ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — I’ve seen “Come From Away“ 25 times in the past five years. I was one of the 7,000 stranded airline passengers in Gander on 9-11. When friends come visit me in New York City to see me and the show with my doppelganger portraying ‘Kevin T’ on Broadway, I take a pass.
However, I’ll meet them afterward to go for drinks and share “the rest of the story.” As I wait outside the Schoenfeld Theater, I get to witness the faces of hundreds of audience members as they leave. Most of them are exploding with smiles. Some have tears of joy in their eyes.
Some walk out carrying Newfoundland flags they brought from home, beaming with pride. When Americans notice the Newfoundlanders, they almost always approach them and say, “I want to visit The Rock!” If I stood on the sidewalk outside the theatre, and held up a cardboard sign reading, “Vacations to Newfoundland,” I could probably book 100 tourists on the spot.
Tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador has increased since the opening of “Come From Away” in New York and Toronto, but I’d like to boost it even more.
I’m starting Maxxim Vacations’ “Come From Away Experience,“ a self-driving tour of central Newfoundland. I’m writing a travel blog, taking photos and videos for social media (#USA2NL), so I might help Americans and others get a better sense for the beautiful people and places here.
The primary purpose of this trip is to deliver a keynote speech at District 7820 (Atlantic Canada) Rotary Convention in St. John’s Saturday, May 26, on Peace Day. Before then, I’ll be visiting Gander, Twillingate and Port Rexton.
I’m already enjoying my third visit to St. John’s, especially my stay at the gorgeous Jag Hotel.
I visited beautiful Signal Hill, The Rooms museum, and spent some money at Irene’s Souvenirs & Gifts. I had to stop in for dessert and drinks at Tavola, the wonderful restaurant owned by Bob Hallett, my new friend and famous musician who helped write music for “Come From Away.”
Regardless of their politics, most Americans don’t like being so divided. Audiences love that there is a place on Earth where the Golden Rule still matters.
I haven’t conceded that Americans can’t be as kind as Canadians. I’m on a mission to help Americans with a jump-start to the heart, by nudging more compassion.
All week, I’ll also be performing anonymous random acts of kindness. I’ve been doing this since 2002, when I launched Pay it Forward 9-11 as my way to show gratitude for Gander’s compassion I experienced.
The Telegram likes this idea so much, it hopes everyone across the province joins in the fun.
Doing good deeds for strangers is good for your soul. You never know, you might end up with some “Come From Away” merchandise, or you might have your coffee or beer paid for by a stranger this week. It may, or may not be from me. Join us!
— Kevin Tuerff is author of Channel of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11, one of the true stories inspiring the smash-hit musical Come From Away. He is also an ambassador for Charter for Compassion. Actor Chad Kimball portrays Kevin on Broadway and actor Jack Noseworthy has the same role at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto.
In the spirit of “Come From Away,” we’re encouraging readers to commit random acts of kindness this week. Send photos and details of your acts of kindness to this paper’s social media accounts. We’ll share them with our readers and https://www.payitforward911.org/.