Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
Part of the off-Broadway season ticket line up at Shea’s in Buffalo this year is a show called “Come From Away.” “Come From Away” is an uplifting musical, but in most unlikely fashion. Let me tell you why. It is unlikely because it is a story of one of the worst days in American history: 9/11. And not just that. It is unlikely because although it is a story of America, it takes place in Gander, Newfoundland and the cast of characters are from countries around the world.
On Tuesday, September 11th terrorists high-jacked planes and used them to carry out the most devasting attack in American history. In the moments following, for the first time in American history airspace was closed. Every plane in the US was grounded. Every plane coming to the US was sent somewhere else. In most cases, although it was chaos and work, pilots and airports managed. But for the flights headed for the east coast of the US over the Atlantic Ocean questions remained. In some cases they turned around, but for those flights that had traveled too far there remained only one option: Gander. In the end 42 unexpected planes landed virtually doubling the population of the small town in an instant.
But the story isn’t in the reality of the incident, but in the response. This community welcomed the strangers with open arms. Businesses and community groups opened their doors, donated their goods, and offered every assistance they could. Locals opened their homes, offered everything they had, and held vigil with their new neighbors as if they had known them their entire lives. It is an incredible story of hospitality for the stranger, help for the hurting, and love in the face of hate. While we all regret the cause, the response is nothing short of moving.
There’s much to remember about 9/11, and for me this is part. We remember not simply the bravery of the men and women who gave everything and the people who lost it all, but how an event that was meant to be the worst thing imaginal, brought out the best in people.
My hope for us is that we not simply remember their response in Gander, but that we can learn from it, be inspired by it, and embody it. I hope we can look for the hurting, the lonely, and the strangers in our land and we can offer love, support and help. Scripture is clear. God cares about how we treat guests (Lev. 19:33-34, Deut. 10:18-19, Exodus 23:9, Malachi 3:5, 1 Kings 8:41-44, Job 31:32, …). Hopefully learning from the past and empowered by Gander’s example, it will not take a global tragedy for us to remember the value of human life and the love we are called to share with those in need.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.