Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-09-18
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

THEATER The real 'Kevin T' of 'Come from Away' on Gander, lessons learned
by Karen Topham
2019-09-04

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


"It's a very American and Canadian story," said Kevin Tuerff about what happened in Gander, Newfoundland, on Sept. 11, 2001.

That story—which includes Tuerff's experiences—forms the basis for the landmark musical Come From Away, which just finished a Chicago run and will return next summer. But for Tuerff—a gay man and lifelong Catholic whose book about his experience, Channel of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11, is available on ebooks and on an audiobook he narrates—the play is only the most visible reminder of an event that changed his life.

Both Channel of Peace and Come From Away tell the story of 38 transatlantic flights that were diverted to the small town of Gander when US airspace was closed following the attack. Gander, which had only about 9,000 residents at the time, had an oversized airport stemming from the days before jumbo jets when it was a practically required refueling stop, so it could ( barely ) accommodate all of the planes. But it was the influx of 6,700 "come-from-aways," as the locals call non-Newfoundlanders, that showed the Canadians' true nature. The town and citizens of Gander not only welcomed these strangers into their midst but housed, fed, and clothed them during their days-long layover. Every large space in town became a hostel, and many of the travelers were invited directly into people's houses in a display of human compassion that both the book and the musical celebrate.

"Compassion means to engage in the suffering of others and that's what Gander did," Tuerff said, doubting that such things would occur now in the United States. "If they wanted to have empathy," he added, "they would have sent thoughts and prayers and a few pizza boxes." He said that he was glad to see the kind of compassionate outpouring that followed Hurricane Katrina, but wonders, "Why does it take a natural disaster or a terrorist attack to get people to act this way?" He remembered that, in the immediate aftermath of the attack, "people were kind to one another," but notes that this state of affairs only lasted a very short time.

"We are a nation on edge," he told Windy City Times. "We only tend to help people in our own siloes, whether community, race, religion, or family, so compassion for the 'other' is what's missing." Citing the Biblical book of Matthew, he noted that Jesus said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me," and marveled that he "got to experience that firsthand."

And Gander's amazing generosity was not a one-off, either. Tuerff, who has returned to Gander several times to see friends—both come-from-aways and Newfoundlanders—who share his memory of those remarkable days, recalled being "blown away" when he returned in 2016 and discovered that Gander residents had "adopted" four Syrian refugee families. "It's following the Golden Rule," he said, which is the same in every religion in the world but is not always, or even often, followed. When his 9/11 experience was over, the residents of Gander said that thanks were not necessary, that the debt was paid in full. "They say, 'You would do the same for me,' but my God no we wouldn't," he said—especially not if the incoming strangers included, as they did, many people from African and Arabic countries.

Still, Tuerff continues to try to make a difference. Shortly after his return, he created Pay It Forward 9/11—an organization that asks people, on the anniversary of the attack, to do something nice, "random acts of kindness," for their fellow man. When he still owned his own business, he gave employees $100 each to distribute in any way possible and then come back and share their stories. He is retired now, but is pleased that the producers of Come From Away have taken up the cause, giving cast and crew members money to give away and discussing it in a talkback after the Sept. 12 performance. With five companies now performing the play in the United States and Australia, Tuerff sees the joy of giving spreading.

"There were 16.000 stories in Gander," he said, most of which obviously didn't make it into the play. But the stories that did have enshrined in popular culture the attitude of a people who genuinely care for strangers in their midst. He's disappointed, though, that we in the United States seem to have forgotten how the world rallied behind us in our day of need. "In the aftermath of 9/11 our country was united, but now it couldn't be any less united." He wrote Channel of Peace, its title taken from a Christian hymn, as a statement that individuals can make a difference. It's the same reason he wears a rope bracelet made for him by a janitor in Gander: "I wear it all the time to remind myself" of what can happen when people actually come together.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Ooh La La Burlesque & Variety Show to benefit Center on Addison 2019-09-18 - Chicago, IL — We are thrilled to announce our upcoming fundraising event for Center on Addison, the social and residential center for LGBTQ ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Tiny Beautiful Things 2019-09-18 - Playwright: Adapted by Nia Vardalos from the book by Cheryl Strayed. At: Victory Gardens Theater at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Five Presidents 2019-09-18 - Playwright: Rick Cleveland At: American Blues Theater @Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 1-773-654-3103; AmericanBluesTheater.com; $29-$39. Runs through: Oct. 19 ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW The Great Leap 2019-09-18 - Playwright: Lauren Yee At: Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St. Tickets: 312-335-1650; Steppenwolf.org; $20-$89. Runs through: Oct. 20 The year ...


Gay News

The Suffrage Plays to open Nov. 1, director, full cast announced 2019-09-18 - Full casting has been announced for the opening production of Artemisia's season — THE SUFFRAGE PLAYS - an evening of three one-act comedies ...


Gay News

Critics' Picks 2019-09-18 - You Can't Fake the Funk, Black Ensemble through Sept. 22—Funk music tribute with two dozen '60s, '70s and early '80s songs, exceptionally well ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Casa Valentina 2019-09-17 - Playwright: Harvey Fierstein At: The Broadway at Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway. Tickets: $25-40; PrideFilmsAndPlays.com. Runs through: Sept. 29 They ...


Gay News

Special Equity Jeff Award to honor Teatro Vista 2019-09-17 - Chicago Tuesday Sept. 17, 2019 - The Jeff Awards will honor Teatro Vista with the 2019 Special Equity Jeff Award at the Equity ...


Gay News

Youth auditions for Christmas Carol Sept. 21 2019-09-17 - The Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., is holding youth auditions for A Christmas Carol on Saturday, Sept. 21. In-person registration will be ...


Gay News

About Face Theatre Announces Complete 2019-2020 Season 2019-09-15 - The About Face Theatre season will feature three hyper-intimate main stage productions that reveal multiple perspectives within the LGBTQ+ community, along with our ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.