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e-mail | 10-19-01 | deleted

Posted on 10/19/2001 4:01:40 PM PDT by Yellow Rose of Texas

This pilot was forced to land in Canada on 9-11. He tells the story of his and the passengers experiences after landing. It is heart warming, and shows that there are good, kind, caring people everywhere.


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 
that 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. 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 
announcement. "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 

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 awhile. 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 enjoyed ourselves going around town discovering things and 
enjoying the hospitality. The people were so friendly and they just knew 
that we were the "Plane people". We all had a great time until we got 
that 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 Doctors 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 adresses. 

And then a strange thing happened. 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 bag with donations got back to us with the amounts, 
names, phone numbers and addresses, it totaled $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! 
WOW !!!!! 

Name and phone numbers deleted by me!

TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Your Opinion/Questions

1 posted on 10/19/2001 4:01:41 PM PDT by Yellow Rose of Texas
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
Incredible Hospitality

2 posted on 10/19/2001 4:08:24 PM PDT by deport
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
Hoo-Hah!!! Chalk one up for Canada. As this story attests, Newfoundlanders are without a doubt the salt of the earth and just about the nicest, most easy-going and unpretentious people you will ever want to meet. And no... I'm not one of them. I've just had the pleasure to know many of them. Find out for yourself. Go visit "the rock" (and tell'em you want to be "screeched").
3 posted on 10/19/2001 4:14:15 PM PDT by Camerican
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To: Camerican
As this story attests, Newfoundlanders are without a doubt the salt of the earth and
just about the nicest, most easy-going and unpretentious people you will ever
want to meet.

Just a historical question...and I'm not trying to start a Canada-USA tiff!

Was it Newfoundland that almost voted to join the USA in an election a bit after WWII?
Just curious...I thought I read something like this in "American Heritage" magazine
about 10 years ago.
4 posted on 10/19/2001 4:22:16 PM PDT by VOA
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
Three cheers for our Canadian cousins! Thanks for helping these people. (Of course I have Canadian cousins, too.)
5 posted on 10/19/2001 6:11:17 PM PDT by truth_seeker
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To: deport
Thank you, GREAT articles. I believe that people will be flying as soon as Usama is not hanging out in caves anymore so many will get their jobs back.

I was in Dallas last week and stayed at a Holiday Inn. The restaurant, bar and gift shop were closed as they had a 75% cancellation rate. The cleaning staff, desk staff etc. were also cut 75%. Tourism and business travel have to start once again or this nation is sunk, and not just to NYC and DC.

6 posted on 10/20/2001 4:10:40 AM PDT by Yellow Rose of Texas
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To: razorback-bert; amom; Alamo-Girl; FrogMom; Chapita; harrowup; Clinton's a liar...
Heads up folks, a feel good article.
7 posted on 10/20/2001 4:13:06 AM PDT by Yellow Rose of Texas
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I find Candadians to be unfailingly polite and gracious.

BTW, does anyone remember a ?1985? crash of a US military plane in Gander? What was the result of the investigation?

8 posted on 10/20/2001 4:40:44 AM PDT by calvin sun
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
A friend of mine had to land at Gander, too. She gave a similar report.

.....these folks with very lil notice put together a tremendous effort to make all of us comfy.

9 posted on 10/20/2001 5:04:34 AM PDT by Flyer
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
Thank You!
This is a perfect example of why good will ALWAYS win over evil.
God Bless you and your family.
10 posted on 10/20/2001 11:32:01 AM PDT by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
Thanks so much for this bit of good news. Humanity at it's best was displayed in those first few days. My gosh most folks are so good at heart and know instinctively how to show their good side.
11 posted on 10/20/2001 12:56:41 PM PDT by amom
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
Great story!
12 posted on 10/20/2001 1:23:45 PM PDT by Focault's Pendulum
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
Thanks for the flag, YROT. A great story!
13 posted on 10/20/2001 1:29:12 PM PDT by Clinton's a liar
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
Thanks for the heads up!
14 posted on 10/20/2001 10:59:17 PM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
Many people are so great - it is inspiring and heartwarming. And it doesn't take p c LAWS - it takes goodness of the heart. Thanks for posting this story.
15 posted on 10/20/2001 11:06:22 PM PDT by Libertina
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To: Yellow Rose of Texas
WOW. I love this news! Thank yopu so much for posting it. You're still in my prayers :)
16 posted on 10/20/2001 11:13:55 PM PDT by onyx
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