business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Most of us can probably remember exactly what we were doing when we heard the news of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the stunned feelings we had in the immediate aftermath.

But what were you doing the next day or the day after? Imagine if it involved caring for more than 6,000 displaced people.

That is the incredible story of what happened in Gander, Newfoundland, immediately after the skies over the United States were shut to all air travel. A large number of planes were already in the air on trans-Atlantic flights and Canada was stuck with finding places for them to land.

Thirty-eight large jets set down in Gander, depositing those 6,000-plus people in an area ill equipped to handle that influx. Yet the people of Gander and the surrounding towns did just that and did it with care and kindness in a way that will melt your heart nearly 15 years later.

I only stumbled into the story serendipitously when a friend loaned my wife a sweet little book, “The Day the World Came to Town,” by Jim DeFede. The book is 14 years old, but the story is wonderful and will get every American to look north of the border with appreciation.

But one small element will stand out with the food industry. In the midst of all their disorientation, it was incredible to read how many of the displaced found comfort in finding familiar brands, especially Walmart, in Gander. In addition to the neighborly comfort given by the locals, the friendly reminder of home reminds us in turn of the community role stores and brands play for our shoppers.

A sweet reminder. And, I must admit, an Eye-Opener.
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