Nfld. & Labrador

New Yorkers tell Gander students 9/11 response inspired hope

A group of New Yorkers are on a Tour of Gratitude in central Newfoundland, thanking communities for their response during the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

Students told stories of how their families helped after Sept. 11 attacks

New Yorkers tour through Gander showing their appreciation for all the work the community did during 9/11 (Chris Ensing)

A group of New Yorkers are on a Tour of Gratitude in central Newfoundland, thanking communities for their response during the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Nearly 6,600 airplane passengers were left stranded in the region after air space was shut down, forcing 38 airplanes to land at the Gander International Airport.

"We're here to say thank you, and you wonder 'Thank you for what?' said Jeanette Gutierrez, who was at her desk across from One World Trade during the attacks.

"We want to thank not only the Gander community, but you guys, because you guys are going to carry on what your parents and grandparents and your whole community did."

American Delegation visits Gander schools

5 years ago
Duration 1:15
Jeanette Gutierrez is one of the New Yorkers who is visiting Gander on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. She says Gander went above and beyond that day. 1:15

Guitierrez is part of a group that visited schools in Gander on Friday to explain to a new generation of children born after the events of 9/11 about what their families did for the so-called "plane people" and how it inspired people in New York. 

"After 9/11, the company I worked for moved mid-town and I didn't think or talk or breathe 9/11 for probably eight years," said Gutierrez.

She said one of her first steps on her "journey of healing" was reading the book The Day The World Came to Town, detailing Gander's response.

Stranded passengers eat a meal at Gander Collegiate. (CBC)

"They don't think they did anything above and beyond. They're just so humble," said Gutierrez while standing inside of Gander Collegiate, a school that housed 404 stranded passengers for days. "Do you understand what you did? Without blinking an eye? Maybe it's just their way, and it seems to be."

"I noticed that New Yorkers were behaving very differently [on the night of 9/11], they were behaving like the people of Gander," Gutierrez told CBC News. "And I thought, why did it have to take something so bad to happen to make something good happen?"

Students "Get It"

Joe and Sonia Agron worked as emergency responders during the attack. Joe was with the New York Police Department and Sonia was a recovery worker at Ground Zero.  

"I think it's important that what we found out about what their parents, their grandparents, their family members did for the people of the plane, and what inspiration they gave to us down in New York, to say 'Wait a minute, there [are] people who care," said Joe Agron. 

Sonia Agron said her world "changed completely" after the events of Sept. 11. While her husband said he felt helpless when he saw the devastation. 

"We all looked at each other and said, 'What are we going to do?'" said Joe Agron. 

The school broke off into groups to learn about the events from the touring group. The Agron's had a class full of students who asked them to describe what life was like for them after 9/11.

"After we told our story I asked if anyone has any questions," said Sonia Agron. "She said I don't have one but would you take a comment."

What happened next brought tears to the Agron's eyes. 

American first responders visit Gander children for 9/11 anniversary

5 years ago
Duration 0:37
Joe and Sonia Agron worked as emergency responders during the 9/11 attack. She was touched by the comments of children in Gander this week. 0:37

"I went to New York, I went to the museum and before I did that I too lost my faith in humanity," the student told Sonia Agron. "And going to the museum I realized there was good people in the world."

Sonia Agron said the student's response filled her heart with joy and let her know that kids understand the gravity of what people went through.


Chris Ensing

CBC News

Chris Ensing is a reporter who has worked as a videojounalist and host for CBC News since 2011.