Although few people are aware of it, the largest maritime evacuation in history took place on September 11, 2001, in Manhattan. It happened spontaneously, without the slightest preparation or planning, because a group of completely ordinary Americans put the well-being of thousands of total strangers ahead of their own safety, convenience, and comfort. Half a million people were rescued in the space of nine hours, and miraculously, not one person was injured in the process. If you have lost your faith in humanity, then you need to watch this one.
Here’s another story of heroism in an unlikely place: Gander, a little village (pop. 10,000) in Newfoundland, where thirty-eight airliners containing almost seven thousand people were diverted after American airspace was closed on September 11. The citizens of Gander opened their homes and hearts to the stranded travelers for five days — another example of the worst disasters bringing out the heroic best in ordinary human beings.
(If you’d like to read more about this extraordinary story, I highly recommend the book The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland, by Jim DeFede.)