Friday, February 05, 2016

Wonderful story from the tragedy of 9/11 in the USA


I have read of wonderful stories coming out of the tragedy of 9/11 2001 in the USA. I remember that day/night very well. We were living in Adelaide and were married a year at the time and had just come home from a meeting.I went to bed, Michael stayed up to watch tv. At around midnight he woke me up and all he said was "You have to come and watch whats on TV". I didn't question him at all but got up and went downstairs. My eyes were glued to the tv in disbelief-I did not go to bed for 2 days, I have no idea what kept me up, I did not want to miss anything.

I was scared. scared of what would happen in Australia because we were so vulnerable. Such a big landmass and so little military to protect us. Scared for Michael because he was a US citizen and a target. Michael's company which was a US company had very strict lockdown procedures, I could not even go and deliver lunch to him.

So here is this wonderful story to come out of this tragedy. I am sure there are many more. 

From a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15, written following 9-11:

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic.

All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.

As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”

No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland.
He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately — no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.

We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland, to have it checked out.
We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM …. that’s 11:00 AM EST.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the
world that had taken this detour on their way to the US.

After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason.”

Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the US. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put.

The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane.

In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were US commercial jets.
Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.

People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada . Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm.
We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.
We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning.

Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.

Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing.And they were true to their word.

Fortunately, we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel.

We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander!

We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the US airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the “plane people.” We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.
What we found out was incredible…..
Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up. ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.”

Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged.

Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day.

During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips.

Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests.

Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.

In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers. Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully.
It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time.

Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling.

Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses. And then a very unusual thing happened.

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days.

He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers.
He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

“He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte.

He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!

“The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.

Pretty cool story, huh. It reminds us of how many helpful people there are in the world. The ones who aren't helpful just get a lot more press.

Of course I googled it to see if this story was true and here is the confirmation:

My Mom, who, as most of you know, works for Air Canada, got this from a pal. It is written by a member of a Delta Flight crew called Nazim: 
 


We were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt flying over the North Atlantic and I was in my crew rest seat taking my scheduled rest break. All of a sudden the curtains parted violently and I was told to go to the cockpit, right now, to see the captain. As soon as I got there I noticed the crew had one of those "All Business" looks on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. I quickly read the message and realized the importance of it. The message was from Atlanta, addressed to our flight, and simply said, "All airways over the Continental US are closed. Land ASAP at the nearest airport, advise your destination." 

Now, when a dispatcher tells you to land immediately without suggesting which airport, one can assume that the dispatcher has reluctantly given up control of the flight to the captain. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. It was quickly decided that the nearest airport was 400 miles away, behind our right shoulder, in Gander, on the island of New Foundland. 

A quick request was made to the Canadian traffic controller and a right turn, directly to Gander, was approved immediately. We found out later why there was no hesitation by the Canadian controller approving our request. We, the in-flight crew, were told to get the airplane ready for an immediate landing. While this was going on another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. We briefed the in-flight crew about going to Gander and we went about our business 'closing down' the airplane for a landing. A few minutes later I went back to the cockpit to find out that some airplanes had been hijacked and were being flown into buildings all over the US. We decided to make an announcement and LIE to the passengers for the time being. We told them that an instrument problem had arisen on the airplane and that we needed to land at Gander, to have it checked. We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There were many unhappy passengers but that is par for the course. 

Origins:   Gander, a town of about 10,000 people (and 550 hotel rooms) in Newfoundland, Canada, lies in the northeastern tip of North America and has long served as a refueling stop for trans-Atlantic flights and a temporary haven for flights diverted from their destinations. On 11 September 2001, a total of240 flights were rerouted to Canada when American airspace was closed after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and 39 of those flights ended up in Gander. The townspeople of Gander (and surrounding areas) came through magnificently in the crisis, as 6,579 marooned passengers and crew members swelled their population by two-thirds: 
Responding to radio announcements, the residents and businesses of Gander and other towns supplied toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, blankets and even spare underwear, along with offers of hot showers and guest rooms. Newtel Communications, the telephone company, set up phone banks for passengers to call home. Local television cable companies wired schools and church halls, where passengers watched events unfolding in New York and realized how lucky they were.

There were some with special needs. Carl and Ethna Smith found kosher food through an airport caterer and a new set of kitchenware for an orthodox Jewish family from New York. At the Gander Baptist Church, Gary and Donna House dealt with the needs of four Moldovan refugee families, members of a religious sect who spoke no English and were bewildered by events.
Plenty of grateful Americans who passed through Gander that day took the opportunity to pen appreciative letters similar to the one quoted above when they returned home, such as the following letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
We're writing to express our appreciation for the people in Canada who so generously assisted the people on US Airways Flight 3 returning to the United States on Sept. 11. We were grounded in Gander, Newfoundland, at 1:30 p.m. on that day and then informed of the events that had taken place in New York, at the Pentagon and "outside of Pittsburgh."

We spent the next 23 hours locked on the plane until we could be safely cleared to leave the plane, and then we were transported to the Salvation Army in Lewisporte, 45 minutes away. The  people of Lewisporte and the Salvation Army fed us three meals a day and provided countless blankets, toothbrushes and toiletries for the passengers on that flight. The elementary school next to the Salvation Army building canceled classes for its children to provide us with access to the much-needed shower stall and the computer classroom for us to e-mail home.

During that time when all of us were frantic to find out what had happened, make sure our loved ones were safe and contact those who would be missing us in the next few days, our hosts were endlessly cheerful, giving and kind. They dropped everything to cook for us and make us feel less isolated and abandoned during those five days of uncertainty.

When we finally received word of the plane's clearance for leaving, we said goodbye with bittersweet memories of a group of people of unlimited generosity. This experience will stay with us during this time and continue to remind us that we have more friends than enemies in this world, and we are grateful for the proximity to our country of some of them.
And this letter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer
We were flying home from a wonderful vacation in Paris and were about an hour from Newark when an announcement was made that terrorists had attacked New York and Washington and our flight was being diverted to Gander, Newfoundland.

We were the fourth of 37 planes to land in Gander and were kept on the plane for seven hours. Then we proceeded to immigration, where many compassionate people met us. An unidentified woman approached and put her arm around us and wanted to know if there was anything she could do to help us. At this point we were greatly concerned about our two sons who work in Manhattan. She took us to a phone, where we called our oldest son, who assured us that he and his brother were safe.

From there we were put on school buses and taken to the College of the North Atlantic. Many ordinary, caring people met us and made all 300 passengers feel welcome. We were given blankets and pillows from their homes. We stayed for two nights and three days. We slept on the floor, as cots could not be rounded up fast enough. We shared our classroom with 18 others and a dog.

Everyone was extraordinarily thoughtful of each other. One woman must have put her life on hold and was constantly checking on us. She even came to the airport when we finally left to make sure we all were fine. I never saw her without a smile. The lady who ran the cafeteria along with many neighbors made hot meals and brought in casseroles each day. Students helped us to use e-mail,and we were able to use the phone to call our family. No organization with financial backing was behind this - this was a call to neighbors and friends to come and help those of us in need.

We will never be able to think of Gander, Newfoundland, without remembering all the goodness and kindness that was showered upon us by our neighbors and friends from Canada.
And yes, a Gander Flight 15 college scholarship fund was established for high school students in Lewisporte, Newfoundland, by passengers, crew members and friends of Delta Flight 15. 

Other towns in Newfoundland and Labrador (and across Canada) also took in temporarily displaced passengers with hospitality that day and are equally deserving of our gratitude. 

Variations:   A variant of this item circulated in 2012 identified Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as the Delta Flight 15 passenger who established a scholarship trust fund for Lewisporte high school students. Romney was not a passenger on that flight, nor did he establish a scholarship trust fund for Lewisporte students. 

And a New York Times report.  

1 comment:

  1. Amazing story - I think I have read it before, but it was great to read it again. Thanks Bridget
    Blessings
    MAxine

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting, I thoroughly enjoy reading your comments. Please visit again!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...