MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Sept. 11, 2001, as the world woke up and saw the worst of humanity, a few thousand people experienced something else entirely: hope.
Minnetonka’s LuAnn Yattaw was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, on her way back from vacation, when the Federal Aviation Administration ordered all planes grounded. Canadian authorities helped divert flights headed towards the U.S., and just like that, Yattaw landed in Newfoundland.
“I don’t think I had ever heard of Newfoundland at that point,” said Yattaw. “I was like, ‘Where is it?’”
As Canada’s easternmost province, Newfoundland was once, strategically, a stop for transatlantic flights. Today, its disproportionately large airports and Air Force bases are there, just in case. More than 40 wide-body jets landed that day, from Gander to Stephenville. Thousands of passengers suddenly became guests.
Their experiences later became the subject of the Broadway musical, Come From Away. It depicts much of what Yattaw saw firsthand. On a moment’s notice, their hosts had little to give in material objects gave so much more in kindness.
“How good they were and how nice they were,” Yattaw said, recalling her experience in Newfoundland. “I have a picture of us with a couple of towels hanging dry. They were just from people’s houses. You know, they just gave us stuff.”
In the three-day detour, travelers needed medicine, clothes, food. Yattaw says they ate a lot of sandwiches.
They also needed the comfort that this, in the darkest days, exists.
“That’s what we try and remind ourselves,” Sue Frost, who produced Come From Away, said. The show is scheduled to come to Minneapolis’s Orpheum Theatre Aug. 11-23, 2020.
“Everybody of a certain age remembers exactly where they were that day, what they were doing, and how it affected them,” Frost said.
Every year since, for the past 18 years, has warranted a moment to pause, social media posts flood with messages like “Never Forget.” In remembering, people are reminded of the first responders, and of the grief. Come From Away and its real-life story adds another reminder.
“It’s important to care about people,” Yattaw said. “I just think the world’s really screwed up right now, and it needs … it doesn’t need another [September 11th], but it needs something to bring it back together again.”
For information on tickets to Come From Away, click here.