‘Come From Away’ musical sheds light on 9/11 tragedy

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The national tour of “Come From Away” continues at the Peace Center through Sunday. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

“Everyone has a different story, and everyone has memories,” actor Becky Gulsvig says of the 9/11 tragedy that shook our nation nearly 18 years ago.

Most Americans watched the horror unfold on television screens — feeling completely helpless. Others actually saw the towers crumbling and panicked people running through the city.

The musical shows strangers become friends during a tragedy. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Gulsvig helps tell a different side of the story — a brighter, inspiring side. She plays the role of pilot Beverley Bass, along with other characters, in Broadway’s “Come From Away.” Bass was the first female American Airlines pilot to be named captain.

The musical retells the true story of 38 planes — carrying a total of 7,000 passengers — and their emergency landings in a little Newfoundland town. After the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration closed American airspace, planes were forced to land elsewhere.

The town of Gander welcomed these stranded passengers for five days. “It is really just an extraordinary story of kindness and generosity, and people just taking care of each other in light of such a tragedy,” Gulsvig says.

Gander, Newfoundland, opened their hearts and homes to stranded passengers. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The main theme, she says, is simple — take care of one another. “So many crazy, terrible things can happen in this world, but it is not hard to be kind,” Gulsvig says. “And when bad things happen, a lot of kindness and generosity can come out of those bad things.”

“Come From Away” serves as a reminder that a little kindness can go a long way to unite people in dark times. In the middle of the musical, a song called “Prayer” shows people of different religions praying in different languages.

Representing people from various walks of life, “Come From Away” speaks a message of strength in unity. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

“[The song] is such a wonderful example of everyone is praying to something and everyone is hoping for something better,” she says. “We are all in this together even though it may not seem like we are at times.”

Allowing audiences to work through their personal memories and emotions of 9/11 in a therapeutic way, “Come From Away” presents a twist that shows the good things coming out of the tragedy. “Ultimately, you’ll just leave so uplifted and inspired,” Gulsvig says. “It just means a lot.”

Ahead of the weeklong run of “Come From Away,” community members can donate personal care items to help others. The Peace Center and United Way of Greenville County will collect the items to make hygiene kits for partnering agencies in the Upstate. 

The following items should be new and travel-size: toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream, deodorant, sample-size laundry detergent, soap, washcloths, combs, Band-Aids, and antiseptic ointment/cream. Items can be dropped off at the box office through April 21.

As told in the musical, showing kindness to others can shed light on dark times. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

‘Come From Away’

When: April 16-21
Where: Peace Center, 300 S. Main St., Greenville
Tickets: $35-$100
Info: peacecenter.org

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