Saturday, August 24, 2013

Something Else to Know - 24 August

There are wonderful and emotional stories passed around as we approach the anniversary of 9/11.   I am passing this one one because of the collateral good that came out of that tragedy, and the demonstration of the humanity that we all have when we realize the depth of the compassion that exists.  The fact that the airline mentioned is the one I finished my career with is nice, but this could have been any airline that day:

Subject: Wonderful story... 9/11 Delta Flight 15
Good stuff---

It is almost 11 yrs since 9/11 and here is a wonderful story about that 
terrible day.

Jerry Brown Delta Flight 15... (true story)

Here is an amazing story 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 , 
New Foundland.

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 

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 , New Foundland, 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 U.S.

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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 

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 

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 

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 
U.S. 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 MATCH 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 

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 

"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.

"I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right 
now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a 
faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on 

It reminds me how much good there is in the world."

"In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in todays world 
this story confirms that there are still a lot of good and Godly people 
in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward.

"God Bless America ... and God Bless the Canadians."

If God had intended us to fly he would have made it easier to get to the airport 
-- Jonathan Winters

No comments:

Post a Comment