NY Native Stranded By 2001 Attack Calls For 23K Acts Of Kindness
NY Native Stranded By 2001 Attack Calls For 23K Acts Of Kindness

NY Native Stranded By 2001 Attack Calls For 23K Acts Of Kindness

NEW CITY, NY — Rockland County native Connor Farry, who as a child was one of the airline passengers stranded in Newfoundland in 2001, is deeply involved in this year’s Pay It Forward 9/11 campaign, which hopes to record at least 23,000 good deeds in 2023.

The annual 11 Days Of Kindness And Unity campaign encourages people to perform at least three random acts of kindness for strangers between Sept. 1-11. Individuals, groups and businesses are invited to share their commitment to acts of kindness on an online map.

Farry was 4 years old, on a flight back to New York from Ireland with his grandparents, when terrorists highjacked planes and hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. When American airspace was closed, more than 250 flights diverted to Canada. The small town of Gander (pop. 10,000) generously hosted 7,000 people from 38 of those flights.

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All those unexpected airline travelers were provided not only basic necessities for five days, but also entertainment and hospitality in those small Canadian towns — an extraordinary outpouring of generosity memorialized by the hit musical “Come From Away.”

Now 25, Farry has been named to the board of Pay It Forward 9/11, a nonprofit founded by another stranded passenger in tribute to the compassionate people of the island province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The campaign was started in 2002 by Kevin Tuerff, who wondered if others would do the same where they lived.

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“We all said we would never forget,” said Tuerff, a Long Island City resident and president of Pay it Forward 9/11. “Our 11 Days of Kindness campaign is just one way to honor those killed in 2001 on 9/11, and also the heroes who volunteered with acts of compassion.”

Farry met Tuerff after hearing him at a speaking engagement, and they bonded immediately. Tuerff asked Farry to join the board this year.

Patch talked to Farry about his involvement.

Patch: How would you describe Pay It Forward 9/11’s mission?

Farry: Pay It Forward 9/11 is a tribute to those who perished on 9/11, and the compassionate Canadians who helped our organization’s founder Kevin Tuerff as well as myself, two stranded airline passengers in Gander on 9/11. Inspired by the people who fed, clothed and sheltered us and thousands of others and performed many selfless acts of kindness, Pay It Forward 9/11’s mission is to restore the kindness and unity the world experienced after September 11th.

Patch: How old were you on 9/11, and where were you in school?

Farry: I was four-and-a-half years old on September 11th, 2001 and attended pre-school at the time in New City.

Patch: How did you end up in Gander that day? Can you share some personal recollections from your stay in Gander?

Farry: My grandparents and I were on a flight home to New York from Dublin, Ireland, where I had spent a month before returning for the birth of my sister Aideen.

I heard the pilot announce over the intercom that we would be making an emergency landing in Canada for unknown reasons.

After spending hours on the tarmac, we were brought via bus to a local elementary school. The people of Gander donated blankets, sleeping bags, clothing, food and other vital supplies to the thousands of stranded passengers that arrived unexpectedly. I even remember one local man taking my grandfather for a ride on his motorcycle – and being quite jealous that I couldn’t join them.

After finally being cleared by DHS to fly back to Newark, it was only years later did I realize that the food and supplies keeping us going that week were all thanks to the kindness of the people of Gander.

Patch: I see “Come From Away” is a sponsor – did you see it, how did you react?

Farry: I did see it! Once with my family here on Broadway and once in Dublin, Ireland with my grandfather who was with me in Gander back in 2001. It was an incredible and emotional experience to see an ordeal I remember so vividly acted out on the big stage. “Come From Away” really sums up what this organization is all about, particularly as our organization’s founder, Kevin Tuerff, is one of the show’s main characters!

Patch: When did you leave Rockland? Any relatives still here?

Farry: I attended college at The George Washington University after graduating Clarkstown South High School in 2015. I worked at the Supervisor’s Office in the Town of Clarkstown two summers during college, before finally leaving Rockland just before the pandemic. The rest of my family currently resides in New City, including my mother, father and sister.

Patch: Are you living and working in D.C. now? Where and what?

Farry: I currently live and work in Washington, DC. I serve as a Director at the Glen Echo Group, a Public Affairs firm.

Patch: What do you personally get out of being a board member?

Farry: As a board member, I am personally able to share my story first hand and pass on the message that the Town of Gander sent to us – From time to time we must go out of our way to show kindness to others, particularly in times of need. Having been personally affected by 9/11 growing up in Rockland, it’s fantastic to be part of an organization that continues to have a lasting, positive impact on communities nationwide.

Patch: How does the organization stay meaningful during the other 364 days of the year?

Farry: Pay It Forward 9/11 works with individuals, organizations, schools and corporate sponsors to encourage acts of kindness year round, but especially for #11DaysofKindness from September 1st through the 11th.

Patch: Can you tell me more about this Sept. 1 event in D.C.?

Farry: On September 1st, kind volunteers will meet up early in the morning at The Glen Echo Group office to meet and get organized before dividing into teams and performing acts of kindness around the downtown area. We will be giving out free Starbucks coffee, greeting strangers, and performing random acts of kindness to keep the ripple effect going that I experienced in Gander. It’s a wonderful event and we encourage everyone to go out and perform their own acts of kindness on that day.

Start your own “11 Days of Kindness” activities to remember Sept. 11, 2021 and put your community’s heart on the online map. It’s free to register and pick up tips and resources. “Do 3 good deeds and watch the ripple effect,” Pay It Forward 9/11 says on the website.

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