With the anniversary of 9/11 coming up, let’s talk about Beverley Bass. A friend of mine was visiting NYC last spring and told me about the musical Come From Away which tells the true story of what happened when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland. As you can probably guess, Gander is a small community and they had not seen that many planes since World War II. Literally, the planes were lined up wing to wing and there wasn’t an inch of concrete left on the tarmac. The entire town of Gander came out to support the “plane people” and showed up with bags of sandwiches, medicine, blankets, and hospitality. It makes for a really good musical, but when the writers were scouting out Gander, one of the residents reportedly said, “Are you going to make a musical about people making sandwiches? Good luck with that.” Come From Away isn’t about the easiest lunch to make, but it does wonderfully capture a unique day in history and the events that unfolded in the wake of 9/11.
Cue Beverley Bass, one the main characters of the musical, who was piloting a plane from Dallas to Paris when she heard the news and was immediately rerouted to Newfoundland. This is not a story about 9/11. This is a story about the legendary Beverley Bass.
Beverley Bass was one of many pilots flying on 9/11 who was ordered to divert her plane to Newfoundland. While the events and what happened in those critical moments are significant, Beverley Bass had already made history. She was the third woman hired by American Airlines and became the first female pilot promoted to captain in 1986. Weeks later, Beverley made news again by leading an all-female flight crew. The landing was covered by press from all over the world. All Beverley ever wanted to do was fly planes.
When she told her parents she wanted to take flying lessons, her father wasn’t on board with the idea at first, preferring her to stick to the family business of taking care of the horses. But after she started her freshman year at Texas Christian University (TCU), she finally began taking lessons and quickly became certified and ready to fly. Finding a job was not easy. Women were not pilots back then and she was often asked in interviews “But what would the wives of the executives think?” At 21, the flight school Beverley attended desperately needed a pilot to fly a body to Arkansas, but none of the male pilots would do it. Beverley jumped on the opportunity and it wasn’t too long before her passengers were a bit more lively (pun intended).
After 9/11 occurred, the thought of flying felt dangerous for passengers and flight crews alike. But not for Beverley being the professional that she is, “I will fly anything, anywhere. Whatever you need flown, I will fly it.”
Earlier this year Come From Away opened on Broadway after a record-breaking run at the La Jolla theatre. And Beverley may have broken another record! She has followed the play from La Jolla, to Seattle, Washington, Gander, Toronto, and now New York and seen it over 60 times often accompanied by fellow female pilots or her husband.
I love musicals and listening to Beverley Bass’s song on Come From Away brings so many emotions. Give it a listen! Jenn Colella plays Beverley Bass in the musical and is a phenomenal singer. I’m hoping Queenjules and I can go see it some day.
There are a lot of great articles and blogs posts about Beverley Bass, so if you want to read more, check out the following: