Nfld. & Labrador

9/11 event planned for Gander 'a completely different commemoration'

A special celebration is in the works for Gander this year to mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11, a tragedy that touched the lives of many in the town.

Gander service to raise awareness, money for Wounded Warriors Canada

A special ecumenical service will be held at the Steele Community Centre in Gander to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11. (CBC file photo)

A special celebration is in the works for Gander this year to mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11, a tragedy that touched the lives of many in the town.

The Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting an ecumenical event to help raise awareness — and funds — for Wounded Warriors Canada, a group dedicated to honouring and supporting Canada's ill and injured soldiers, veterans, first responders and their families.  

"It's really a completely different commemoration this year," said Debby Yannikidis, the chamber chair.

A different event, with a very special guest: the Sept. 11 service will feature renowned Canadian tenor Robert Pilon, who has portrayed the title character in the Toronto production of The Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. He will be joined by the town choir.

"We expect to have a full house," Yannikdis told CBC Radio's Central Morning Show. 

"Robert Pilon — there's not many times he is going to be in Newfoundland."

Stranded planes line the Gander runway on Sept. 11, 2001. (Courtesy: Gander Airport Authority)

The actions of the people in the airport town and its neighbouring communities on 9/11 have become known worldwide, even being memorialized in a musical soon to hit Broadway.

Thousands of passengers were stranded in Gander when 38 flights were grounded after the attacks in the U.S.. Gander residents opened their arms and homes to help the visitors during their five-day unexpected stopover.

American delegates to attend

Dignitaries scheduled to attend the 2016 event include the U.S Consulate General Steven Giegerich, Premier Dwight Ball and Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame MP Scott Simms.

There will also be representatives from both the police and fire departments of New York City in attendance.

"There are a large variation of people coming all to pay their respects, to commemorate the 15th anniversary, and to raise awareness about PTSD on behalf of Wounded Warriors Canada and to raise funds for them," said Yannikidis.

The Chamber of Commerce is also partnering with the Town of Gander and the Canadian National Day of Service Foundation for the event.

A gala event originally scheduled for Sept. 10 has been cancelled.

The service will start at 2 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the Steele Community Centre in Gander. Tickets for the free event can be picked up at the its box office, although organizers hope ticketholders will donate $9.11 in honour of 9/11.


David Newell


David Newell produces CBC Newfoundland Morning from Gander.