Making meals and much more: A Stephenville woman reflects on working in a local kitchen during 9/11

·2 min read
When thousands of stranded passengers arrived in Gander during 9/11, volunteers were ready to coordinate a large-scale emergency response. Alison Boland of Stephenville helped to serve 1,000 meals to people getting off the planes eight planes grounded there. (CBC - image credit)
When thousands of stranded passengers arrived in Gander during 9/11, volunteers were ready to coordinate a large-scale emergency response. Alison Boland of Stephenville helped to serve 1,000 meals to people getting off the planes eight planes grounded there. (CBC - image credit)
CBC
CBC

Whether you cook for two people, a dozen, or in Alison Boland's case 1,000, the first you do in Newfoundland and Labrador is boil the kettle and make people feel welcome.

That's what Boland was doing on Sept. 11, 2001, working in the kitchen of the College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville at the time. While chefs and other staff were working to plan the upcoming days for their students, they quickly had their plans change when news came down from administrator Cyril Organ.

"He said these people are coming. We don't know how many, and we don't know what's going to happen, but we need food," Boland told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning Friday.

Boland said her group prepared over 1,000 meals for passengers diverted to the community following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. The team included chefs, a full team of servers and councillors, volunteers and students who gave up their dorms to allow those seeking refuge to have a place to stay.

She said she still remembers the initial meal plan made for passengers — spaghetti and meat sauce, soup, sandwiches, french fries, tea, juice and coffee.

And after passengers spent hours sitting in their planes on the tarmac in Stephenville, she says the were eager for a good meal.

Nav Canada/Canadian Press
Nav Canada/Canadian Press

"They were pretty hungry by this time, cause they hadn't had anything at all on the plane," she said.

"We rushed them in, we welcomed them in and made sure they had a hot meal. Looked at seeing what their needs were. And of course their most [needed thing] was that they were like us, they didn't really know what was happening."

As time went on and more people became aware of the situation, Boland said those working to get food out also became a beam to rely on for many of the passengers. A couple of occasions still stand out 20 years later.

"There was this couple from the UK…They had just had a little girl, Emily. The two parents were there trying to eat their breakfast, trying to get a breakfast. One had taken turns holding the baby, so I went over and offered to take the baby and look after her while they eat their breakfast," she said.

"There was another...two couples, actually. Husbands and wives. Their husbands when they were leaving, they came over and made myself and my friend paper roses. They made us some paper roses because they couldn't get out to get any. So I still have that."

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