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On September 11, 2001, the United States changed forever. Thousands of people experienced unfathomable loss after four planes crashed in what was later learned to be a terrorist attack committed by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, another into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and another, Flight 93, outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. But what does 9/11, something that took place almost twenty years ago, have to do with a musical that’s been sweeping the nation and came out in 2016? Everything. 

Come From Away, a Tony-nominated musical, tells the story of the people flying on 9/11 that were rerouted to a small town called Gander in Newfoundland, Canada. Gander was home to some of the biggest and busiest airports in the world as it was a place to refuel before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Nevertheless, the airport slowly lost its use over time; flights landed there only occasionally. However, on September 11, thirty-eight planes landed at the airport in Gander. A town that had a population of approximately 9,000 people nearly doubled in size as 7,000 passengers arrived. The musical Come From Away tells their stories.

 They’re true stories. They’re stories of people in Gander and on the plane, experiencing this tragedy alike. They’re stories of unparalleled kindness and gratitude. They’re stories of profound loss, but also of incredible growth. This show is impactful because having a reminder of how good the world can be, especially in a terrible time, is often necessary in today’s society. 

Benet helped spread this reminder by offering students the opportunity to see the show on the group’s first trip to New York; students were also able to see the production this past August through the Benet Theatre Association (BTA). People who saw the show in New York went to see it again, on their own or with Benet, and people who had heard of the show jumped at the chance to see it in Chicago with Benet. Each person that saw Come From Away walked away learning a lesson. “This show, no matter where you see it, is one that leaves you speechless. The message that love and faith shine through [in] even the darkest of times is a powerful message we all need to be reminded of,” commented senior Claire Kubacki, who saw the show both in New York and Chicago. 

Sophomore Rachel Wand, who also saw the show in both cities, said this about the productions: “It was amazing to see how well done the casting was for the tour. Everyone in the show looked like the actors and actresses on Broadway, and they were very similarly talented, as well.” People who saw the show for the first time were also impacted. Freshman Olivia Cieplak, who knew next to nothing about the show before seeing it, remarked, “I liked how Come From Away showed that you can find good in every situation. It was also super cool that the show had only twelve people in its cast.” Junior Jenny Schiliro, who listened to the soundtrack numerous times and was very moved, saw the show for the first time with Benet: “The show was definitely different from what I first imagined, but it was still amazing nonetheless and the actors were just outstanding.” Multiple different experiences, each with their own reaction, show how impactful this show truly is.

We can all learn something from Come From Away. It tells the story of 9/11 attacks, shedding light on an important piece of our history. The show displays the importance of kindness, open-mindedness, and human empathy, all of which we are reminded to instill within ourselves. A recurring theme in the show is that the characters are at the start of a moment, one that they know will change their lives. You are here. This is the start of your moment. How are you going to live it? 

Making a horrible moment into a human moment is the message that Gander offers to us. This message can be applied to the people of Hurricane Dorian, Mexican immigrants, refugees fleeing from danger, the imprisoned, and the homeless. How can we be positive catalysts for change like the citizens of Gander? How can we embrace the hearts of others to make the world a more beautiful, human place?

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