Following the horrific attacks on our country on September 11, 2001, all planes were told to land at the nearest possible airport immediately. Before long, there were no planes in United States airspace, other than military planes. The feeling was an eerie one. Maybe other people considered the international flights, but for some odd reason, I did not until I read a book called, “When The World Came To Town.” When the United States closed its airspace that day, it left literally thousands of people out over the oceans with nowhere to go…almost. Those that had not passed the point of no return, most likely turned around, but there were many planes that had to go on. Nevertheless, they could not land in the United States, so our neighbors in Canada came to the rescue.
There were only a couple of places that planes en route to the east coast of the United States could land. One of them was Gander, Newfoundland…a small town of 9,561 people in 2001…and nearby communities like Gambo, Lewisporte, Appleton and Norris Arm. When the US airports shut down, it left 38 planes and 6,500 people who were heading west over the Atlantic, with very few options. Enter Gander, Newfoundland. Gander airport received those 38 planes, and opened everything in their town to those 6,500 people and a couple of dogs. The passengers were mostly in shock…both because of what had just happened, and because all the people of Gander simply dropped everything to personally take care of the stunned passengers.
At the time, the school bus drivers were on strike. As if they were one person, they all laid down their picket signs and went to drive their unexpected guests around…not just from the airport, but anywhere they needed or wanted to go. Pharmacists filled prescriptions for free. Shop owners declined payment for goods sold to the passengers. The arena at the Gander Community Centre became a giant walk-in fridge for food donations. The people brought their best dishes…comfort food for the passengers, all of whom were feeling, like every United States citizen was feeling…nauseous, anxious, and scared. If people began to cry, someone was there to comfort them and allow them to talk it out. People opened their homes, allowing people to stay with them, and others to shower in their homes. Homes were not locked. They were opened to the people from the planes…at all hours. If people just needed to get out of the community center, someone took them wherever they wanted to go…even just for a drive.
The tarmac at Gander International Airport quickly became a parking lot. There were planes everywhere. I don’t think a plane could take off, if they wanted to, but then, nobody was really going anywhere. The United States was in a “holding pattern,” and for Gander, the same applied, to a degree. They were busy helping their unexpected guests to feel more comfortable, and less anxious, if that was possible. Nevertheless, the passengers were not bored. The townspeople entertained them with music, tours, a church service, and even a birthday party for a passenger with a birthday. The townspeople took the passengers to Walmart to get them the clothing and other necessities they had to leave in the cargo hold of the plane. Whatever they wanted or needed, they were supplied with. The people of Gander did it all, and asked for nothing in return. All that is great, but the truly wonderful thing that the people of Gander, Gambo, Lewisporte, Appleton and Norris Arm did for the stranded passengers, was to offer friendship…a friendship that has endured through the 19 years since that fateful day.
On September 22, 2016, I was contacted by a man on Ancestry.com who told me that we were researching some of the same people. He said they were people who had signed the famous Snyder Friendship Quilt. Well, since I had never heard of it before, I wasn’t too sure how famous it was, but his question intrigued me, so I had to check it out for myself. I looked at the site he sent me to, and I was very intrigued. The quilt was a known as a friendship quilt, and they were quite popular in times past. This quilt, called the Snyder Quilt, is made with varying red floral tones and white contrast. It has 72 blocks in it. The thing that makes it a friendship quilt is that the friends of the quilter write their name on the blocks. On this quilt, 63 of the 72 blocks have signatures.
For me, there were two things that I found exciting. The first was that eleven of the signatures had the last name Shaw, which is one of the family names in my mom’s family history. I knew that I would be researching those people to see if we are related. The second thing that was exciting is that there were three signatures of famous people…”Abraham Lincoln President of US America 1865″, “Mrs Abraham Lincoln”, and “General US Grant” had each signed a quilt block. At this point, my mind was racing. I wondered if the Shaws on the quilt could be family, and how well they knew President Lincoln, who has always been a man who interested me. That was almost a year ago.
The names that are repeated several times are Snyder, Shaw, and Readon. Some of the other last names on the quilt are Thomson, Russell, Fuller, Suderly, and Schoonmaker. The name Snyder is on the quilt thirteen times and the name Shaw appears eleven times. All of the different names on the quilt got my family history wheels turning, and I knew I would have to get busy and find out if any of the people who had signed the quilt were people who were related to us. My research would prove quite fruitful, but as with any research of one’s ancestry, the going was slow. I really expected to find the connection to the Shaw side of the family, and I think I will at some point, but what really surprised me was that I found out the Abraham Lincoln is my 7th cousin, 3 times removed; and that Mary Todd Lincoln is my 4th cousin 4 times removed; both on the Spencer side of my family!!
There is some speculation as to whether the Lincoln signatures are authentic, and I can see why. On the quilt, Abraham Lincoln is spelled Abraham Lincon. I’m not going to try to debate the authenticity, but I will go so far as to say that since my job requires me to sign my name multiple times during the day, I have actually signed my name so quickly that I have misspelled it, and had to insert a letter into it. I know that sounds odd, but try signing your name over and over for years, and see if you don’t make a mistake or two. By this time, Lincoln was the President of the United States, and so had to sign his name a lot too. You can believe what you want to, but I have chosen to believe that the Snyder Quilt is authentic, because I can’t see any purpose in the Snyder family lying about it. Their friends would know the truth, and the quilt would have had no real value.
Sixty six years ago, when the bitterly cold winter of 1949 was finally over and spring had finally arrived, my mother-in-law, Joann Knox was a young girl of eighteen, and she was in love. She had known her future husband and the love of her life, Walter Schulenberg, all her life. Still, knowing him didn’t mean they were always in love, or even that they liked each other. Little kids can be friends with someone, and then when they get older, things change. Then, as was the case with my in-laws, things can change again. That annoying teenaged boy or girl suddenly takes on a new look to you. Suddenly, the time is right, and they both wonder why they didn’t see this person this way before. That’s how it was for my in-laws. Grandma Knox, Joann’s mom told me once that after they got older, Mom didn’t like Dad one bit. I would guess that was probably in his bratty adolescent years, when most boys are awkward around girls…especially if they like them at all.
As the years went by, Walt and Joann moved in different circles, and didn’t really see each other very much, but then one day, he noticed her again. My mother-in-law wasn’t too sure how she felt about his new found interest in her, as she still thought of him as a bit of an annoying boy, but if you knew my father-in-law at all, you would know that he had a winning personality, and it was really hard not to like him. That is what my mother-in-law found too. Before long, they were an item. First meeting them after many years of marriage, and meeting them is a more reserved situation…for my mother-in-law at least, I never saw the love struck side of their early relationship. I don’t think their kids really did either. Their love letters, written during the times he was working one place and she another, were tender and sweet. It was such a surprise to see those letters, because they just never seemed to me to be the googly eyed kind of couple, and yet, here in their letters, they were.
As time passed, their future plans began to grow, and when Joann graduated, they decided to be married. Like their granddaughter, Corrie Petersen, my daughter, they didn’t wait very long after graduation. The wedding took place on the 5th anniversary of D-Day, a fact that I seriously doubt that either of them gave a single thought to…at least not that year. Like many marriages of that time, it was a simple wedding…much like my own parents’ wedding just a few years later. My mother-in-law wore a simple peach colored dress and my father-in-law a suit. Nevertheless, it was for them the perfect day…the culmination of the many years of an on again, off again friendship, now turned to a forever kind of love. Today marks the 66th anniversary of that wedding day, and while my father-in-law has been gone now for two years, my mother-in-law is still alive, and since she does not realize that he is gone, we will still tell her happy anniversary…at the same time that we tell her that Dad is out in the garage working on a car, or at Walmart, or visiting the neighbors, because to tell her he is gone would be just too mean. Happy anniversary to my in-laws, Walt…in Heaven, and Joann, here on Earth. Have a wonderful day. We love you both very much.
When you are young, your cousins are often your friends too. Mostly that is because their parents are related to yours, so it’s easy to get together. Your parents probably get to fairly often, so no play date arrangements are necessary. Cousins are often our first friends, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will remain good friends. Many times, cousins who were friends in the beginning of life drift apart as the years go on. Still, there are a blessed few who remain friends no matter where life takes them, and no matter what life presents them with.
I can’t say how close my mother-in-law remained with her cousins over the years, but I suspect that they might have drifted apart, because she moved from Montana in the early years of her marriage, and without internet, the best way to connect with friends and family was letter writing. Now, maybe she was better at that than I have been over the years, but I think that might have just been because they didn’t have a better way…except the phone, and that could get expensive back then.
My niece Lacey, and my grand niece, Siara are both out of high school and Lacey has started her career, while Siara is still in college. So far, they have remained close friends who see each other when they can. It’s a little more difficult for them now, with their busy lives. Still, they are working through things and keeping their friendship alive, at least for now.
As to my grand niece Christina and my granddaughter, Shai, the future is not set. They are still in high school, and while they are very close right now, things could change as their school days end. I have a feeling that they will be as close as Lacey and Siara have been, but only time will tell on that thought. It is my hope that they will stay close, like many in our family have. We have had several cousin friendships in our family, and personally, I think there is something extra special about them. They are more than close friends…they are as close as cousins.
When the first two of my four grandchildren, Christopher and Shai were little, the spent a lot of time together, since Amy babysat Christopher. While they were best friends, that didn’t stop the competition to be bigger. They kids were born just one day apart, with Christopher being the oldest, so many things were done at the same time or pretty close. These little competitions didn’t cause too many fights for the most part, but once in a while they did. Mostly this was if they both wanted to do the same things, which happened more when they were little. I remember once when the fought over who should sit in Shai’s car seat that had been brought into the house. It looked like Christopher got in first, and Shai didn’t like it, but then we will probably never know, since we didn’t know there was a problem until the screaming started.
They also competed over walking, running, and climbing, each wanting to be the best at it. The good news there, is that they didn’t usually need the exact same space. Side by side worked well when doing that. Mostly they were working to see who could complete the task first, and that first place position went back and forth. Still, the competitions didn’t damage their friendship, which is still very much in tact today. I guess it’s a good thing that those kids don’t carry a grudge over childhood tiffs.
The years have flown by so fast, and the kids are so close to being grown up that I can hardly believe it. The days of competing for top spot are long gone. Their interests are so different from each other that there is no longer a need. I am so proud of the teenagers they have become. They are hard working, and they pay their own normal teenaged bills, like gas, insurance, and car stuff. I can’t believe how fast they have grown up, but I really like the people they have become. I can count on them to help with whatever I might need, and they are great about transporting their siblings around. But the best thing about these kids is that they don’t mind hugging their grandma, even in public, and that means the most to me!! Many teenagers just don’t want to even be seen hugging their grandparents, but these guys are very cool and they show their love for me everyday. I am so blessed!!