The True Story of Compassion Behind ‘Come From Away’

Broadway musical ’Come From Away’ lands at the Aronoff Center this month, and a Newtown man who was there reflects on the true story of kindness after 9/11.
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Photograph by Matthew Murphy

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n the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Glen Prasser of Newtown made his way home from a business trip to London. His CVG-bound Delta flight was like any other. That is, until the pilot took to the intercom at about four hours in to explain that the plane would have to land in Newfoundland, Canada, so mechanics could check out a part. Later, as the aircraft descended onto the runaway, passengers watched as they passed over three dozen previously landed planes below. It became clear to Prasser and others that something much more serious was taking place.

Upon landing, Prasser used his company’s international cell phone to call his mother. That’s when he learned the devastating news: Four planes had been hijacked by terrorists and crashed. All American and Canadian airspace was closed. All flights were grounded until security could once again be assured.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MATTHEW MURPHY

Prasser and his fellow passengers found themselves at Gander International Airport. They spent 30 hours inside the plane before deboarding, and as part of a mass of approximately 7,000 people were sent to spend the next five days in the tiny coastal town of Gander, population 10,000.

Unequipped to nearly double its population overnight, the people of the town came together with hard work, compassion, and sincerity to help the stranded passengers in ways they would never forget.

These events make up an incredible story of human kindness in the midst of one of the worst events of our lifetime and serve as the plot for the musical Come From Away, which opens Broadway in Cincinnati’s 2019–2020 season September 17–29 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.

Though not based on his specific experience, Prasser says the show captures the story perfectly. He plans to see it for the fourth time when it’s in town. “It’s the story of how people come together and love and take care of one another,” Prasser says. “It’s a reminder that there are truly some really good people in the world. And many of them just happen to live in Newfoundland.”

Click through our gallery below for images of Glen Prasser’s time in Canada:

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