Image Description: My program from the musical “Come From Away.” The background is navy blue. At the top, in white lettering, it reads, “Broadway in Detroit.” Directly underneath it, in white lettering it reads, “The Program for Broadway in Detroit at the Fisher Theatre.” In the center, in large, yellow lettering, it reads, “Come From Away,” and the O in “From” is a globe. At the bottom, in yellow lettering, it reads, “A Remarkable True Story.”
I was up for an adventure.
On Saturday, some good friends had extra tickets to the touring production of the musical “Come From Away.” I knew nothing about this show. Not one thing. I didn’t even Google it before going. I decided I wanted to be totally surprised.
And I was surprised. “Come From Away” is a remarkably touching story.
It’s a set of stories, really. This musical takes place in the small town of Gander in Newfoundland and is based upon a transformative week that the townspeople of Gander shared with people from around the world. In the wake of 9/11, a large number of planes were diverted to their airport, and with U.S. air space closed for days, the townspeople of Gander were unexpectedly responsible for hospitality, care needs, and the organization of a large number of people that nearly doubled their population.
Gander had a large airport because in preceding decades, it was a fueling station for international flights. In the early 2000s, after planes held more fuel, the airport only had a few flights in and out every day. But on the morning of 9/11, all of that changed as planes were diverted there from across the globe.
The experience was challenging in some ways. The people of Gander had to scramble to build the infrastructure that was needed, and passengers from planes were stranded for days. In that time, however, people began to build life-changing friendships. It was transformative to give and receive hospitality together. Some people have stayed in touch ever since. In 2011, in fact, there was a ten year reunion.
Mother Theresa used to say, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another.”
I’m thinking about this musical again this morning, along with this perspective of belonging, and I find myself placing it in conversation with what happened in California the very weekend I watched this musical.
In the wake of wildfires, PG&E decided to shut down electrical power to a large swath of people living in California. Beyond being inconvenient, this has been dangerous, and residents and their representatives are calling for accountability. People are not always able to relocate, shift quickly, or care for their physical needs without necessary resources. A man who is oxygen dependent died twelve minutes after the shutoff.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another.”
In the wake of this shut off, disabled and chronically ill people were scrambling in particular, not only to care for their own needs, but working to ensure that others had their physical and emotional needs met during this time.
Access-Centered Movement, a Disability Justice organization, shared this statement from @collander_ on Instagram and Facebook:
“Mutual Aid Saves Lives. Disabled Wisdom Saves Lives.
“This type of a power outage is a public health crisis. It is life-threatening for disabled people and many more. As always, disabled people (and disabled people of color in particular) are showing up as the front line organizers for dealing with apocalypse.
“In the past 48 hours, I have seen hundreds of disabled and chronically ill people connecting with each other to troubleshoot and resource share, people who need power for wheelchairs, hospital beds, oxygen concentrators, cpap machines, refrigeration for vital medications — the list is immense.
“I am so moved by how quickly and effectively disabled people mobilize in times of crisis, and heartbroken by the larger significance that this expertise is partially so sharp because so many people fully forget those of us with access needs in times of emergency and daily life alike… (even though in reality everyone has access needs, especially in times of crisis!)
“If you can, check on your elder and disabled neighbors, connect with unhoused neighbors, touch base with your disabled friends, remember that strategy, thoughtful and compassionate community connection is the way we face unknown futures. For everyone who is impacted or activated by crises like this, know that you are not alone, and you deserve easiness.”
We belong to one another.
Compassionate community connection is the way we face unknown futures.