By David Sorensen
Like many parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorial opened its
arms to stranded travellers last week in the wake of devastating terrorist
attacks on New York City and Washington. When news came that terrorists
had used commercial jetliners as missiles, the United States shut
down the skies over the country. That forced dozens of jetliners to
make unscheduled landings across Canada, including at St. Johns,
Gander, Stephenville and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
The move also forced provincial emergency response officials to house
and care for the estimated 13,000 unexpected travellers from around
the world. As part of the effort to house the thousands of flyers
whose planes landed at St. Johns airport, Memorial offered room
in the Thomson Centre and Aquarena as a temporary home for about 500
They were provided a bed or a cot, meals, access to washroom facilities
and showers and communications with their family and friends who were
unaware of where they had landed after the disaster.
Students from Paton College residences assisted university officials
and Emergency Measures Organization volunteers in setting up the temporary
accommodations. For the next several days, these and many other students
were available to provide help and assistance to the visitors. Faculty
served as translators for the passengers while others were conspicuous
in their efforts to provide a break from the waiting with concerts,
special lectures and films.
A spur-of-the-moment concert organized by the School of Music was
a huge hit among the stranded travellers.
President Axel Meisen said the Memorial University community
students, staff and faculty came together in a tremendous effort
to make the unexpected visitors welcome and comfortable.
All volunteers and employees can be justifiably proud,
said Dr. Meisen in an open letter to the university. Your service
and kindness were an impressive display of Memorials ability
to respond in a time of great need. But more than that, it was an
illustration of the great spirit that is central to Memorial University.
Dr. Meisen praised the volunteer staff from all sectors of the university
who came forward to staff the 24-hour emergency housing operation.
They ensured that the travelers were provided with the necessities
of the moment: from telephones to mattresses and bedding, from food
to clean clothes and clean facilities, from a pleasant chat to a comforting
smile, he said. Many of you also kept your part of the
universitys operations going while you were volunteering or
while many of your colleagues were away volunteering. Some of you
volunteered but were not called in; I wish to thank you as well because
your offer of help meant we could handle the situation with the confidence
that we had back up, if needed.
The travellers were finally able to leave Newfoundland by Saturday,
Sept. 15, but many claimed they would not soon forget the people of
the province and the university. Some passengers made donations to
the university as a way of expressing their thanks. In response to
this, Memorial will establish the Sept. 11, 2001, International Travel
Bursary Fund and direct the donations to this bursary fund which will
assist students from other countries to travel to Memorial University
for studies. This bursary will be a perpetual memorial to those who
died in the tragic events of that day, while it also fosters international
relations. The universitys Office of Alumni Affairs and Development
will oversee the creation of this bursary.
For more views of our unexpected guests, click