TORONTO -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday attended a Broadway show about Canadians who opened their doors to thousands of passengers who descended on the town of Gander in Newfoundland when U.S. airspace was shut down on Sept. 11, 2001.
Trudeau addressed the audience before the show.
Also in attendance? Ivanka Trump, who arrived in the same motorcade as Trudeau but in a different car, New York reported. According to the New York Times, Trump sat between Trudeau and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, was also in attendance, along with former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
A New York Times reporter snapped a picture of Trump in the audience.
On Sept. 11, more than 200 flights were diverted to Canada. The little-used airport in the town of Gander became the second busiest destination, taking in 38 flights. The 6,600 passengers arrived without warning on the town of 10,000.
Canadians took care of the stranded passengers for days. American travelers said they experienced overwhelming kindness in the days following the attacks on New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.
The events inspired the musical “Come From Away.” It opened Sunday at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater and has received rave reviews from critics.
Trudeau spokeswoman Andree-Lyne Halle said Tuesday the prime minister and his wife look forward to showing New Yorkers “Canada at its best.”
“We embrace the opportunity to highlight how we are there for each other in times of need,” she said.
Flight crews quickly filled Gander’s hotels, so passengers were taken to schools, fire stations and church halls. The Canadian military flew in 5,000 cots. Stores donated blankets, coffee machines, barbecue grills. Unable to retrieve their luggage, passengers became dependent on the kindness of strangers, and it came in the shape of clothes, showers, toys, banks of phones to call home free of charge, an arena that became a giant walk-in fridge full of donated food.
Once all the planes had landed or turned back to Europe, Gander’s air traffic controllers switched to cooking meals in the building nonstop for three days.
Years later, that huge, comforting hug of Gander still warms the memories of the passengers.