Monthly Archives: February 2010

Who Ever Knew About Gander?

Yesterday, in the middle of the Saturday afternoon Olympic coverage, I happened to catch a piece by Tom Brokaw about a little town in Canada called Gander. I searched for a link of the video and at finding nothing have decided to send a request to NBC to air it again. In the meantime I will try to retell it here, though Tom told it so well; this surely won’t even compare.

Gander, population just under 10,000, is located in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The story starts on the morning of September 11, 2001 and continues for the several days that followed, when the town was given a rare task or even test perhaps, at being neighborly. 

Moments after the planes hit the World Trade Center, North American airspace had to be cleared and all transatlantic planes heading westbound to the US had to be redirected to land immediately. 39 of them touched down at Gander Airport unloading 7000 people, who for the next four days were stranded with the clothes on their backs. Heightened security procedures were not allowing anyone to remove luggage from cargo.

For the town of Gander, the first issue was to find accommodations for the flood of unexpected guests. With all of the hotels combined, there were still only 500 beds. So, the schools and legion halls opened their doors. Next it was transporting the guests from the airport to the temporary shelters. There was bad news on this front, because the best option—the school buses—were of no help; the drivers happened to be on strike.

That’s when the kindness began. The mayor got on the phone explaining the quandary, and within minutes, the drivers put down their fight, got in their buses and started driving. Next it was food. And then blankets, and toiletries, and clothing and prescriptions. The people of Gander had to pull together. Local television and radio stations announced the need for assistance and soon residents started pouring in with support. Stores opened, letting people come in and take things off of shelves without paying. Pharmacies filled emergency prescriptions free of charge. Strangers offered their homes for stranded guests to take showers. The outpouring of generosity was overwhelming and for the people of Gander, it was seemingly second nature.

While the stranded guests mourned for their country, their Canadian hosts consoled them. One elderly couple worried for days whether their son, a New York City firefighter was alive or not. A Gander woman walked with them to church each day to pray.

When the airports opened up again stranded guests were in tears leaving their hosts-turned-friends. The common reaction was that after such a display of evil, people’s faith in humanity had been restored thanks to the people of Gander. As a token of appreciation for the hospitality they were shown, the stranded guests started a scholarship fund that has since raised nearly $900,000 and had assisted in sending 11 high school graduates to college.

Having been in New York on that horrible day there was little aside from the tragedy that I focused on in the aftermath. I certainly had no idea of the goings-on in Gander. I am so glad I happened to catch this piece Tom Brokaw did, and though my eyes were far from dry and I felt great sadness being reminded of 9/11, I felt happiness at such a heartwarming story of neighborly kindness.

Thank you Gander. Thank you Canada.

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Football Time

I’m a geeky figure skating nut and I have no problem admitting it. A couple of weeks ago I was flipping through the channels and found an Olympics pre-show on TV and got immediately sucked in—the costumes, the music, the toe loops and axels. In my excited anticipation for the 2010 Vancouver Games, I called my mom, who shares this love, to be sure she was tuned in. Instead, she was watching the NFL playoffs. Now this is funny because all through my growing up, my mother hated watching sports—except for our soccer games course. Having no boys in the house and a dad from Europe who never cared much for such American pastimes, games were never showing on our TV set. It wasn’t until the 1995 NBA Finals when the Orlando Magic played, that things changed. My mother might go down in history as having once been Shaquille O’Neal’s biggest fan. Honest. I remember being in my bedroom trying to fall asleep with her yelling at the television, cheering so loud she’d keep us awake.     

So basketball was where it began, but these days, it’s all sports—baseball, golf, hockey, tennis, and yes football. And it’s not just the teams. She knows the players, the coaches, the standings, the trades. It’s nuts.

So anyway…back to our phone call…

 “Mom!” I said to her, shocked that figure skating was getting the back burner.

 “Honey,” she replied. “It’s so exciting.”

 “If you so say,” I said back, trying to see her side of it. “So are you watching the Jets?” (I at least knew that they were in the playoffs.)

 “No, that game’s already over,” she replied in a tone as if to say, ‘Wake up, where have you been?’

 “Did they win?” I asked, prepared that if they had, I would gear up and support my New York team for the Super Bowl.

 “No, they lost. I guess you weren’t watching.”

 “I’m not really into it Mom.”

“You know, you should get into it,” she replied. “Guys really like it.” 

So weeks go by and everywhere, I am hearing talk of Super Bowl parties and how to combat packing on pounds over Super Bowl weekend and all I could think was, gosh I am probably the only person in America who isn’t planning on watching. And in a weird way, I felt like I was boycotting a holiday. So as game day drew nearer, I thought I might just bite the bullet and watch. The idea of it got easier when I heard from my best friend that her commercial might be running during the game. So I decided I would have to watch, to at least catch all of the ads. The game started and I soon realized that commercial breaks during the Super Bowl are quite frequent. So it was pointless to be doing something else while the game was on, as every three minutes I’d have to run back to the TV to pay attention to the commercials again. So I just decided to watch it all. And what do you know, I started getting really into it. New Orleans has a special place in my heart because my older sis went to school there, and for years we would visit as a family. So, I had a team to root for even though I knew nothing about them, and to boot, they were the underdogs, and I love the underdogs.

I ended up having so much fun. Not at a party, not eating chicken wings and seven layer bean dips, but at home solo, cheering for the Saints, thrilled at the action, cringing at the contact, and yes, drooling over the cute butts. My friend’s commercial didn’t make it into the lineup and out of the ones that did, there weren’t many I cared much for…except one—the CBS Cares beating heart ad. Hmm, I thought watching. Who is this gorgeous guy with the cute crooked lip and why does he care so much about our hearts? After the game I Googled the commercial and found a link to this ad featuring Mark Sanchez and his beating heart. I watched it again and thought, Who….is Mark Sanchez???! Lo and behold he is one of our very own! The New York Jets Quarterback. Had I only known! Well Mark, on my mother’s advice, and after seeing your adorable face, I will get into football next year. And I shall be a Jets fan– perhaps your biggest fan.

So thank you Mom. And thank you Mark.

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Loving This Part of Me

My mother always says that she knew immediately upon meeting my dad that he would be her husband. Her cousin was fixing her up with someone else, but when she saw my father and liked him better, said he was the best looking man at the dance. He has always been handsome, and back in the day, he was quite the good-looking dude, with thick, chestnut-brown hair, navy blue eyes and a warm smile. The most prominent feature on his face—what this post is really all about—is his nose. It always has been and it always will be. It’s a big one. But my mother looked past it and fell in love with him. She did however tell him once they were happily wed (and jokingly of course, though we all know jokes are usually truths we’re afraid to admit) that should any of their children be blessed/cursed with his nose, he would have to pay for rhinoplasty!

Well, lucky me, I got daddy’s nose. My mother begs to differ. In fact most people do. I understand why. My dad’s nose is big, as I mentioned before. Mine is not. From the front it is quite cute, I would say. It’s small, sort of bony and fits my face nicely. From the side, however, it is an exact replica of my father’s. Take my word—throughout my teen years I spent many a night in between two mirrors studying my profile and praying for it to grow prettier. Why couldn’t I have the straight nose like my younger sister, I wondered. Or like my older sister, one that is subtly sloped and points ever so slightly upwards at the tip…cuter even than Samantha’s from Bewitched. Instead mine has a big bump at the bridge, elongated nostrils and points just a titch downwards. Basically, it is my dad’s nose miniaturized. (Last time I discussed this with my mother, and showed pictures as proof, she started to agree).

So rhinoplasty. It was on my mind a lot when I was younger. I wanted a perfect nose. If my parents couldn’t afford it I would save all my pennies and pay for it myself. I thought about it, and asked for it, and saved my money…And then I started to grow up. I started to see my nose as a special part of who I am. So it has a bump like my dad’s but there’s no mistake that I am his daughter. I look at it (only on occasion these days) and scoff at the idea I once had to get it fixed, to change my God-given face for vanity when it’s really not so bad anyway. In a way it breaks my heart to think I ever wanted to trade it in.

This past weekend I had some friends in town from Florida. It was K’s birthday and everyone wanted to celebrate New York City style. Through another well-connected Manhattan friend we managed to get ourselves into a swanky private club I ordinarily would never set foot into, first because I’d never get in the door being the ordinary gal I am and next because I don’t typically cavort with the model/celeb crowd. It was fun for a night but in all honesty I felt just a little out of place amongst the sculpted figures and smoothed out faces—breasts perfectly round, lips plump, eyebrows lifted and yes, noses straightened. To each his or her own I always say, so if that means a little nip-tuck-slice-dice, fine. Heck maybe one day I’ll be bothered by my laugh lines and want some work done. As for my nose however, I’m glad my parents couldn’t afford rhinoplasty and that my jar of loose change was a few pennies too short. I’m thankful for the time I had to grow into my nose and finally love it, bump and all.