Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newfoundlanders Get Ready to Welcome Wave of 'Come from Away' Tourists

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newfoundlanders Get Ready to Welcome Wave of 'Come from Away' Tourists

Article excerpt

'Come From Away' draws tourists to the Rock

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - As the hit musical "Come From Away" takes Broadway by storm, Newfoundlanders are getting ready for a potential wave of tourists drawn to the place where those true stories happened.

"No doubt we're going to be expecting an influx of people," said Debby Yannikidis of the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce.

"The town is preparing. Is it preparing to the degree it should be? We hope so. But we really won't know until we get through this season."

The extraordinary 9/11 hospitality of Gander and nearby communities is celebrated in the big-hearted musical now selling out tickets and racking up accolades -- including seven Tony Award nominations.

It recounts what happened when the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, closed U.S. air space. Gander nearly doubled in population as 38 planes with almost 6,600 passengers and crew suddenly diverted to the sprawling international airport on the edge of town.

Gander and its neighbours in Gambo, Appleton, Lewisporte, Norris Arm and Glenwood donated food, clothing, prescription drugs and anything else their unexpected guests needed. Churches and a school became makeshift shelters and many residents welcomed "the plane people" into their homes.

Disoriented, frightened passengers from around the globe were simply taken into the communities over the next five days.

"Come From Away" has been praised for acknowledging the pain that resonates from 9/11 as it also provides a cathartic look at how compassion for strangers helped restore some faith in humanity.

Yannikidis said Gander wants to welcome visitors who will arrive as a result. But people are keenly aware that the musical and any resulting economic opportunity stem from tragedy, she added.

"I think that's why it's important that the aviation museum, a not-for-profit organization, is taking the lead on being able to provide tourists some sort of an experience. …

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