An Irish-American man whose flight was diverted to Newfoundland on 9/11 in 2001 has become deeply involved in a "Pay it Forward" campaign that aims to record at least 23,000 good deeds in 2023. 

It was an unexpected detour for Tom and the late Johanna Donlon of County Longford, along with their grandson of four years, Connor Farry. There were great expectations for their return to Rockland County, New York, after a month-long sojourn in Longford in 2001. Connor was spending some quality time with his grandparents while they readied for the arrival of Connor’s sister Aideen, due in September.

Their return would have to wait. Their Dublin-New York flight on 9/11 was diverted to Gander, Newfoundland. They spent several days there filled with anxiety along with some heartwarming experiences full of gratitude and joy.

The small town hosted 7,000 people from different flights over the five days following 9/11, providing not only food and accommodation but entertainment and hospitality. 

Twenty-two years later, Connor has grown to be a young man who always carries this 9/11 experience with him. So, it was an ideal fit for Connor to become a board member of the non-profit PayItForward 9/11.

Inspired by compassionate Canadians on 9/11, this organization began 20 years ago. The aim is simple: to restore the kindness and unity the world witnessed back then. Its founder and President Kevin Tuerff, like Connor’s family, was one of the airline passengers diverted to Newfoundland that fateful day. Kevin’s experience is one of the true stories inspiring the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Come From Away.”  The volunteerism, kindness, and decency of the Canadians reflected a side of humanity that motivated Kevin to pioneer an organization that aims to honor those who perished and promote a better world. 

This year, PayitForward 911 continues to thrive and encourages us all to perform good deeds and random acts of kindness during their “11 days of Kindness and Unity” from Sept 1st -11th.  You can register your acts of kindness here.

Connor was motivated to bring his communications expertise to the cause as well as his love for "Come From Away,” which resonates strongly for him. Connor and his employer, the Washington DC Public Relations firm Glen Echo Group, have actively participated in this initiative.

He reached out to other organizations such as The Aisling Irish Community & Cultural Center in Yonkers to spread the positive message of PayItForward 911. Foróige and Leadership for Life are two youth development programs run by Aisling that Connor hopes to actively engage in to promote the values of kindness and gratitude among young people.

It is Connor’s goal to inspire as many as possible to do random acts of kindness not just around September 11th, but throughout the year. Needless to say, when we see what a tough world it is out there, Tom along with Connor’s parents, Dr. Eibhlin Donlon-Farry and Paul Farry are super proud of what this young man has become.