GANDER, N.L. – It’s an unlikely love story that is as sweet as it was unexpected.
The horror and brutality that ripped so many lives apart on Sept. 11, 2001 brought Nick and Diane Marson together in, of all places, a 9-11 shelter in Gambo, N.L.
“A single journey for each one of us changed the course of the rest of our lives,” said Diane in an interview as she and her now husband, Nick, returned to Newfoundland to mark the 10th anniversary of 9-11.
She had been visiting family in England and was returning home to Houston, Texas on the same flight that Nick, an oil industry engineer, had boarded for business. He was supposed to have travelled earlier but his trip was put off for one fate-altering day.
By the time their jet neared the eastern edge of North America, the terrorist attacks on the U.S. had closed American airspace for the first time ever to all but military aircraft.
They were among 6,600 passengers and crew diverted to Gander and surrounding communities.
The two exhausted and disoriented strangers were on a date with destiny as they emerged from their aircraft after long hours spent on the tarmac and cleared security in Gander, N.L.
They first met when Nick approached Diane at a shelter in nearby Gambo, and asked if he could “bed down” on an army cot beside her. Both were in their fifties when their chance encounter set the foundation for something much more.
Four days later, as the new friends rode a school bus toward the now reopened airport, Nick reached over to kiss a teary Diane on the forehead. She laughs as she tells how she instead planted a proper kiss on the buttoned-down Englishman.
Nick visited her the next month and the following December before getting a permanent job transfer to Houston. They were married on Sept. 7, 2002 and honeymooned back in Newfoundland where they marked the first anniversary of 9-11.
A local song was even written in their honour. It starts: “They met in Gambo, a little town in Newfoundland… .”
Ten years after the savage attacks that shook the world, the happy couple has returned once again to say thank you.
“You’d like to think if this had happened in any part of the world that people would have rallied together and bonded so well,” said Nick Marson. “I’m not so sure that would happen.”
“Everything was done to keep our spirits up, and theirs too at that point,” added Diane.
“You had this wonderful, caring, safe harbour of people, and then you had these terrorists who did these unimaginable things to strangers. You can’t put the two in one place. You could not believe they were both in the same world.
“We wanted to say thank you to the people of Newfoundland for all their hospitality, for opening their hearts, their pantries, their pocketbooks.”
The couple now lives in Spring, Texas, where Diane volunteers extensively, including at a local hospital. Her Newfoundland experience helped inspire her desire to give back, she said.
“Here, we just found a little bit of heaven with a bunch of angels who live there.”