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Kevin Tuerff and Maureen Basnicki - Witness Interview

Kevin Tuerff
Social Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Kevin Tuerff was returning from a Paris vacation with his partner, to their home in Austin, Texas. Their Air France flight was two hours from landing when a plane crashed into the first World Trade Center building. Then 17 minutes later a plane hit the second tower. Another 20 minutes later, all air space was closed. His plane, and 37 other diverted flights, were headed to a small Canadian town in Newfoundland. Nearly 7,000 strangers descended on Gander, nearly doubling its 10,000 population. Kevin fondly and gratefully recalls the locals from Gander cooking tons of food and hundreds of strangers doing random acts of kindness on that day of infamy. Now 16 years after the September 11terrorist tragedy, Kevin has pledged to transform the world around him. Kevin is the inspiration for the character Kevin in the hit musical Come from Away. He wrote about the journey from Gander to the present moment in his personal memoir, Channel of Peace.

Maureen Basnicki
Founder, Canadian National Day of Service Foundation

Twenty-four Canadians were killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. There were 19 men and 5 women. The youngest was 30 years old, the oldest 70. Two of them were brother and sister. Two were a newly married couple. Three never got to hold the babies their wives have given birth to since the attacks. Most worked in business or computers. There was also a hockey scout, an electrical engineer, a nurse. In their sparetime they were avid travellers, athletes and volunteers, and had passions for playing bridge, watching Broadway musicals and pulling off practical jokes. Most were in the World Trade Center, and many managed to contact family and friends while trapped inside. Three of them were on the planes that crashed into the towers. Ken Basnicki, was on one of the Canadians who perished in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in Manhattan on September 11. Soon after 9/11, Ken’s wife, Maureen Basnicki, became one of Canada’s most outspoken advocates for victims of terrorist attacks. Maureen, a Catholic, is founding director of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror. Her untiring efforts led the Canadian Government to designate September 11 each year as an official day to remember the victims, not through somber ceremonies, but by performing good deeds. She is also fighting to have legislation introduced that would allow individuals, organizations or states to be sued for funding terrorism.

This interview took place at the Salt + Light TV broadcast center in Toronto on August 17, 2017.