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Did We All “Come From Away?”

Robert Saul, MD pauses every year, when 9/11 rolls around, to remember those whose lives were lost, and the impact that day had.

October 2, 2023

Every year when 9/11 rolls around, I pause to remember those whose lives were lost, where I was when I heard the news, and the impact of that day on my life, on the life of my family, and on the life of my community.  Our country was tested, and our democracy was threatened.

Questions need to be posed and answered.  How have we honored those lost and what measures have we taken to preserve democracy going forward?  Are we treating everyone with respect like good citizens should?  Are we caring about others?  Are we taking care of others?  Are we taking personal responsibility for issues in our community while committed to being part of the solution by devoting our resources to make a difference?

I think that anything we do that does not address those issues does not honor those that lost their lives.  I previously wrote “Now more than ever, we need to do whatever we can to strengthen and improve our community.  I cannot think of a more respectful way to honor our fallen fellow Americans than to re-energize our efforts to realize the American dream for all citizens.  Our fellow citizens died on American soil.  We should honor them by doing everything in our power to improve our community, enhancing the American way of life.”1

 

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The Broadway musical COME FROM AWAY chronicles and puts to music and song the lives of many folks that were on planes diverted on 9/11.  Thirty-eight planes landed on Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, and the stories of those on the ground that came to the aid of the stranded passengers and those passengers and crews were truly riveting for me—all bathed in the cloud of destruction from the tragedies in NYC, Washington DC and Shanksville, PA.  The stories and songs were funny and sad, comical and tragic – that is, they were human stories.  New visitors to The Rock (as they affectionately refer to Newfoundland) are said to have come from away.  A group of communities around Gander were able on short notice to effectively greet and care for the over 6,500 passengers and crew members that landed on their doorstep.  They took care of those that “came from away.”

As The Washington Post noted back in 2021, “’Come From Away’ is a tearfully sentimental account of generosity and inner strength at a time when people are at their most psychically exhausted. The arc of the piece goes like this: Lives get interrupted and then lives go on. The parallels in the universal ordeal of the past year and a half [COVID pandemic] are unmistakable. And to a person, the members of the “Come From Away” community seem to understand the unusual opportunity their show has — to appeal again to audiences’ better natures.”2

Isn’t that the lesson for us?  To come to the aid of our fellow citizens, using a reserve of generosity and our inner strength, by providing for those who are at their most vulnerable state.  We are similarly obligated for such actions for all those seeking our assistance.  In a previous blog post, I stated that “the children and their families, seeking a better life and freedom from poverty in the homeland or oppression at our southern border or elsewhere, are left wondering where that somewhere will be (that time and place) where they can go hand-in-hand together to a better life. Our job is to assist them.”3

How have we lost that spirit that unites us?  Some would argue that we haven’t, but I think when we assist some with open arms and reject some because they are not “our kind” we have lost our direction, lost our moral compass.  We have all “come from away” at some point in time.  What potentially makes us a great society and democracy is fulfilling the role of citizen and passing that torch on to our children, the next generation.  The mayor of Gander, Claude Elliott, was quoted as saying “the mind-set of helping our neighbors has evolved since the time of European settlement, around the 1600s.  The land and weather were brutal, and full cooperation meant the difference between life and death.  We still have that instinct today.  If we see someone in need, we tend to help first and ask questions later…It is our hope that if sharing our story can remind and reassure the world that we all have the inherent capacity for simple human kindness, then perhaps it is an experience worth sharing.”4

 

"When we assist some with open arms and reject some because they are not “our kind” we have lost our direction, lost our moral compass."

 

I have learned a lot from COME FROM AWAY.5 I wish that the need for that series of events in Gander had not occurred.  I hope that the thousands that died on 9/11 will be honored with service.  Displays of patriotism without the requisite actions are incomplete in my estimation.6

I hope that the memories of 9/11 call up our “better natures”.  I hope that we will receive these calls to action and respond to the needs of all, not just our select partisan crowd.  Doing the latter is antithetical to the spirit of America and the Founders’ dreams.  Selfless actions, not selfishness, is the glue of our society and democracy. We must honor the fallen and emulate the spirit of the Newfoundlanders.  When we let those who “came from away” in with open arms, we are fulfilling the aspirations of America.

Back to the title.  Didn’t we all “come from away?”  Literally and figuratively, we certainly did.  Now it is our turn to reciprocate and make sure that the come-from-awayers (from outside or inside the USA) are greeted, welcomed, and treated like family – helping first and asking questions later and manifesting the capacity for simple human kindness.   That’s what citizens honoring our fallen citizens do. 

 

  1. Saul R. My Children’s Children: Raising Young Citizens in the Age of Columbine. CreateSpace, 2013. 225 pp. (p.212)
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2021/09/16/come-from-away-reopens-broadway/
  3. https://mychildrenschildren.com/somewhere-3/
  4. Sankoff I, Hein D, Maslon L: Come From Away; Welcome to the Rock: An Inside Look at the Hit Musical. Hachette Books, 2019.223 pp. (p. 82)
  5. https://mychildrenschildren.com/tears-rinsing-our-psyches/
  6. https://mychildrenschildren.com/memorial-day-and-patriotism/

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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