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Stranded 9/11 pilot touring central Newfoundland

Former American Airlines pilot Beverley Bass visits Lewisporte for the first time. Bass is one of 38 pilots who were forced to land at Gander International Airport when U.S. airspace was closed Sept. 11, 2001.
Former American Airlines pilot Beverley Bass visits Lewisporte for the first time. Bass is one of 38 pilots who were forced to land at Gander International Airport when U.S. airspace was closed Sept. 11, 2001.

LEWISPORTE, NL – With the award-winning production of “Come From Away” still thrilling audiences on Broadway, one of the story’s central figures continues her discovery of Newfoundland.

Beverley Bass was one of 38 airline captains forced to reroute to Gander on Sept. 11, 2001, after the closure of U.S. airspace following the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Her experiences in the days that followed are chronicled in the production of “Come From Away.”  Jean Corella portrays Bass in the play and was nominated for a Tony Award for the role.

Bass says she has seen the production 75 times thus far and returned to Newfoundland four times since 2001, saying she is still fascinated by the story.

Bass has come from away again this summer to take a tour of communities in central Newfoundland and meet some of the people who helped host more than 8,000 stranded passengers.

As much as Bass experienced in the days after 9/11, the beauty lies in the experiences of others she says.

This visit, Bass has brought her family along to share in the Newfoundland experience.

“That’s what makes the story of ‘Come From Away’ so great,” said Tom Stawicki, who accompanied Bass on her trip. “When you see the show in New York, everybody walks out of the theatre with a good feeling in their heart, because of that generosity, that kindness, that was so prevalent here.”

Pictured, left to right, are Tom Stawicki, Beverley Bass, Lewisporte Mayor Brian Sceviour, Lewisporte Councillor Ed Vatcher, Taylor Stawicki, Paige Stawicki and Blake Rogers.

Bass and company will spend four days touring the various communities that assisted with stranded passengers. Although the group can’t visit every community that participated, they are planning an extensive tour. In each community they will meet with representatives from the town and review their role in the event.

The tour began in Appleton on Monday with a stop at the town hall before moving on to Lewisporte to meet with Mayor Brian Sceviour to discuss the logistics of hosting and caring for so many unexpected guests.

“When everybody is helping together, you can do it,” said Sceviour. “That is one thing I’ve got to say, is cooperation was received from anyone you spoke to, it was no problem whatsoever, you got assistance.”

Gander air traffic controller Pat Woodford befriended Bass during her time in Gander in 2001 and arranged the community tour. Woodford says the tour is to honour the efforts of community members, and to provide some personalized recognition for the efforts.
“She contacted me and asked me to plan some stuff and take them around the area…,” said Woodford. “A lot of passengers stayed here, and it’s nice to get a bit of recognition from somebody that is pretty official.”

The visit continued today with a tour of the Gander Arts and Culture Centre.

Wednesday the group is scheduled to meet with Gambo Mayor Peter Lush at the Smallwood Interpretation Centre with a reception to follow at the Gander Legion. The trip wraps up on Thursday with a visit to the Gander Aviation Museum and a boat tour in Salvage.

“We think this place is adorable,” said Bass.

Patrick.Murphy@advertisernl.ca

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