On Jan. 24, 2023, Oregon Loves New York: A Story of American Unity After 9/11 will be reissued with a foreword by the Flight for Freedom’s “moral center,” Len Bergstein, plus a comprehensive index.
This true story of unsung heroes of diverse backgrounds and social status who came together after 9/11 won the Independent Author Network’s finalist award for nonfiction history and has been chosen by the Library of Congress for its collection.
Based on author Sally Ruth Bourrie’s reporting for the Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe, over 100 interviews, and contemporary news articles and memoirs, Oregon Loves New York documents a little-known event in American history: the Flight for Freedom.
Three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, 1,000 courageous Oregonians led by Portland Mayor Vera Katz took 62 flights to New York City to show the terrorists they had not shut down American life and to boost the city’s struggling economy. What they found were fellow Americans who needed more than money, they needed their hearts.
“The symbolic commitment to be a part of the recovery of New York from these horrible attacks meant a great deal to all New Yorkers and sent a very positive message to the entire nation,” said former New York Governor George Pataki. “The Flight for Freedom demonstrated that people from 3,000 miles across the continent felt comfortable and safe in the streets, and that message got out in the rest of the country.”
The Oregonians marched in the Columbus Day Parade, rang the New York Stock Exchange opening bell, held a memorial service at Union Square, appeared on Good Morning America, spoke at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine’s Blessing of the Animals, sponsored a Chinatown banquet for 700, and more.
Easily spotted in T-shirts and buttons with two Douglas firs and “Oregon ♥ New York,” Freedom Fliers were stopped, hugged and thanked by grieving New Yorkers. Oregonians listened to their 9/11 stories and were called to be present in more ways than they could have anticipated.
An all-volunteer effort, no one made money on the Flight for Freedom. Packages started at $379 for airfare and two nights at the Waldorf Astoria.
Len Bergstein was legislative aide to Oregon Gov. Bob Straub, aide to Portland mayor and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Neil Goldschmidt, and owned a political consulting firm. He died unexpectedly in October 2022, just hours after his weekly KGW-TV commentary.
As a Flight for Freedom organizer, Bergstein brought strategy, media expertise and relationships. But his greatest contribution is the event’s greatest legacy: Bergstein kept compassion, courage and caring at its center and made sure that the message was clear.
713 pages, nearly 200 color photos. Learn more about the book and Sally Ruth Bourrie at https://oregonlovesnewyork.com/ and https://sallybourrie.com/.