Positively Philadelphia: 'Come From Away' brings inspiring, true 9/11 story to Philly

Lauren Lipton
October 20, 2019 - 9:22 am
The cast of the national tour of "Come From Away," including Becky Gulsvig, who plays pilot Beverley Bass.

Matthew Murphy/Courtesy of Kimmel Center

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The award winning musical "Come From Away" opens at the Academy of Music this week, and it tells the story of all the planes and people who were diverted on 9/11 to the small town of Gander. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Bass. There has been a crisis in the United States and all the airspace is closed so we will be landing in Gander, Newfoundland."

With those words over the loudspeaker on the flight from Paris to Texas, an odyssey began that is now an inspiring part of one of the darkest times in history.  

"I was number 36 out of 38 wide-body planes to land in a three-hour time frame," explained pilot Beverley Bass, "in a very small community of roughly 9,400 people and we invaded their town with about 7,000 passengers and crew."

People on her plane were finally allowed off after 28 hours. 

"When we got off the plane on September 12 and went into the terminal, it was lined with tables full of food," recalled Bass. "It was evident that every stove in Gander had been on all night. They gave us a bag and said take whatever you want. They made enough food to feed seven thousand people for five days."

There are only a few motels in Gander so people stayed in churches, in schools, on the fire station floor, and in people's homes. School bus drivers who were on strike came back to work to help transport passengers around. 

"When we departed Gander on September 15, I said I want everyone to know about the town of Gander and what they had done," Bass said.

And this is what this play does. The first time Bass and her husband saw the play, when the character who plays her called home to tell him and her young children she was okay, her husband started sobbing. As with all of us remembering that day we will never forget.