Couple who met after 9/11 say kindness from strangers made them better people

Diane and Nick on honeymoon in Gander in 2002 (Nick and Diane Marson/PA) (PA)
2:45am, Fri 10 Sep 2021
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A couple who met in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks have said the kindness shown to them by strangers during the tragedy has made them become better people.

Nick Marson 72, and his now-wife Diane, 80, were flying from London Gatwick to Houston, Texas, when their flight, along with dozens of others, was redirected to Canada on September 11 2001.

The couple were two of the 7,000 people that landed in Gander, a rural town in Newfoundland with a population of just 10,000, after US airspace closed in response to the hijacking of flights.

Diane and Nick are pictured celebrating Diane’s 80th birthday in August this year. (Nick and Diane Marson/PA) (PA)

The townsfolk scrambled to welcome the arrivals, who they dubbed “the plane people”, and offered them shelter, clothes and food, and even inducted them into their community as “honorary Newfoundlanders” in a local tradition known as a “Screech-In”.

Twenty years on from landing in Canada, the Marsons have described how the experience changed them.

Mr Marson told the PA news agency: “I think it’s made me a better person. I try to be my best self every day, be happy, make other people happy and make them laugh.

“We need a world full of Newfoundlanders right now because there’s a lot of tension everywhere. People are shooting each other, it’s ridiculous.

“They need to get a helping of Newfoundlander [attitude] and be nice and smile, be their best self and think about the other person.”

Nick took this image of Diane at Dover Fault, on Sept. 13, 2001, just a few days after they met. (Nick and Diane Marson/PA) (PA)

Mrs Marson added: “You never know what the other person is going through. Give them a little leeway.”

Mr Marson, a former British product engineer, and the-then Ms Kirschke, a former fashion buyer, met in a shelter in the town and bonded during their five-day stay.

They later flew back to their respective homes in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, and Houston, Texas, before Mr Marson proposed on the phone two months later.

He moved to the US soon afterwards and the couple married on September 7 2002 and had their honeymoon in Newfoundland.

Their relationship has now been immortalised in the musical Come From Away, a Tony and Olivier award-winning show which documents the landing of the 38 planes in Gander.

They have kept in touch with those who helped them and hope to go back again to the town next year for a 10th time to mark their 20th wedding anniversary.

Mr Marson said: “It only seems like a few weeks or maybe a couple of years ago since 9/11 happened. The thing that keeps it fresh in our minds is the show.”

Mrs Marson added: “It doesn’t seem like it’s been 20 years since we’ve met. It’s gone by in the blink of an eye. When we watch the show it reminds us of how we met and how exciting it was.”

Diane and Nick’s wedding day on September 7 2002. (Nick and Diane Marson/PA) (PA)

Despite the couple’s joy at finding love in an unlikely place, they refused to discuss their story with people outside of their circle for several years due to survivor’s guilt.

Mr Marson said: “We thought, ‘Why should such a wonderful thing happen to us when nearly 3,000 families suffered a death in their family?’ For the longest time, we were not that comfortable with that idea and we wouldn’t talk about it…even now, [the tragedy] is still very raw.

“It was only until Tom Brokaw’s documentary about Operation Yellow Ribbon in 2009 that we decided we would talk about it as a tribute to the people of Newfoundland.”

Outlining their future plans, Mrs Marson added: “We try to make the most of each day because in all reality, none of us know how long we have on this earth. We can all do something wonderful each day.”

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