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National organization spreads kindness in Overland Park ahead of 21st anniversary of 9/11

9/11 Memorial, Overland Park
Posted at 8:06 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 23:11:30-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the horizon, a national organization is doing its part to continue telling one story of kindness and compassion of that infamous day.

Kevin Tuerff vividly remembers Sept. 11, 2001.

"I was traveling with my partner from Paris into New York City when the attacks began, and they closed U.S. airspace," he said. "The captain comes on and says, 'Due to a terrorist attack in the United States, we'll be landing in Gander.' I've never heard of this place before. It turns out it's a tiny town of 9,000 people that took in 38 transatlantic flights with 7,000 people from 90 countries."

Gander is a small town in Newfoundland, Canada.

"They had to open their schools, their churches, their homes and they invited strangers to come into their house to take a shower," Tuerff said.

The story of Gander is a piece of 9/11 history that isn't in physical memorial form, like the memorial in Overland Park, Kansas.

It's told by those who experienced it firsthand like Kevin. One of his friends, Ben Walker, was coincidentally in Canada on 9/11 on a work trip.

"You couldn't cross the border by plane or by car, it took a lot of work and figuring out logistics," Walker said. "Ultimately, I drove 28 hours stopping only for gas, to get from Toronto to Austin."

Walker now lives and works in Kansas City.

The year 2022, which is 21-years after 9/11, will be another year that the Pay it Forward 9/11 organization spreads kindness.

It was created by Tuerff and Walker, with the goal to encourage random acts of kindness, emulating the people of Gander.

"Not only the recipient is really often blown away, but it provides for the giver. You receive something called the helpers high," Tuerff said. "It's this feeling of euphoria, after a few minutes after you do these things, it really changes you."

Tuerff's story is one of many that inspired the musical "COME FROM AWAY," a term used for the thousands of passengers from all over the world who were taken in by the people of Gander.

Tuerff says he is still friends with fellow passengers and Gander residents all these years later.