt a very strong connection to the complete strangers that I sat in that theater with last night.

In the small town of Gander in Newfoundland, the population of 9000 almost doubled that day when 7000 passengers from 38 planes coming from all over the world landed there.   The actors did a phenomenal job of captivating the stories of kindness and selflessness that the people in that small town exhibited over the few days that they hosted these displaced, confused, worried and exhausted travelers. They opened their homes, provided food and clothing, and put their own lives on hold to help people they had never met before.

It was something I never knew and would have never thought about.   The extent of the ripple effect throughout the world that the terrorist attacks had. It was impossible not to go back to that day in my mind. Sixteen years later, it’s not something I think about often, perhaps only on the anniversaries. But I realized last night that there are so many people who probably think about that tragedy nearly every day as they either survived it, as did my brother-in-law who worked in Manhattan, or lost a loved one.

I still choose not to watch the documentaries or specials about that day. I can’t listen to the recordings of the last phone calls. I don’t want to see the bodies falling through the sky to the ground. My daughter shared with me that in her school, they watch the accounts of 9/11 every year on the anniversary. Students are given the option to leave the classroom. But that’s all they have to go on.   They were too young to know. I’ll never forget watching the news that day in horror. Or hearing the jets soar over my house and seeing the smoke rising from the Pentagon, just a few miles away. I was due to return that week to my job as a lobbyist in downtown D.C. after my maternity leave but I was crippled with fear and postponed it.

But time moves on. I eventually went back to work. The fear gradually lessened. But the world was forever changed. Ironically, one of the things I remember just a few days after the attacks was my daughter’s godmother coming to visit us on her birthday on September 14th,, which she shares with my husband. She wanted to see and hold her goddaughter. She held a very high-level position in the U.S. government and the long days and nights and brutal amounts of stress at work following the attacks were taking their toll.   Holding an innocent child in her arms during that time provided a brief respite of comfort. And here we were now, sixteen years later, visiting her in NYC and treated to the show as a Christmas gift from her. A gift that made an enormous impact on us both. I walked back from the theater with my daughter with tears rolling down my cheeks, a very rare thing for me. She even said to me that it was okay to cry. Yes, it absolutely is.

I was recently in a meeting where we talked about the idea that bad things happen in life but good things can come from them. This show was an excellent reminder of that. There are so many stories from that day, many that we will never know, about both heroic acts and simple acts of kindness. There is a scene in the musical where many of the travelers, of all different faiths and backgrounds, go to a church and sing the Prayer of St. Francis, one of my true favorites. A very dear friend, an incredibly talented musician and healer, sang it and played the guitar to it at a meeting once. It was a gift to those of us in the room that day, and it was a gift last night as it moved me to tears and taught my daughter a wonderful prayer she didn’t know. For those of you not familiar with the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, here it is:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

 

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

 

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The people in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland gave all those things freely those few days following the attacks—love, pardon, faith, hope, light and yes, even joy. They consoled the weary travelers without regard to their own needs. I wish everyone could see “Come From Away.” I am so grateful to have seen it. To have seen it with my daughter. To have let my tears flow freely. To have been reminded of the kindness and good that exists in our world. To have sat next to total strangers and shared a moment in time. To have enjoyed a show on Broadway in a city that not just survives, but thrives. And to be 2047 days sober and able to feel and express the gratitude for all these things.

 

240_F_92338156_rRLIL8mJjRVVHcmuiTssieWPRnGQmlTU

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Come From Away”

  1. Paul S January 4, 2018 at 12:22 pm #

    Beautiful post.
    I always remember that idea that God isn’t in the pain, but is in the healing. “watch the helpers” they say when tragedy strikes – that is God right there.
    Blessings

  2. Bob Hisel January 4, 2018 at 1:12 pm #

    My wife and I visited “Ground Zero” and the 9/11 Museum 3 month ago. It was truly a Spiritual experience for me and definitely a “Must See” if you are in Manhattan…..Bob

  3. amobonjour10 January 6, 2018 at 12:05 am #

    Martha, You have a way with words! Your piece is so well written! You know how to get through to us…You are a true inspiration! I too have deep feelings when I think back of that day and the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi is one of my favorites!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: