Helped by a stranger

Hay River senior Wayne Bennett was recently offered a place to stay overnight in Yellowknife when their flight out of the city was cancelled and could not stay in the airport.

Hay River senior Wayne Bennett was recently offered a place to stay overnight in Yellowknife when their flight out of the city was cancelled and could not stay in the airport.

A Hay River man is singing the praises of Northern hospitality after being offered help by a complete stranger at the Yellowknife Airport just after Christmas.

Wayne Bennett said that he and his wife, Lenie, had landed in Yellowknife in the early morning hours of Dec. 28 on a flight from Calgary while returning from Victoria, B.C.

They had planned to stay at the airport overnight and wait the four or five hours until the first flight to Hay River later that morning.

However, that plan hit a snag.

“You cannot stay at the airport in Yellowknife overnight,” said Bennett. “I didn’t know this. We didn’t know it.”

Yellowknife Airport closes after the last flight of the night and opens two hours before the first flight departs in the morning.

Bennett used the direct telephone lines at the airport to call three or four hotels.

“I phoned around and everything was booked,” he said. “So I come back and reported to the wife. She was standing in line waiting for the bags. I said, ‘Guess what, hon. Everything is booked. We got no place to stay.'”

Someone standing right beside them overheard that.

Bennett recalled the man said, “Oh, don’t worry, sir. We got an extra bedroom at home. You can come and spend the night with us. No problem. You won’t be left alone.”

That helpful stranger was Yellowknife City Councillor Adrian Bell.

After making the offer, Bell also called a few other hotels for the Bennetts at their request, and a room was found.

Bennett noted that, when he was leaving for the hotel, Bell handed him his business card.

“And he says, ‘If something happens and you can’t get into that one, phone me and I’ll come and pick you up and you can come and stay at our place,'” said the traveller.

The help from Bell – whom Bennett said he had never met before – impressed the Hay River senior.

“I thought that’s what Northern hospitality is all about, and that’s what we love about the North,” he said.

The 77-year-old Bennett said he shook Bell’s hand and thanked him.

“Adrian Bell, he was the man of the hour that time,” he said.

For his part, Bell, who was on the same flight from Calgary with his wife, said he didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t do.

“I look at this as very much an everyday type occurrence, and I feel a little bit bad having a story being done about this because I know anyone in Hay River Airport would have done the same,” he said. “And had the next person over overheard Mr. Bennett, I’m sure they would have offered the same, as well. I do think that is part of the whole Northern experience.”

–Paul Bickford