We found such happiness in the wake of such a disaster -- Woman meets husband on 9/11
[Sept 8, 2021: Cathy Hernandez]
20 years ago, Nick Marson and Diane Kirschke were strangers who fell in love when their flight from London to Texas was diverted to Newfoundland, Canada during 9/11. Here they are in Newfoundland on a return trip in 2002. (CREDIT: Nick and Diane Marson)
Twenty years ago, Nick Marson and Diane Kirschke were strangers on board Continental Airlines flight 5 traveling from London Gatwick to Houston, Texas.
Four hours or so into the flight, the pilot came over the intercom and announced the airplane would be diverting to Newfoundland, Canada.
Nick was a British businessman in his 50s who worked in the oil industry. He was heading to Texas for work, and had no idea where Newfoundland was.
At the other end of the aircraft, Diane took in the news. An American divorcee who'd just turned 60, she was returning from visiting her son, who was in the US Air Force and stationed in England.
"I thought, 'Canada, I've never been to Canada. That sounds like an adventure," Diane recalls today.
While they flew over the Atlantic Ocean, two planes crashed into the twin towers in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
As a result, for the first time in history, the Federal Aviation Administration closed United States airspace.
Thirty-eight jetliners bound for the U.S. were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, Canada. About 7,000 people descended on the small, rural town.
When the displaced travelers were finally permitted to deplane it was September 12. One aircraft at a time, no luggage allowed, the passengers disembarked.
“It was like being taken out of a horrible storm and landing in an island of angels,” Diane Marson said.
Nick was taken to a small shelter in Gambo, about 30 miles outside of Gander. The Society of United Fisherman was the biggest structure in the town, usually reserved for weddings, bingo or town meetings.
Several hours later -- after a detour to a Gander shelter that was full -- Diane ended up there too.
The two started chatting while waiting in line for supplies, first finding humor in the distinctly scented blankets, and then realizing they'd been on the same airplane heading to Texas.
"They were so friendly and open," says Diane of the Newfoundland volunteers. "They just welcomed us. They didn't care who you were, where you came from, how much money was in your wallet, what kind of job you did -- we just needed help, and they were going to take care of us." This is the shelter where Nick and Diane met. (CREDIT: Nick and Diane Marson)
"I asked Diane if I could take the cot next to hers. and she said, 'Sure, why not,'" recalls Nick. “We’ve got a lot to talk about because we come from totally different backgrounds, different countries.”
When the locals took stranded passengers on a tour of the area, Nick and Diane shared a special moment at Dover Fault when Nick took a picture.
“I said, ‘No, no, no. Stay there,’” Nick Marson said.
“That’s when I knew he was interested in me and not the scenery,” Diane Marson responded.
Their relationship blossomed before it was time to leave four days later.
“We were on the school bus, in the back, and I just grabbed him and gave him a big kiss because I thought, ‘If I don’t do it now, when we get to Houston, he’s going his way, I’m going my way,” said Diane Marson.
But not even 5,000 miles between them could keep Nick and Diane apart.
After many phone calls and one trip, Nick popped the question.
“Early November, I’m back in England, and I’m in my car and I propose to her over the phone,” said Nick Marson.
They married on September 7, 2002, and even traveled back to Gander for their honeymoon.
They honeymooned in Newfoundland, where locals treated them to a surprise wedding reception, pictured here. (CREDIT: Nick and Diane Marson)
“It was something out of a movie that doesn’t happen to real people,” Nick Marson said.
Now, their love story is portrayed in the Broadway Musical “Come From Away,” which has been shown around the world.
The couple has seen it live 118 times.
“Everybody just jumps up and you’re laughing and you’re clapping, and the music,” said Diane Marson.
Now, 20 years later, the Marsons reflect on September 11.
“We found such happiness in the wake of such a disaster when so many families had lost so many members,” Nick Marson said.
But the couple focuses on the days when they built a new love in Gander.
“They demonstrated to the rest of the world, what the best of humanity is,” Nick Marson said.
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