A week or so ago, a family member forwarded me an email from what I presume was a Gander Airport employee informing people that NBC was planning to air a special segment by Tom Brokaw during the Olympic Closing Ceremonies. You can view the email below and the story is about how the airport in Gander, Newfoundland amazingly rerouted & landed 39 airplanes when North American airspace was shut down due to the 9/11 incident. This became known as Operation Yellow Ribbon and although Gander airport has International status, I am sure many flight personnel would tell you prior to the event, that an operation of this magnitude could not be accomplished. Various media networks picked up this story and went on to tell how Gander, and a few towns in close proximity quickly rallied together to help accommodate & feed approximately 7,000 people for a few days via their homes, churches, and various community centers. The Vancouver Olympics closing ceremony had arrived, and with great anticipation I tuned into NBC to catch Tom Brokaw’s story, and if his love letter “explaining Canada to Americans” below is any indication of what to expect then I knew the NBC Gander Operation Yellow Ribbon would be quite interesting. My excitement was short lived because I found out later that NBC had to do a programming shuffle and they apparently showed a segment of the story the night before on Saturday February 27th. From there, I researched online in hopes of finding some video content on YouTube, and everything came up short. What I did find though was very interesting and inspired me to write this post. I began stumbling on blog’s like GeoffFox.com (thanks Geoff) who talked about seeing enough of this story that it had him and many others crying and thirsty for more, and asking where they could view the full segment. It turned out many people were reaching out via twitter and facebook to find an answer to the same question. I read online where many Americans (and others no doubt) found this NBC segment to be one of the most moving stories they had ever witnessed on television, and they wanted NBC to air it in full so they could watch it, and show their children, grandchildren, friends, and loved ones about this wonderful story of compassion and unselfish giving by strangers in a foreign country towards their fellow American countrymen and women.
It is my goal that if you are reading this and should it move you, that you will help get NBC to air the Tom Brokaw story about Gander Operation Yellow Ribbon. Below you will find information to contact the highest levels of the NBC Universal Executive team (I hope the information I found is accurate) should you wish to help in this quest. Further, if you are familiar with Twitter or know people who are, please tell them to use the hash tag #NBCairBrokawGander9/11 and help form a movement that way and feel free to start a facebook group, or use any social medium for that matter. My second goal, is that everyone who is exposed to this, will quietly go model these acts of kindness in their personal lives in some way if you are not already. Kindness and helping others does not have to be big. It may be an older neighbour who could lend a hand or a chat. The giving or help you offer is not of concern, rather that you simply do something, as every little bit helps in this journey we call life.
I was looking forward to this story being told about the many people in these Newfoundland communities who graciously helped our American neighbors in dire and desperate need. You see Newfoundland & America have a deep history that many Canadians, let alone Americans are not even aware about. At it’s time of construction, Gander airbase was the largest in the World and was home to American, British, & Canadian personnel, and American bases were located in Placentia (Bill Cosby had a brief stint there and he helped expose another very inspiring story below regarding Lanier Phillips), Stephenville, St. John’s and they still do some training (via NATO) in Happy Valley/Goose Bay base in Labrador (which is an amazing part of the province). Newfoundland’s location made it an ideal strategic outpost for North American defense & trans-Atlantic flight. There was also the Gander US Air disaster in 1985 where 248 US Air personnel died suddenly after the plane crashed shortly after take off. I can remember my mother waking me up for school and telling me of what had happened about a 40 minute drive from my hometown. That cloudy scary moment and day is etched in my brain. Conclusions to what caused this terrible tragedy are still unresolved with many, and regardless of what may have happened it has forged a bond of sympathy between Newfoundland and the United States of America. On a brighter note, I know of one American president who has fished and got himself pretty deep in quicksand on the Gander river, and the airport has been a quiet stopover for Saudi Princes, the Royal family, Oprah, and many other celebrities.
FDR & Churchill secretly met during WWII off of Argentia, while Captain Bob Bartlett helped an American explorer get to the North Pole, and Newfoundland is home of the Gas Mask, the first trans-Atlantic wireless transmission, and was the last province to come into Canadian confederation. Some facts in the documentation below are either outdated or ignorant as Newfoundland is rich in oil, natural gas, hydro, and has been a front or top running GDP leader in Canada for several years. Newfoundland is the brunt of many jokes that often portray them in a manner in which they are all stupid, poor, and backwards. The funny thing is that many of these “Newfie” jokes often originate in Newfoundland by Newfoundlanders, as they are known to make fun of themselves because their life is filled with sarcasm and laughter but it is unfortunate many outsiders take it verbatim. While unemployment in rural areas is often higher then the norm, Newfoundlanders are regarded as some of the hardest working and talented people, and to say they are all stupid and poor is completely ignorant. Maybe you saw Newfoundland’s Premier Danny Williams (an extremely wealthy businessman, lawyer, and Rhodes Scholar) absolutely school Paul McCartney & Heather Mills on Larry King Live regarding the seal hunt (if you didn’t YouTube it, the man debates like no other. He was offered $90 Mil for his cable business, and finally sold for $210mil) and he is arguably the man who was responsible for preventing a Canadian federal government majority). I could offer you many examples of very successful, intelligent, and wealthy Newfoundlanders, and I could introduce you to an army of hard workers. I would suspect there remains a high percentage of today’s military who are Newfoundlanders, ready and willing to sacrifice in the name of their country, and there are many of them in the Alberta Oil sands, throughout the world, and a good childhood friend of mine who I grew up and played hockey with has been involved with NASA for a few years now. Newfoundlanders were at the forefront of World War I & II. In fact, I had a great uncle who served in both, and my grandfather who also served in WWII.
Newfoundlander’s are a hearty, proud, and remote island people who are surrounded by the cold north Atlantic ocean, and what they may supposedly lack, they unquestionably make it up with their rich spirit, giving, generosity, and life of laughter. I know this because I am a Newfoundlander, a proud one, and what you will witness when you watch these videos may seem trivial to some but this is everyday life for many of us. Don’t get me wrong, Newfoundlanders are far from perfect and they face the same challenges, squabbles, difficulties, that others may face in life but we are there when people are in need. So what happened in Gander, and other towns as a result of the September 9/11 Operation Yellow Ribbon is in our nature to forget the small things in life and help others when it is requested of us, and on those days our next door neighbor was America.
I currently live in Toronto, and on September 11, 2001, I was residing in Halifax and I remember picking up something to eat and on the radio I heard an airliner had crashed into the twin towers in New York. It was sad, crazy, but things happen, and my original thinking was that it was a freak accident. I made it home to turn on the television, and that’s when everything started to unravel, and it was evident America was under an attack of some sort. I must admit, it was a bit nerve racking as I was thinking how America might respond to what was going on, and what else may happen that day. Shortly after the attacks, all North American Airspace was shut down and I found out many planes would be landing in Gander, and as a result, my hometown of Lewisporte (40 minutes from Gander) would be taking as many people in as they could to help provide them with food & shelter. I spoke with my parents a couple times, and they like many others wanted to take people directly into their homes, however the churches, town, and community groups decided that it would be better they stick together in these various community places. Nice bed in a home or nice ground floor in a community center. It didn’t make sense to me but anyways, they were being taken care of so that is all that mattered. My family (like many others) managed to meet and invite people into their homes to use our shower, watch television, and to treat the home as if it was theirs and call wherever they wanted, and do not worry about the phone bill or anything for that matter. Keep in mind that nobody really knew anything about these passengers, regarding who they were, what they did, as it didn’t matter. They needed help and that was what they were going to get similar to the Kevin Tuerff’s story below, regardless if similar people would reciprocate should we be faced with such a terrible predicament. What is a little wild and bizarre was a week prior to 9/11, I flew from Halifax to Dallas, Texas. On the flight down, I flew in and out of Logan (Boston), in and out of Dulles (Washington), flew over close enough to New York that I could see the skyscrapers, and on the way back from Dallas, I did the exact same in reverse. One week later with unfortunate odds and who knows what could have happened. Obviously I was no where near being a part of this tragic event, but my flight path, airports & airline used, and timing put me a lot closer then most.
It turns out there is a local adult learning center (called the Calypso Foundation) for people who are mentally challenged in my hometown, and it also turned out that the husband who showered at my parents had recently retired as a Senior VP from one of America’s largest Airlines, and well the rest is history. Every year the Calypso Foundation would hold an auction to raise funds for their operations as they are a non-profit entity. This man saw to the airline donating a very nice model airplane and some funds for a room in this learning center, and for several years (I am not sure if they still donate the following now) this airline gave the auction two tickets to pretty much anywhere in the world they flew. Lewisporte, Gander, and other Newfoundland communities who helped with Operation Yellow Ribbon certainly did not care, expect, or want any of the generosity that would bestowed onto them as a result of helping the stranded passengers but this is a story where great things are derived out of simple acts of kindness, and when you give, you receive. This couple as well as many others could have went back to their everyday lives and eventually forgot about what had happened during their couple stranded days in Newfoundland, however many have returned (some repeatedly), and many others are taking their experience of receiving such unselfish compassion, and trying to duplicate in their lives by helping a neighbor that they previously wouldn’t have or getting more involved in giving back to their local communities, and many funds have been sent to give back in Newfoundland for various initiatives. It should be known that my hometown of Lewisporte has a population of less then 3,000, and we didn’t have high speed internet at that time. I joke with my friends on the mainland that there is only one set of traffic lights and it is no longer in operation because the ferries are not as busy (true story). We have Subway, McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, two banks, and we actually service a larger area (of many smaller towns) but I think you get the picture. In any event, there was a man from New York City amongst the people stranded who had requested where he could check some email, so they led him to my former high school, and he had to use a dial-up modem to access the internet, so no doubt this gentleman must have thought he got tossed back in time. A few months later after this incident a $50,000 USD (at the time that would equate to $88,000 CDN) suddenly showed up to the school from the Rockefeller Foundation for a donation with instructions to put it towards a modern computer room. Many corporations that these people worked for also have sent donations to various community groups as well as individual contributions in a show of gratitude. My town amongst others are no doubt extremely gracious and they understand why they are receiving these contributions but they did this with no strings attached. It is the human, common sense thing to do, and although they are very appreciative, it was very much unnecessary if you asked those who helped.
So I hope you will let Bill Cosby show you how to properly pronounce Newfoundland, and that you will watch as much as this inspiring footage, and hopefully you will help get NBC to share what is no doubt a very moving, touching, and inspirational story about a people who truly are the very salt of the earth like the ocean that surrounds them. Oprah if you are listening, I am sure you would have fun with a story like this as well.
Thank you and Long May Your Big Jib Draw (may the wind be with your back!).
Bill Cosby showing you how to Pronounce Newfoundland | (Pron. New Fun (really fast) LAND, not New Found Lind. The audio for this video is weak so turn up your system.
Gander’s Olympic Moment – On NBC February 28, 7 PM
We know that many of you are eagerly watching the Games and will be cheering our athletes to victory right until the final event. While the Vancouver Games showcase beautiful British Columbia, the focus will shift to eastern Canada just before the closing ceremonies.
A television documentary entitled Operation Yellow Ribbon produced by the US network NBC, is scheduled to air at 7:00 p.m. (time approximate) on February 28. It tells the story of the events following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the role played by the people of Gander in that historic event, welcoming 6,600 stranded airline passengers.
Gander ACC is featured in this piece and played host to award winning television journalist and author, Tom Brokaw and his crew last year during filming. Don O’Brien, Team Supervisor and Bruce Terris, Unit Operations Specialist at Gander Tower were interviewed for the documentary, and help to explain what happened on that fateful day.
Brokaw, a strong enthusiast of Canada, is best known as the former anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, and is the only person in NBC’s history to have hosted The Today Show, NBC Nightly News and Meet the Press. NBC’s average nightly prime time Olympic audience has been close to 30 million viewers, with nearly 35 million tuning in for the opening ceremonies. Given the time slot in advance of the closing ceremonies, which are also expected to draw over 35 million, they are sure to garner a similar audience for Operation Yellow Ribbon. So stay tuned February 28, to see some of our employees on this NBC special, and hear about the impact made by our people and the community of Gander.
Video’s You are encouraged to watch | They Will Move You
Amazing Short Piece & this touches on Operation Yellow Ribbon. The airport you see is Gander, Newfoundland and there are several other shots of our beautiful province. It is very encouraging to see an American production offer so much respect & recognition to Canada, and it sheds light onto the future of American’s as a whole, learning more then just themselves. This is a very emotional piece and I am yet again blown away that it was American produced, and makes me further proud to call myself a Canadian & Newfoundlander (New Fun (really fast remember) Lander not LINDER. Bill showed you how to say it!!!).
Kevin Tuerff talks about his ordeal getting grounded in Newfoundland and what he is doing as a show of gratitude. You can reach Kevin & his initiative at his company Enviromedia or Via Twitter.com/enviromedia in the very amazing city of Austin, Texas (some of the nicest people there as well!). Kevin, hopefully you don’t mind me sending this along.
Another amazing ABC News Piece | Angels of Hope | Gander, Newfoundland
Tom Brokaw in Gander preparing for the NBC piece. Disclaimer: Ignore the Rap/explicit language intro as I am not sure what that is all about with Foxy Newfie, but thanks for putting this up. Secondly, I don’t think Tom Brokaw was or would be nervous meeting the mayor of Gander, and not all Americans expect to get paid when helping others. I understand what the mayor intended to say, however it may be misinterpreted, and come across as somewhat arrogant or ill informed. I do not know the mayor, however I understand Newfoundlanders, and our excitement. Americans are some of the most generous people on earth, however we all can do more and educate others on common sense acts of kindness while expecting nothing in return.
Twitter: Use the Hashtags #NBC & #NBCairBrokawGander9/11 to help get the full segment of this wonderful story aired.
Newfoundland Anthem | Ode to Newfoundland
Great Newfoundland Song | Saltwater Joys
We’ll Rant & We’ll Roar | Great Big Sea
Mussels in the Corner Song | Change Islands Kitchen Party
I put this in for a good laugh as I know someone in this video that was taken from footage many years ago and probably well before I was born. The audio is not good so you will have to turn up your audio. If you think Gander is remote, then Change Island’s is a small island off of Newfoundland but they produced some fine talent over the years. Looking good back there Del, and good on the Priest for stomping his feet as well!