I visited Canada’s most easterly province to celebrate a cousin’s wedding. I only got a small taste of Newfoundland (and none of Labrador), as we were mostly centred around St. John’s, but the scenery was remarkable. It reminds you of just how much beauty Canadians have to appreciate in this country. On that note, I’ll share a couple Newfoundland-related stories…
1. Terry Fox and his connection to Newfoundland
On April 12, 1980, Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope in St. John’s, Newfoundland by dipping his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean. He was just a few months shy of his 22nd birthday — younger than I am today — and battling osteosarcoma. He would go on to run over 5,300 kilometres, completing nearly a marathon a day for 143 days.
“Today we got up at 4:00 am. As usual, it was tough. If I died, I would die happy because I was doing what I wanted to do. How many people could say that? I went out and did fifteen push-ups in the road and took off. I want to set an example that will never be forgotten.” – Terry Fox, diary entry from Day 15 in South Brook Junction, Newfoundland (From terryfox.org)
What compels a person to run across the second-largest country in the world? It’s a near-unfathomable task, a story of audacious hope and perseverance that has inspired me for years — both in my songwriting and in my approach to life. Visiting the place where his journey began 35 years ago was a special moment.
2. Newfoundland’s unlikely role and hospitality following the September 11th attacks
On my way to the airport, I got to talking to my shuttle driver. It turns out, he worked in Manhattan for years and would have been at his office in the World Trade Centre on September 11th, 2001, had he not decided to sleep in an extra 15 minutes that day.
As the chaos was unfolding on that day 14 years ago, Canada launched Operation Yellow Ribbon. According to Nav Canada, 68 diverted planes landed in Newfoundland on September 11th, and another seven landed in Labrador — more than any other province in the country.
Gander International Airport alone received 38 flights — more than any other airport in Canada except for Halifax. Newfoundland’s communities came together to welcome the stranded passengers, and it became one of the bright spots of humanity to emerge from 9/11.
Three photographs and the stories behind them:
1. The Narrows in St. John’s.
This was the view from our rental house on Battery Row. It’s the perfect encapsulation of what I’d imagined of Newfoundland before going: small, coloured houses, spread out along the shore. Out of sight to the left is Signal Hill and Cabot Tower.
2. Pouch Cove.
The mural is what caught my eye. Upon doing some further digging, it seems to have originated in 2006, and it turns out the mural has changed over the years. Another note: it’s pronounced ‘Pooch’ Cove. Good old Newfoundland.
3. Jellybean Row.
It’s rare to get a shot of coloured houses without a bunch of cars blocking the view. Gower Street is probably the most notable place for coloured houses in St. John’s — and deservedly so — but this one actually came on a side street.
Here’s what Geoff Meeker writes on National Geographic‘s website about how the coloured houses came to be:
Shane O’Dea, an expert on architectural heritage and historic preservation, said the idea of fancy window and door trim, and brightly-painted houses was born in 1977. In fact, the idea can be traced to one man, David Webber, the foundation’s executive director. In that year, the foundation took on a demonstration project by painting a sample block in bright colours, from Willicott’s Lane to Victoria Street, on both sides of the street.
The sample block was an immediate hit, and spread like a cold into the surrounding neighbourhoods. People began renovating their homes, adding fancy trim and switching to the bright colours, until the entire downtown was decked out in its best and brightest. Meanwhile, heritage conservation bylaws preserved the majority of older houses, to the point that St. John’s now has a heritage district that sprawls across the entire downtown, and is the envy of cities across North America.