Channel of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11, Kevin Tuerff, River Grove Books, 2017.

September 11, 2001 is a day that very few will ever forget. 9/11 is one of those dates where you will never forget where you were. I was a student at Randolph-Macon College and was walking across campus after my early morning class. As I crossed the lawn in front of the library, I overheard other students talking about planes being flown into a building.

In the car, driving home, I turned NPR on to listen for details. Once home, my mom and I watched as the news replayed, over and over, the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. There are not enough words to capture the gut reaction that we felt as we watched what was happening in New York, Washington, D. C., and Pennsylvania.

The unthinkable had happened.

It was humbling to stand on the shores in Breezy Point, New York, while on a mission trip, and look at the names of Breezy Point residents who had died in the attack. The memorial included beams from the World Trade Center. 

While my mom and I were watching the news, desperate to hear anything new update, there were thousands on planes, in the air, headed for cities like New York and D. C. Once the attacks occurred, air space was shut down to incoming traffic.

Kevin Tuerff, and his partner, were on a flight headed from Paris to New York, when suddenly the plane took a different course. With little information about why, they made an emergency landing in Gander.

Where is Gander?

Gander is a small town in Newfoundland, Canada. With just over 11,000 people, the town was flooded with thousands of vacationers, called “come from aways” by the locals.  Tuerff’s memoir, Channel of Peace, captures the radical hospitality that the residents of Gander showed the strangers who became part of their community.

During this dark time for the United States, Kevin was experiencing his own darkness. He was experiencing great doubts about organized religion. It was being stranded on an island during a horrific terror attack, that he began to reclaim some faith in religion.

The hospitality the people of Gander showed the stranded Americans was striking. Hundreds of people stopped what they were doing to volunteer in various ways to assure that the “come from aways” had food, clothing, showers, and activities.

Kevin’s first hand account is enough to make you want to stop what you are doing and volunteer somewhere.

In fact, that’s what Kevin did.

For Keith, the horrific events of 9/11 awoke something within. The faith in action of the people of Gander had renewed his own spirituality. When he returned to the United States, he shut is marketing company out of Austin, Texas down for a day and sent his employees out to do good. It was Kevin’s way of giving back, and it has become an annual tradition on 9/11.

The experience in Gander strengthen Kevin’s spirituality and fueled his own compassion, which has empowered hundreds of overs to give. For me, it was a gift to read from the perspective of one who is not used to being served, be transformed by the power of hospitality. A lesson for all of us, especially those who claim to be followers of Jesus.

This is a great book. So great that Kevin’s story has been included in the Broadway musical, Come From Away. Once I started, I knew I had to finish.  You can purchase your own copy by clicking on the link below:

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital review copy.