CLEVELAND, OHIO – On the international stage Gander has officially been recognized a ‘Rescuer of Humanity’.
Mayor Percy Farwell was in Cleveland yesterday, Jan. 18, to accept the Values-in-Action Foundation award.
The Rescuer of Humanity award is the U.S. based, non-profit Foundation’s most prominent and internationally-acclaimed award.
Past recipients include Stephen Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Christopher Reeve, Rosa Parks and U.S President Jimmy Carter.
It was the first time the honour was awarded to a municipality.
The award recognizes individuals who have committed themselves to improving humanity and inspire others to make a positive difference in their own lives, as well as those of others.
The Town of Gander was selected as a recipient for its contributions in assisting the nearly 7,000 passengers rerouted to Gander after the closure of international airspace following the 2001, 9-11 terrorist attacks in New York.
The people of Gander and the surrounding communities cared for, sheltered and fed the stranded passengers for five days until airspace reopened and they were able to return home.
The mission of Values-In-Action (along with its operating divisions Project Love and Purple America) is to empower teens and adults to build cultures of kindness, caring and respect, by putting their values-in-action wherever they go. Founded in 1994, Project Love school-based programming has trained more than 170,000 students throughout the U.S.
“At Values-in-Action Foundation, it is our goal for the students that go through our programming to come out with the same sense of values and humanity as showcased by the people of Gander. We will be forever grateful for their example of real life values in action,” said foundation president and CEO Stuart Muszynski. “We are so thankful to Mayor & Mrs. Farwell for making the trip to Cleveland to tell this incredible story of kindness and empathy and accept the award on behalf of all the wonderful people in Gander.”
For Farwell, the Cleveland trip was “powerful.”
Before he was called to the stage to accept the award the organizers played a video that contained a lot of footage from 9-11.
“It was very emotional,” he said. “In a room of 700 people you could have heard a pin drop throughout the whole time that involved Gander’s story and when I was speaking.
“A lot of people are very appreciative of what the citizens of Gander and area done during 9-11.”
Farwell, who was serving as deputy-mayor in 2001, says in his mind the award is not just for municipal leaders or the town council.
He says it’s an award that belongs to the citizens of Gander.
“I’m simply a representative of the thousands of people who were involved,” he said. “Yes, council played a role in terms of coordination but this story is about the response of the people and their willingness to step forward and do whatever was necessary to help people in times of need.”
Farwell said it’s a gesture that is often shrugged off by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as it’s considered something that would be done by anyone else in similar circumstances.
“I was told by numerous people afterwards not to underestimate ourselves because the reality is it don’t happen everywhere and that’s why it was such a big deal,” said Farwell. “So for me it was very proud moment to be there representing all of these people that did so much, and I’m very thankful for that opportunity.”