Seattle hearts Canada: American drives 7000 km to thank people of Gander

Published on June 13, 2017

Mark Ufkes (left), from Seattle, Wash., drove 7,000 kilometres to meet Mayor Claude Elliott and thank him for Gander’s contributions during 9-11.

©Josh Healey/The Beacon

GANDER, NL - It took him 16 years and over 7,000 kilometres of driving, but Mark Ufkes has finally made it to Gander.

Ufkes, who lives in Seattle, Wash., arrived in town on Monday and met with Mayor Claude Elliott to share his gratitude for the role Gander played during 9-11.

“It was such a great statement of true humanitarianism,” Ufkes said.

Ufkes has been contemplating a road trip to Gander for years, but following a recent car accident, he decided it was time. He left his home in Seattle weeks ago.

“9-11 was such a difficult time for the American people. When the people of Canada were so generous and supportive, it was a wonderful example of humanity. It’s why the American people remember the story,” he said.

Although he wasn’t directly affected, Ufkes explained he was touched by the compassion that Ganderites showed towards complete strangers throughout 9-11.

During his meeting with the mayor, Ufkes shared a number of gifts, including American wine, chocolates and confectionary.

As a final token of appreciation, Ufkes, who is a scoutmaster, passed Elliott an honorary neckerchief.

For Ufkes, the passing of the neckerchief was symbolic.

“Scouting, to me, represents that we have way more in common than we have differences,” he said.

Ufkes also said that he’d had the opportunity to explore Gander a bit and was moved by the generousity of the townspeople.

“Every person I’ve talked to in Gander is proud for the right reasons.”

Furthermore, Ufkes noted that Americans could learn from Ganderites and Canadians in general.

“Their sense of who they are isn’t threatened by the differences that people have. I found Canadians to be non-judgmental,” said Ufkes. “I can say I’ve never met a Canadian I don’t like.”

Ufkes isn’t shy about his affection for Canadians; he’s plastered a friendly note across the side of his car in large red letters.

His message? Seattle hearts Canada.

Twitter: @joshrjhealey