September 12, 2002
This may be the single happiest film to come out of the 9/11 avalanche of documentaries. I realize that that isn’t saying much.
Here’s the deal. When the airspace was closed that morning, most domestic jets were allowed to land at their destinations, but none of the jets coming from other countries were allowed into US airspace. I remember that a Korean Airliner didn’t heed the calls and landed at SFO surrounded by airforce fighter planes. Planes coming from Europe were diverted to Eastern Canada and planes coming from Asia were sent to Vancouver and other west coast Canadian towns. 30,000 passengers were diverted to Canada where they were to stay for 4 days.
At first, people napped in airports and watched the news coverage. Many were kept on the planes for more than 24 hours as they parked on the runways. But then, without planning or making any calls, buses began arriving to take passengers to high schools and churches and community centers where entire towns had come out bearing blankets and clothing and food for the weary Americans who seemed so far from home. It really brought tears to my eyes. Life-long friendships developed. High school kids passed toothbrushes and sandwiches; women invited people into their homes, dogs were brought over to play with, talent shows took place. It was a spontaneous outpouring of kindness that has probably never been seen before. Strangers helping strangers.
I smiled most of the way through.