6.5K Flyers Were Sent to a Small Town on 9/11 — and Their Story Is in Theaters for the Anniversary
One of the displaced passengers tells PEOPLE that the town's reaction to the tragedy revealed "the best in people"
The moving documentary You Are Here shows the outpouring of love in one corner of the world on Sept. 11, 2001. On Wednesday, it will play in theaters across the nation to mark the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Amid the horror of the tragedy — which claimed the lives of 2,997 people and forever changed countless others — 38 planes heading to the U.S. were diverted to the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland, known as the eastern-most point of North America. There, locals united to comfort, feed and shelter the 6,600 displaced passengers — more than half the town’s population at the time.
“They treated us like welcomed, invited guests,” said passenger Kevin Jung. “And I kept thinking, ‘We’re not guests!’ Guests are invited; we just fell out of the sky into their town.”
Their stories comprise You Are Here, which Fathom Events is playing in nearly 800 U.S. movie theaters as a “one-night event” on Wednesday, all to show how one small town “came together to host a group of strangers who would leave as family.” (You can buy tickets here.)
Among the passengers whose experiences are front and center in the documentary: Nick and Diane Marson, who met in a Gambo shelter and are now celebrating 17 years of marriage.
“I think something like this happening brings out the best in people,” Nick, 70, tells PEOPLE of the events documented in the film, which also inspired the hit Broadway musical Come from Away.
Jung says of the “Ganderites,” as the townspeople are lovingly called: “Their spirits were never down. It was always cheery, always love and, ‘What can I do for you?’ You could see in their eyes that they were exhausted, but they gave us love.”
The film has gone on to win multiple awards, including 2019 best documentary program and best picture editing documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards, the 2018 audience choice best documentary by Cinefest Sudbury and the jury prize from BANFF World Media Festival.
“You Are Here tells a remarkable story that we are pleased to premiere in U.S. cinemas and give audiences across the country a chance to witness these amazing acts that transpired on a horrendous day in history,” said Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt. “This documentary is a story of hope even in the darkest of times.”