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Summerfield woman sees life experience played out through "Come From Away" musical

Summerfield resident, Katja Brown, was on the flight diverted to Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001. Her story is part of the story that inspired a musical.

SUMMERFIELD, N.C. — As America was under attack on September 11, 2001, a small island home to about 10,000 people was soon the center of refuge for thousands of stranded travelers. One of those people was Katja Brown.

She was flying back to the states from her hometown in Germany with her two babies and best friend. They had been in Germany for her grandpa's 82nd birthday.

"We're flying, everything was normal until all of a sudden there was announcement that they had to do an emergency landing," Brown said.

Her trip was cut short as talks about the terrorist attacks had people in a panic.

"We were just trying to keep the babies calm," Brown said.

Soon, they landed in Gander, Newfoundland. 

This town had to try to figure out what to do with the unexpected 6,500 visitors.

"It took them quite a while to let us leave the plane," she said, "Can you imagine having all these people there from different parts of the world and America was under attack and so they didn't know if anybody on these planes would also be a terrorist."

Amid the chaos came a connection never to be forgotten.

Brown said they found comfort in the small community.

"People were so amazing. We had three hot meals a day. They were making eggs and bacon for breakfast. People were asking if they could hold my baby so I could eat in peace," she said.

Brown said people even offered up their homes for hot showers. 

Strangers soon became friends. She still keeps in contact with a woman she met during her three days in Gander.

Her story, along with the thousand others, was turned into a musical.

It's called Come From Away. The musical will start showing at The Tanger Center in downtown Greensboro on December 28, 2021.

Brown first saw it in New York City and will see it again in January in Greensboro.

"I can attest that this was our experience," she said.

However, Brown said she hopes this musical is more than entertainment for the audience, but a way to see how triumph can come from tragedy.

"Just remember even if you don't know somebody, its just a human being and they deserve kindness and compassion," she said.

Come From Away is showing at the Tanger Center December 28- January 2, 2021.