Until 9/11, Marcia Dennis had never thought much about the phrase “America’s allies.”
Dennis, a freelance writer from Brookside, had been on vacation in France with her sisters and husband. Because of work, she needed to return early on her own.
Her US Airways flight was cruising over the Atlantic when the captain’s voice sounded.
“He announced he was going to make a stop in Gander, Newfoundland. … I had barely heard of Newfoundland.”
What followed was 24 hours on the tarmac in Gander, then five days in a virtual “news bubble” at a church camp in a pine forest.
When they landed, no one knew of the terrorist attacks. But they could see airliners packing Gander’s runways. Some 39 trans-Atlantic flights carrying 6,600 passengers landed there that day.
“We knew something wasn’t right, but we really didn’t know what was going on,” Dennis remembers.
When they learned the twin towers were gone, worry coursed through the cabin.
But for many: “It was like we didn’t feel it emotionally,” Dennis recalls. “We were concerned about getting off the plane.”
Once outside, she felt safe, enveloped by the Red Cross, the Canadian police, the people of Gander.
“We realized Canada was going to take care of us,” she says.
At the church camp, a television news channel showed the attacks. But the media in Canada did not focus on 9/11 every minute as they did in the United States.
“We were in a bubble, you know?” Dennis says.
Over that week, many of the younger passengers sang and sat around campfires. They danced.
It wasn’t until Dennis finally reached Philadelphia on her way to Kansas City that she fully realized the enormity of events.
“The airport was totally empty,” she says. On television, images of the attacks played over and over.
“It all just hit me,” she says.
In Canada, she was with American allies. In the days after 9/11, she gained a new respect and “appreciation for the people who are friends of the United States and who like the United States.”
Sept. 11, 2001, left her somewhat more frightened of the world, but also thankful for those proven friends.