View Full Version : FW:

5th Oct 2001, 23:57
I found this heartening and inspiring and hope you will too. Out of the
darkest days we learn of the positive human spirit. Wow! B.

Here's a story from a flight attendant friend about their return flight
from Germany and their stopover in Canada that you may find interesting.

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."

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 inflight 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

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.

We landed in Gander about 40 minutes after the start of this episode.
There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over
the world. After we parked on the ramp the captain made the following

"Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes
around us have the same instrument problem as we have. But the reality
is that we are here for a good 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.

Local time at Gander was 12:30 pm. (11:00 AM EST) Gander control told
us to stay put. No one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on
the ground was allowed to come near the aircrafts. Only a car from the
airport police would come around once in a while, look us over and go on
to the next airplane. In the next hour or so all the airways over the
North Atlantic were vacated and Gander alone ended up with
53 airplanes from all over the world, out of which 27 were flying US
flags. We were told that each and every plane was to be offloaded, one
at a time, with the foreign carriers given the priority. We were No.14
in the US category.

We were further told that we would be given a tentative time to deplane
at 6 pm. 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 US were either blocked or jammed and to try again. Some time
late 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. Now the passengers were totally bewildered and emotionally
exhausted but stayed calm as we kept reminding them to look around to
see that we were not the only ones in this predicament. There were 52
other planes with people on them in the same situation. We also told
them that the Canadian Government was in charge and we were at their
mercy. True to their word, at 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our
turn to deplane would come at
11 AM, the next morning. That took the last wind out of the passengers
and they simply resigned and accepted this news without much noise and
really started to get into a mode of spending the night on the airplane.

Gander had promised us any and all medical attention if needed;
medicine, water, and lavatory servicing. And they were true to their
word. Fortunately we had no medical situation during the night. We did
have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY
good care of her. The night passed without any further complications on
our airplane despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. About
10:30 on the morning of the 12th we were told to get ready to leave the
aircraft. A convoy of school buses showed up at the side of the
airplane, the stairway was hooked up and the passengers were taken to
the terminal for "processing".

We, the crew, were taken to the same terminal but were told to go to a
different section, where we were processed through Immigration and
customs and then had to register with the Red Cross. After that we were
isolated from our passengers and were taken in a caravan of vans to a
very small hotel in the town of Gander. We had no idea where our
passengers were going.

The town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people. Red Cross told us
that they were going to process about 10,500 passengers from all the
airplanes that were forced into Gander. We were told to just relax at
the hotel and wait for a call to go back to the airport, 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.

The people were so friendly and they just knew that we were the "Plane
people". We got a call, 2 days later, on the 14th at 7AM. We made it
to the airport by
8:30AM and left for Atlanta at 12:30 PM arriving in Atlanta at about
4:30PM. (Gander is 1 hour and 30 minutes ahead of EST, yes!, 1 hour and
30 minutes.)

But that's not what I wanted to tell you. What passengers told us was
so uplifting and incredible and the timing couldn't have been better.
We found out that Gander and the surrounding small communities, within a
75 Kilometer radius, had closed all the high schools, meeting halls,
lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these
facilities to a mass lodging area. Some had cots set up, some had mats
with sleeping bags and pillows set up. ALL the high school students HAD
to volunteer taking care of the "GUESTS". Our 218 passengers ended up
in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 Kilometers from Gander. There
they were put 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 given no choice and 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 type facility.
There were DDS on call and they had both male and female nurses
available and stayed with the crowd for the duration. Phone calls and
emails to US and Europe were available for every one once a day. During
the days the passengers were given a choice of "Excursion" trips. Some
people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went to see
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
school for those who elected to stay put. Others were driven to the
eatery of their choice and fed. They were given tokens to go to the
local Laundromat to wash their clothes, since their luggage was still on
the aircraft. In other words every single need was met for those
unfortunate travelers.

Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. After all that,
they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single
one missing or late. All because the local Red

Cross had all the information about the goings on back at Gander and
knew which group needed to leave for the airport at what time.
Absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise.
Everybody knew everybody else by their name. They were swapping stories
of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. It
was mind boggling. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a party
flight. We simply stayed out of their way. The passengers had totally
bonded and they were calling each other by their first names, exchanging
phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses. And then a strange thing

One of our business class passengers approached me and asked if he could
speak over the PA to his fellow passengers. We never, never, allow
that. But something told me to get out of his way. I said "of
course". The gentleman 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 further stated that he would like to do something in return for the
good folks of the town 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 a scholarship for high school student(s)
of Lewisporte to help them go to college. 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, it totaled to $14.5K or about $20K
Canadian. The gentleman who started all this turned out to be an MD
from Virginia. He 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.

Why, all of this? Just because some people in far away places were kind
to some strangers, who happened to literally drop in among them? WHY

6th Oct 2001, 02:48

A beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it.


6th Oct 2001, 04:25
...One of the most moving pieces of prose I have read on this site for a long, long time, heartwarming ! thanks . . . . :)

6th Oct 2001, 04:51
This is very worthwhile reading indeed! Many thanks for posting this.

Is there anybody capable of changing this untelling 'FW' thread title, so that many more get a chance to read this ?

6th Oct 2001, 13:15
My message icon isn't winking, it has a sentimental tear running down it's cheek. What a fantastic, moving story. Thank you very much.

Tom the Tenor
6th Oct 2001, 14:09
...the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man.

6th Oct 2001, 14:20
This goes a long way to reaffirming one's faith in humanity, good post..