Sunday, October 25, 2015

Taking a Gander at a Forgotten Crossroads

In 2002, veteran reporter Jim DeFede published The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland. The book examined how residents of the small Canadian town welcomed with open arms some 6,700 airline passengers diverted to their airport by the events of 9/11.

In 2011, a number of those passengers returned to Gander to mark the 10th anniversary of this Canadian act of hospitality, and now, this fall, a new Gander gateway account is in the works. German filmmaker Lukas Wagner, based in Vienna, recently spent 10 days in Gander to gather footage for his documentary trailer. He wants to tie together the events of September, 2001 in Gander with other major ones involving East German, Hungarian refugees and other itinerant travelers.

From a recent report in the Gander Beacon:

“Even if some parts of the history of Gander have been told, I couldn’t find a documentary that focused on the whole history of Gander and its residents,” Wagner said. “Through my research I realized there was way more to Gander than only the situation during the Cold War, and I was surprised that nobody really sat down and did a documentary that covered everything. It was at that point when I decided that I want to make a documentary about this amazing place.”
The journalistic filmmaker said rather than retelling moments in history, he wants to focus on the stories of people currently living in Gander.

Along with 9/11, the most extensively covered individual who came through Gander from a faraway place is Kim Phuc, a Vietnam War U.S. napalm attack survivor famously depicted as a young girl in a Pulitzer Prize-winning 1972 AP photo and now living in Toronto. She requested asylum in Canada upon landing in Gander.

From a 2013 Boston Globe interview:

In 1986, she went to study in Cuba, where she met her husband. They traveled to Moscow for their honeymoon in 1992, and defected to Canada when their plane stopped in Newfoundland for fuel.

[Photo via: Gander Airport Historical Society]

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