BY Catherine Lambert, Herald Sun
THE therapeutic effect of Come From Away is experienced by many of its audience members.
For Australian couple Iain and Julia Campbell, of St Hubert’s Island in New South Wales, that effect was even more powerful.
The pair were among the 6579 passengers who were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland, at the time of the September 11 attacks.
Not only is their story re-told with great accuracy in the hit show, but the emotion and sentiment they experienced is also captured perfectly.
“You can’t do anything but give that show a standing ovation,” Iain says.
“The writers, David and Irene, are genius to create something so entertaining that hits all the marks in terms of the great human tragedy, but also the wonderful generosity and love of the people of Newfoundland.”
They were on a flight from Heathrow to Chicago with about 300 other passengers when the captain announced the plane would have to land in Newfoundland. They had to stay on the plane for 26 hours before being allowed to disembark, descending to Newfoundland six hours after the plane had taken off.
The airconditioning broke, it was hot and uncomfortable.
“When we were allowed to disembark, I started to have a sense of how many planes were there because we had no clue there were so many by just looking out the window of our own plane,” she says.
“At that stage we had found out about the terrorist attack because the pilot put us through to the BBC radio and we listened to the ghastly descriptions.”
As they left the plane and rode on a school buss to the Salvation Army church in the small town of Gambo, the full impact of the crisis they were living through started to take effect. At the church, Iain slept on a pew and Julia lay on an army stretcher.
Added to their stress, their son had a surfing accident in Indonesia where a staph infection threatened to be leading to an amputation. The town folk took pity on them, as they did on all their `guests’, and took them to a private home where the people were away so it was vacant. “They gave us underwear, socks, clothing and they were cooking food in their own homes, paying for it and bringing it to us,” she says.
“Tables were laden with masses of food and in the private house we had a shower and slept in the bed. The owners weren’t there but they trusted us. It was extraordinary.”
Her most treasured memento is a hand made quilt made by one of the co-ordinators at the Salvation Army church. She had used it to keep warm during her five night stay in Gambo.
“As I was leaving, I gave the quilt back to her but she wouldn’t accept it and insisted I take it home,” she says.
“That’s why Iain and I just kept looking at each other during the performance we saw of Come From Away, knowing how right they had everything. We were blown away by it and really think it was cathartic for both of us.”
Come From Away, now playing at Comedy Theatre. comefromaway.com.au