Ambassador Heyman’s Remarks at Come From Away Dinner

Ambassador Heyman’s Remarks at Come From Away Dinner
Gander, NL
October 28, 2016

As prepared for delivery.

Thank you Michael. I am so glad Vicki and I met you and learned about the Canadian Music Theatre Project’s role in creating Come From Away when we visited Sheridan College last year.  Even before we met you, friends had told Vicki and me about this moving, uplifting, memorable musical they saw in previews in La Jolla, California.  Every one of them who saw the musical told me the same thing:  SEE THIS SHOW!  When I get good advice, I take it.  So, here I am, with members of my Mission Canada team.  And what a rare and amazing privilege it is to see Come from Away where it actually happened.  I am thrilled to meet the people who were part of that memorable episode in Newfoundland history, and the talented actors and musicians who are re-creating the story so that we remember and honor the importance of what happened on those four days in September, 2001.

Like so many others, Irene and David were captivated by the story of kindness and compassion that emerged from a dark episode in history.  I believe in the power of art to heal and to explain stories in ways that words alone cannot express.  This musical is a powerful reminder that even in the darkest of times there are still good people who do good things for no reward other than knowing they made the lives of fellow human beings better.

Before the dinner, I had the chance to meet the cast and to learn more about how they, like their audiences, have fallen in love with the people of Newfoundland who opened their homes and their hearts to the “plane people.”  It is an honor for the U.S. Embassy to sponsor the travel of actors and musicians to Gander for this special event.

I am very glad to be here to see Come From Away, and I am particularly glad to be here to say thank you in person to the people of Gander.  Travelers from all over the world found themselves unexpectedly in Newfoundland on that terrifying and tragic day, and most of the travelers were from the United States.  Those travelers, and their families who waited anxiously at home for them to return safely, are and always will be deeply grateful to the amazing people of this town and the surrounding towns whose citizens put their lives on hold fifteen years ago.

The people of Gander showed us what it means to love thy neighbor, and on that day, Gander’s neighborhood was the whole world.  It is fitting that Gander, at one time, the hub of transatlantic travel, again became a global meeting place.  The international lounge – where we are tonight – once again hosted people from all over the world.  At a moment’s notice the people of Newfoundland welcomed the “plane people” with open arms, blankets, toothpaste, and an endless supply of casseroles!  Everyone in Gander played a role in making the “plane people’s” stay not only tolerable, but enjoyable during a time when joy was in short supply.

I know a lot of Americans like Tom Brokaw have come here and summed up what happened on those few days in September, 15 years ago.  You know the stories better than anyone.

The relationship between the United States and Canada is broad and deep because we are allies, trading partners, neighbors, and friends.  I am immensely proud to share the examples of how we have helped one another through the years.  I also want to take this opportunity to present the town of Gander with a symbol of the American people’s appreciation for what the people of Gander and surrounding areas did fifteen years ago.

Mayor Elliott, may I ask you to join me to accept this gift on behalf of the people of Gander.  I present the Town of Gander with this plaque to say thank you for being an example of the best in humanity at a moment when it was more important than ever to show the power of love and kindness to prevail over hatred.

[Text inscribed on plaque]

On September 11, 2001, hundreds of American citizens and people from the world over found themselves suddenly in an unfamiliar place.

In typical Newfoundland tradition, you opened your homes and your hearts to these “Come From Aways.”  Those who know the people of The Rock know that kindness to strangers has been your way for generations. And on that fateful day, love and comfort prevailed over evil and tragedy as the enduring legacy of Newfoundland.

The travelers and the people of the United States are eternally grateful.

Thank you again for what you did fifteen years ago and for including me in this special weekend. When I was in Washington, I was told you are not just the U.S. Ambassador to Ottawa you are the Ambassador to all of Canada. Tonight I am proud to be the U.S. Ambassador to Gander.