Rod Markin of Omaha is about to see a slice of his life played out onstage.

He’ll be in the audience Wednesday night when “Come From Away” premieres at the Orpheum Theater. The 100-minute musical is about the interactions between 6,700 airline passengers and their Canadian hosts after their jetliners were grounded in Newfoundland on 9/11.

Markin was on one of those planes, and he spent a week in St. John’s. But until recently, he said, he hadn’t thought much about it for at least 15 years.

“It was one of life’s many experiences,” said Markin, a longtime physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “You don’t sign up for it. It happens and you make the best of it.”

Of course, he remembers it vividly. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were a defining event for at least two generations of Americans. We all remember where we were when it happened.

Markin and his wife were on their way home from taking their son to the Manchester Institute of Technology in Britain, where he would study abroad for a year through Nebraska Wesleyan University.

They wanted to be sure he was settled, with a cellphone and a bank account. They were satisfied that he’d be fine a couple of days before they planned to leave, so they changed their plane tickets to Sept. 11 and headed home.

“About six hours into the flight, the pilot comes on and says there’s trouble with air traffic control on the East Coast, so we’re going to Newfoundland to land,” Markin said.

Routine stuff, he thought at the time.

They taxied, parked by the gate and waited. For hours. The plane was surrounded by Royal Canadian Mounted Police, so they were beginning to suspect something was up.

Finally, the pilot spoke again.

“Here’s the real story,” Markin said he told them. “The U.S. has been attacked.”

Passengers found out that planes had been used as weapons in New York City and Washington, D.C.

They were fairly calm but all wondered how they would contact loved ones. Nobody had a cellphone that would work in Canada, except Markin. He had been to a recent conference there and had purchased a plan that still was in place.

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“Everybody lined up and used my cellphone to call people they needed to call,” Markin said, offering an example of the themes behind “Come From Away,” which deals with how the passengers bonded among themselves and with the Canadians.

When they finally got off the plane, passengers couldn’t take anything with them — no luggage, briefcases, carry-ons. Only purses. An army of buses took them to a hockey stadium, where they were divided into groups for transport to housing.

The Markins ended up with about 60 people at a Salvation Army church, where they slept on a tile floor — no mattresses or even mats — with a blanket and pillow. Newfoundland wasn’t prepared for an influx of visitors on short notice. In addition to St. John’s, population 108,000 or so, the planes landed in Gander, population 11,000 and change.

‘There were no extra cots or anything. It’s not like they were sitting around waiting for people to drop by. It was a calamity,” Markin said.

There also were no showers. There was a large-screen TV, but it was tuned to CNN for continuous coverage the entire time they were there. They had a lot of time to think.

And worry.

“A guy who had a kidney transplant slept next to me,” Markin said, “and he started to feel bad and was afraid it was being rejected.”

They took him to a nearby clinic. He had a sinus infection.

Some people didn’t realize that they were on a remote island. They left the church vowing to rent a car and get home. Nobody stopped them, knowing they’d be back in a few days. And they were.

A representative of the Canadian government said they sent the planes to smaller airports by design. Not knowing whether the attacks were over, they wanted to avoid large population areas.

“We never gave a second thought on whether to accept (the flights),” said Ariel Delouya, consul general at the Canadian Consulate in Minneapolis, who was a high-ranking official in the government at the time. “We all agreed, with an important caveat: None would fly to Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa or Vancouver.”

Delouya credited the success of what came to be known as “Operation Yellow Ribbon” to the two countries’ long friendship.

The Newfoundlanders were amazing, Markin said: “They were the nicest people in the world.”

Four days in, the Markins walked to a nearby store to buy personal care supplies and new clothes. Their hosts took them to a nearby house, where they had their first showers. The homeowner provided coffee and cookies. They threw away the clothes they had been wearing.

Tim Horton’s, a popular Canadian chain, provided coffee and pastries every day. At night, their hosts grilled freshly caught fish and they all ate on picnic tables. An acre or so of land surrounded the church, and the passengers were able to take walks and enjoy Newfoundland’s beauty.

On the seventh day, with an hour’s notice, the Markins boarded the same jetliner, sat in the same seats (his briefcase was in exactly the same place) and flew home to Omaha via Atlanta, where they stopped long enough to have a non-fish-and-doughnuts meal.

Markin picked up where he left off, working as a pathologist on the transplant team at UNMC, where he also is associate vice chancellor for business development. His wife, a longtime teacher, returned to the classroom. She died in 2011 after 34 years of marriage. Markin remarried a couple of years ago.

He’s eager to see “Come From Away” and meet Consul General Delouya, who also is attending the opening-night performance and a reception afterward.

“It will be interesting because it’s based on an experience different from mine,” Markin said.

Unlike the play’s characters, he didn’t form lifelong friendships, perhaps because he wasn’t alone on his trip. He and his wife had conversations with their hosts and fellow travelers but relied on each other for comfort.

He does, however, have the same warm feelings about his Canadian hosts that come out in the show.

“The circumstances would have been different if the people in Canada hadn’t been so accommodating,” he said. “It was remarkable the way they took care of us.”