Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Reader's Diary #2147- Jim DeFede: The Day the World Came To Town

I read Jim DeFede's The Day the World Came to Town during my most recent vacation to Barbados. The plan was to visit New York City after Barbados and see Come From Away on Broadway. Both, of course, are based on the stranding of international flights in Gander, Newfoundland after 9/11 and the hospitality received by the passengers.

Our trip to New York didn't wind up happening. With Covid-19 hitting North America, Broadway closed down and we followed Trudeau's advice to Canadians abroad to get the hell home. Borders were closing and flights were being cancelled. It was stressful.

And not that two events are really comparable, but perhaps that played a part in my emotional reaction to Jim DeFede's book. I'd heard the stories many times and though I'm a voracious reader, I don't usually have strong, immediate feelings about a book. (Most books that really resonate with me have a slow-burn effect and I think about them long after the fact.) For The Day the World Came to Town though, I choked up. A lot. Sometimes it was over something sad (a passenger worrying about the status of a loved one who may have been at the Twin Towers that day), sometimes it was over something touching (a small, but thoughtful gesture by a Newfoundlander trying to make someone's impromptu and inconvenient stop a little more bearable).

Of course, I'd be remiss not to give some credit to Jim DeFede for the connection I made to the book. Despite hundreds of travelers and helpful locals, he managed to take just the right amount and right assortment of stories and characters to focus on. And the way he revisited and intertwined these stories throughout each chapter was handled superbly. It could have easily been a confusing mess but instead I felt like I got a real sense of individuals. That makes all the difference.

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