Left and right. Conservative and liberal. In the days that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, those labels were left behind when 1,000 Oregonians of all political stripes boarded planes and headed for the Big Apple in a show of support.
Now 22 years later, a book on the Flight For Freedom chronicles the trip.
“I was shocked,” said freelance writer Sally Bourrie. “And it took awhile, like most people, to realize that this was an attack. This wasn’t just an accident.”
For Sally, the tragic events of that day would lead her to pen an inspiring story.
“On September 26, they had a press conference and I thought ‘Oh my gosh, this is an amazing idea. I want to do this,” Sally said.
Three weeks after the attacks, a group of Oregonians boarded planes for New York City. Billed as the Flight for Freedom, 1,000 people from around the state joined a quickly organized excursion to support a city upended by an act of terrorism.
“For these people to say we’re going to get on a plane was amazing, and then for them to be the compassionate people that they were in a New York was a beautiful, beautiful thing,” Sally said.
Sally was there to chronicle the trip for newspapers in Chicago and Boston.
“It was $379 round trip from Oregon and two nights at the Waldorf Astoria,” Sally said.
“When you got off the plane, and especially for the people who had been to New York before and understood what they were seeing, it was empty.”
In the days and weeks after the attacks, the world stopped coming to New York. But on October 6, 2001, people from the other side of the country showed up.
“I want Oregonians to know what their state did,” Sally said.
The story of this unlikely tourist trip is documented in “Oregon Loves New York: A Story of American Unity After 9/11.”
Sally said everyone wore t-shirts and buttons that read “Oregon Loves New York,” with a heart referencing the word “Love.”
“You think of New Yorkers as busy and gruff, but they would just come up to you and Thank you for coming,” Sally said. “They would often just start telling you their 9/11 stories and cry. I mean that was very common. The Oregonians every single time something like that happen they stepped into it. They were present.”
The kindness of strangers from 3,000 miles away.
“Here they got a thousand people and they thought ‘We gotta do something,'” Sally said.
That something included standing outside in the street for a “Good Morning America” broadcast, going shopping, going to Wall Street and
even walking in the Columbus Day Parade down 5th Avenue.
“Not being afraid, having a good time, I mean the Oregonians had a good time,” Sally said.
Details and experiences of the trip are laid out across the pages. But it’s the acts of people of all stripes banning together for a greater cause that Sally hopes to convey.
“Data had shown that Oregon was the most politically polarized state in the county. It had the most conservative conservatives and the most progressive progressives. They came together and they did that,” Sally said.
A message she hopes resonates today.
“It’s possible for our country to be like this. We can do this again. And this is a real example of the best of humanity,” Sally said. “Our commonalities are far more pervasive than our differences.”
And for three days and two nights in the Big Apple, Oregonians proved just that.
Sally will be discussing her book along with some Oregonians who were on the Flight for Freedom Monday night at Paulina Springs Books in Sisters starting at 6:30 p.m. And she’ll be at Roundabout Books in Bend on Tuesday, also starting at 6:30. Tickets are $5 for the Bend event.