Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Bev speaking. There’s been a crisis in the United States and all of the US airspace is closed. We’re going to be landing our aeroplane in Gander, in Newfoundland...”
On 11 September 2001, those words were spoken on a Boeing 777 somewhere over the north Atlantic. Bev was Beverley Bass, the first female captain in American Airlines history. And Bass’s plane was one of 38 that landed at Gander international airport, northeastern Newfoundland, as part of Canada’s Operation Yellow Ribbon when two airliners hit the North and South Towers of the World Trade Centre.
Bass, and about 7,000 crew and passengers, were grounded in the tiny town for nearly six days, almost doubling its population. The response of the islanders on “the rock” that took them in has been immortalised in Canada’s now longest-running musical, Come from Away. In the show-stopping solo “Me and the Sky”, the fictional Beverley sings Bass’s entire biography. It begins: “My parents must have thought they had a crazy kid/ ’Cause I was one of those kids who always knew what I wanted…”
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