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A scene from ‘Come from Away’ ()

Metro Minute

A Canadian town’s hospitality

Revisiting the remarkable 9/11 story of Gander, Newfoundland

A New York moment:

This Broadway show has been out for a year, but last week someone gifted me a ticket to Come from Away. It’s based on the true 9/11 story from Gander, Newfoundland. Am I the last person to hear this story? The NBC special on it is a tear-jerker, and captures the essential narrative of Come from Away. If anyone knows any particularly good articles or accounts about Gander, please email me.

Gander is the tiny town that took in 38 diverted commercial planes carrying more than 7,000 people when U.S. and Canadian authorities closed North American airspace on Sept. 11, 2001. The town had once been a refueling stopover for transatlantic flights, so it had capacity for these big jets.

The story of the hospitable Canadians caring for thousands of terrified passengers in the wake of 9/11 will win anyone over, and it surprisingly works just right in a musical format. Audience members around me were weeping as one mom on the plane awaited news of her New York firefighter son (another true story). We forget that this was before smartphones existed.

The 100-minute show captures the feeling of 9/11—that the world had turned upside down, that nothing would ever be the same. The song near the end, “Something’s Missing,” boils that down. But the audience didn’t leave sorrowful: At the curtain call people were on their feet clapping to the Celtic band that camps out on stage throughout the show (Newfoundland has strains of Irish culture). Hug a Canadian!

Worth your time:  

This made the rounds on social media, but it’s a story worth reading if you haven’t yet. After a Honduran family turned itself in after illegally crossing the border, seeking asylum, U.S. immigration officials separated the father from his wife and 3-year-old. The man subsequently committed suicide. The administration’s new policy refers all border stops for criminal prosecution, separating children from their parents in the process. It’s a troubling tactic to deter illegal immigration that even Trump supporters like Franklin Graham are condemning.

This week I learned:

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing to remove an achievement test that determines admission into the city’s top high schools, saying the test is a “roadblock to justice.” Asian-American groups, representing a large chunk of students who make it into these elite schools, object.

In other New York education news, de Blasio’s nemesis Eva Moskowitz is celebrating the first graduating class of Success Academy. Success’ 36 charter schools in the city have “disrupted” the local education system, and its students score much higher than public school students on state tests. Ninety-five percent of all Success students passed state math exams last year, while only 38 percent of city third- through eighth-graders did.

Culture I am consuming:

Liz Vice’s new album, Save Me. If her first album, 2014’s There’s a Light, were a vinyl record, I would have worn it out. Vice is a worship leader based in New York, and a great songwriter.

Metro Minute will be on hiatus for the next two weeks. Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org.

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Savushkin/iStock

(Savushkin/iStock)

Metro Minute

Newsies in the making

Seventh-graders read an actual print newspaper, and a New Yorker pretends to be a British royalty expert on TV

A Connecticut middle-school moment:

On a reporting trip in Connecticut last week for a forthcoming story, I spent a morning in a seventh-grade classroom. The students were diligently finishing up a worksheet on a book they were reading together. Once they turned in their sheets, the teacher set aside time for them to read the local newspaper—the print edition! The teacher has them regularly write reports on newspaper articles.

One of the boys had the job of recycling the old papers and going out to the hallway to pick up copies of the day’s new paper. He also cleared out the superfluous pages of coupons folded up inside. The class was quietly working while this unofficial newsie went about his task. Shuffling the coupons into the recycling bin, he saved one sheet of Burger King coupons. As he handed out copies of the day’s newspaper to the other kids in the class, he set the Burger King coupons on one boy’s desk. The boy gratefully folded up the coupons and placed them in his backpack. Seventh-grade newspaper delivery boys know what their customers are looking for.

Worth your time:

During the royal wedding, a man with a posh British accent pretended to be a British expert on the royal family on TV networks—including the BBC. Turns out he is an Italian-American from upstate New York.

This week I learned:

MoviePass, the subscription service for nearly unlimited movie tickets that is disrupting the theater industry, lost $107 million in the first three months of the year.

A court case you might not know about:

This week we got a ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, but a similar conflict between gay rights and religious freedom is brewing in lower courts. My colleague Jamie Dean covers some of these legal and state legislative fights over religious adoption groups and gay advocates in our latest issue.

Culture I am consuming:

Like Dreamers, a 2013 book by Yossi Klein Halevi that follows a group of paratroopers through the Six-Day War in Israel and the aftermath. Halevi, an Israeli journalist, is a great storyteller and the book gives a snapshot, via the paratroopers, of the different factions within modern Israel.

Halevi has a new book out, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, that I want to read. He did a sharp interview with Atlantic Editor in Chief Jeffrey Goldberg about it. Wrestling through the Israeli-Palestinian divide, he noted two commanding Biblical voices in Jewish discourse.

The first: “‘Remember you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’” he said, quoting Scripture. “The lesson there is don’t be brutal. ... The second voice is: ‘Remember … when you were attacked without provocation [upon leaving Egypt].’ The lesson there is don’t be naïve. You live in a world where genocide is possible.”

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org

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Monica Almeida/The New York Times/Redux

Josh McClure, director of the Pregnancy Care Clinic in San Diego, Calif. (Monica Almeida/The New York Times/Redux)

Metro Minute

A reluctant step into politics

A plaintiff recalls a pregnancy center’s journey to the Supreme Court, as we await a flurry of June decisions

A D.C. moment: With the start of June comes the suspense of Supreme Court rulings; we never know when a ruling will come down, but June is the final month of the court’s term and as usual, the justices have procrastinated until the last minute on some of the term’s biggest cases. We’re awaiting rulings on the Christian cake baker (argued in December), the travel ban, redistricting, public sector unions, sales taxes on internet retailers, and California laws regulating the speech of pregnancy centers. 

The California pregnancy centers seem likely to win in some form, but the narrowness or breadth of the decision will have implications for pregnancy centers nationally. I talked to one of the plaintiffs in the case, Josh McClure, who directs the Pregnancy Care Clinic in San Diego, Calif. McClure doesn’t have a career as a pro-life activist; a former executive with the Boy Scouts of America, 10 years ago he saw a Craigslist ad for an executive director of a pregnancy center. At that time he considered himself pro-life, but it wasn’t his passion. Administrative details were his passion, and the board hired him with the understanding that he would “lead well so others can do the advocacy work.” 

But this administrator was drawn into advocacy over the years, especially as the state of California has targeted his center. The Reproductive FACT Act that passed in 2015 lays a host of regulations on licensed and unlicensed pregnancy centers, requiring disclaimers and large advertisements for state-sponsored abortions. McClure traveled to the state legislature to protest the law, but his assemblywoman wouldn’t meet with him. 

“The law was being fast-tracked,” he said. “They did not care that we were there.”

Did he expect to find himself at the U.S. Supreme Court? “Not in a million years.” 

After the law went into effect, the Alliance Defending Freedom approached McClure’s center about representing the group as a plaintiff, and the board decided it was ready to enter years of legal battles. 

“We don’t like to think of ourselves as being political, but we have to be engaged,” said McClure. “We shouldn’t have to stand up and defend ourselves like this.” 

Now he’s leading an effort to build a statewide coalition of almost 200 pregnancy centers (California Alliance of Pregnancy Care) to prevent any future versions of the FACT Act. Regional meetings have already begun.

Worth your time:

A beautiful interactive piece about the lives of the Chibok girls after their release from captivity—although it feels like this piece gives short shrift to the role of Christian faith in their healing process. 

This week I learned:

That the United States is on pace to admit fewer refugees than Canada this year. 

Culture I am consuming:

Solo, which I thoroughly enjoyed as a plain old summer blockbuster. It’s a Star Wars western, with no uses of the Force anywhere to be seen.

Postscript: Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback. ebelz@wng.org

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