This whole Come From Away musical experience has been a wild ride. From finding out unexpectedly that there was a Madame Davis act-alike named Beulah Davis in the musical to getting to travel on 3 continents, in 5 countries and even more cities, it’s been so much fun.
Like all good things in life, it comes down to people, though.
I often wear my Come From Away shirts and called it ‘attention seeking behavior’ until recently reading an article talking about students showing ‘connection seeking behavior’. This is very true.
Whether we act out or are well behaved, we ultimately just want to be noticed by and engaged with others. It would be a very lonely world otherwise.
I’ve had so many connection making occasions in the past few years. I could never write about them all but some will make it here today, motived by two parcels I recieved over Christmas.
Julie saved our butts when our flights out of LaGuardia were delayed, coming home from the Broadway opening of Come From Away in February 2017.
She’ll say she was just doing her job, the same way we say were were just doing what was right on 9/11 in Gander and other communities. As we told her about Come From Away and our excellent adventure to Broadway (which I was SURE was the last time I’ve ever have something like that happen in my life) she found alternate flights for 8 people and arranged hotels in St. John’s so we would get home with only a slight delay and have a warm bed.
A few weeks later, she messaged me as she was on the way home from seeing Come From Away for the first time and our Facebook friendship was started.
One thing lead to another, including a date to see CFA on Broadway and cheese cake at Juniors and another in Montreal when we saw the tour in November 2019 and went for tea.
One message at a time we share stories and thoughts and sometimes mindless conversations and silliness.
A connection was made and kept.
My Ferry Friend
I regret not taking contact information for a lady I met this summer on the ferry to Fogo Island.
I worked in the Bannikin Canteen on the MV Veteran this summer. One day a beautiful woman stood right in front of me as soon as passengers boarded and looked right in my eyes.
“I know who you are. I saw you on TV last night. I live near Sheridan College. Can I take a picture with you when you are not busy?”
The connection was instant.
She sat nearby and watched me work the coffee line and when it got quiet, I went and sat and visited with her and her husband. We chatted about the You Are Here: A Come From Away Story the documentary that she had seen the night previously and I told them about great things to do and see on Fogo Island. They were lovely folks and I shared lots of stories with them in our short time. We really got along well and had fun.
As she was leaving the ferry she came past the counter again and asked if she could hug me.
“My son died 3 month ago.” was whispered in my ear. I was devastated for her and all of the sudden she was gone.
The next day I was lucky enough to run into them at Bangbelly Cafe in Fogo and we had a great lunch and talk and she was so excited when I walked in. I learned more about them and how they’d come to Canada and realized that many of the random things I’d told them the day before made connections to her son who had been very sick before he passed. I had told her about rainbows and how they had come just as I was talking to a friend whose dad had passed and showed her the pictures.
She told me she was looking for a sign and felt that our interaction was part of what she needed. There’s so much more but you get the idea of how intense and moving this interaction was. We only met twice.
I think of them often and wish I could check in and know they are doing okay in all that they are dealing with. I know that this whole musical/documentary thing is what brought her into my life for those two days and changed the way I see each person on the ferry each day.
Those few mintues taken to talk to people, whether I’m working or not might be the thing that changes their day or mine in a way it needs changing. I had a second experience of a mom telling me how much my time meant to her enjoyment of her holiday and again, the whisper came that her ‘eight year old is not going to make it”. Sometimes they need the connection more than me.
So many lessons over the past few years.
My German Fan Club
Leo and I took our own trip to Dublin in December last year to see the Come From Away UK cast before they opened in London. With the ridiculous connections flying out of Gander we had been up for 24 hours when we arrived in the morning so we checked in and went for a walk to try to get oriented and adjusted to the time.
Walking down O’Connell Street in our well worn Come From Away hoodies, we were approached by a young man who asked if he could ask me a question.
We often get have you seen the show, how is the show, are you with the show but this young guys stood in front of me and asked.
“Are you Diane Davis?”
“What? How did you know that?”
Three young girls gathered around him nodding eagerly and told us they saw me on the documentary. They were from Germany and had flown to Dublin to see Come From Away. We had a fun visit and because we were all going to the show the next night, I told them to find me in the lobby if they see me. The got the full 9/11 Diane Davis because I had been awake about 30 hours at that point.
Only walking away did I realize I forgot to ask them which documentary but assumed it was Gander’s Ripple Effect on Youtube.
The next night, they were right behind us, arriving early to the theatre. By then, I knew there was going to be a reception after the opening so I told them to hang out in the lobby after the show and I’d come looking for them. Some of the other CFA ‘real people’ had also come to Dublin so I got to introduce them to Kevin Tuerff and Captain Beverley Bass pre-show. They were so excited.
After the show, we snuck them into the reception and introduced them to some actors and others involved in the show. They know theatre and eagerly discussed possibilities of German translations with producers or being eventually able to produce is themselves in their theatre projects. They even have suggestions for translators.
At one point, I got the opportunity to introduce them to David Hein. I excused myself into his attention and asked if he had time to meet the members of the German Fan Club. Always gracious, he came over and spent time with my friends. He asked them where they were from and how they came to be there and they said they were with me.
As I stood back, I heard.
“So, how do you all know Diane?”
“We met her on O’Connell Street yesterday.”
And David gave me that, of course you did, look. And she brought you to the party.
Connections were made. What can I say?
Today, I had the loveliest box delivered with German cookies, chocolate, a lovely ornament and a magnet. They had each contributed something to the box and send me the most beautiful letter.
I had been a part of the best weekend of their lives. (so far, they are young…).
Just before Christmas we got a box from Australia with a Koala from Bob and Sally who were traveling across the province in late September. We were connected by one of their Bed and Breakfast hosts. I happened to be in Gander. We spent at least two hours, mostly crying, over stories of Gander and making connections.
It was lovely to get a Christmas Card from them witha proper and lovely message but a surprise to have it followed by a gift a few days later.
I have often told the story of being recognized in Dublin, by German students who saw a documentary that was not actually released outside of Canada at the time.
In Montreal I was chased by tourists I’d met on the ferry who were so excited to see me in the theatre when they went to Come From Away. It’s pretty amazing to have folks so happy to see you now and then. I’m grateful and surprised every time.
We never know the impact we have on people in a moment but my experience in this is profound.
My life had changed powerfully and positively in the opportunities I have been given through being included in the musical and documentaries but it’s also happening to others.
A Gander Academy teacher friend was recently traveling in Japan and met folks from Australia and the US who knew about Gander or had seen Come From Away. As soon as she said she was from Gander, she had a fan club too.
Shouldn’t we all have fan clubs and be fan clubs?
One connection at a time.
Talk to strangers.