What humanity can be — a don’t miss 9/11 story

I’m surprised this story hasn’t gone viral. I even checked Snopes, thinking it might not be for real, but they don’t have a flag on it. This heart-warmer had me weeping — it’s the world as it could be. Please read it. It will make your day.

Here’s a spot-on comment it got on another blog site:

What a great awesome story!! I have seen other stories like this but not quite anything to this extent! I have lived in a small town my whole life and to have that many people show up in your town and the service they provided for these people to help them feel at home while they were away from home is amazing. There are amazing great people out there, we need to remember to always spread the love to others no matter what the situation is. God bless the U.S.A. and the World!

I’m copying the whole 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 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, 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 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 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 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 li ke 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.

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 far away place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them. It reminds me how much good there is in the world.”

In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s 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 the Canadians.

25 thoughts on “What humanity can be — a don’t miss 9/11 story”

  1. Shall love be able to cope with the actual unfolding planetarian disaster? A lot of love shall be needed to feed the 9 billion mouths that’ll trample its surface in 2050. Will love be able to convince the fishing industries to stop their ongoing ravaging of the oceans? Every second of every day 1.5 acres of rainforest are destroyed forever although we love to live in a green area surrounded by forests. Where is all the melting arctic ice going to? Will love be able to save the polar bears from extinction? And so on and on. Is this intelligent and noble human race facing oblivion due to a lack of love for itself and its home planet? These are the times of the great dilemma and love will be the key to get us through this difficult period. Without love it’ll be the end as Jim Morrison sang it in 1967 –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=digyaFmmn3Q
    Remember those days ….

    1. Nothing like pulling together to give us the best chance. Jim Morrison piece is quite brilliant but hard to watch — for what you see and what you know that you don’t see. Something profoundly sad about that being a reflection of reality.

  2. Thanks Suzanne! Wonderful story and to echo the others, thanks for posting the entire story in your email and encouraging to click through and comment. I will be sharing this.

  3. What a real blessing to read of the love we are capable of. I simply want to add, when we are confronted with the all too frequent fear and animosity in our lives, remember what we all learned from the Canadians at Gander. Act like they did – NO MATTER WHAT.

    We all can let our little light shine. It doesn’t take a large tragedy to bring that love forth in each one of us. Perhaps each day it would be good to practice finding where we can, each day, how to come up with the love and concern shown those days in Gander. Love, always.

    1. What a blessing to read of the love we are all capable of. I simply want to add, when we are confronted with the all too frequent fear and animosity in our lives, remember what we all learned from the Canadians at Gander. Act like they did – NO MATTER WHAT ! It doesn’t take a large tragedy to ring that love forth in each one of us. Each day I shall practice coming up with the love and concern shown those days in Gander.

    2. Something seems very powerful to me about this story — confirmed by responses here. Perhaps we have the dormant default position of love that gets ignited by seeing how real the manifestation can be. Models are invaluable for showing us possibility. Without believing in possibility you don’t go in that direction. It’s somewhat analogous to what I’m preaching now, where if people were tuned into the quantum perspective we’d expect ourselves to be interdependent and interrelate. We’d look for it. As long as we think the order of the universe is rugged individualism, a cooperative world seems beyond our reach and not worth striving for.

  4. Heartwarming! And a clear illustration of how caring and loving humanity REALLY is. But I have to say: what diabolical contrast to the present warmongery, weapons sales and embassy riots going on through half the world right now! Sadly, millions of taxpayers are unwittingly funding the wars and that weaponry, ugh! Is it that we need to be more widely aware of the ways of others? But it is most cheering to see, as in the Newfoundland story, how the love of human kindness really does have the capacity to overcome extreme tragedy. All you need is love!

  5. It really renewed my faith and belief in the human race, even though the bad ones seem to be in the majority. The beautiful ones have indeed been born! Thanks for sharing.

    1. I love finding good things to pass along. If I didn’t have other things I need to do, I’d spend my whole time on this blog!

  6. I received this story a week or so ago, and teared up while reading it. Still got me on the second read. Why does it make us cry? Is it that we all feel a little hopeless? Are we so starved for some light and love in our news? In our hearts we are all good, and a story where people do what you would’ve certainly done too touches that deep place in us that knows love, and it feels like home. All we need is love. So grateful for these proofs of our innate goodness!

    1. I wondered, too, why it got me so dissolved. I think you’ve shared some wise words.

      How to turn the gears of a world that runs on rugged individualism even though we have these tender hearts? This sort of story quickens what’s at our core, and energizes me for the work ahead.

  7. Thank you for taking the time to send this wonderful account of this particular group of people and where they were on 9/11. It is a very humanistic account of “where were you on…” as we all ask about particularly great news or equally horrible news. An unexpected departure from the horrors that were going on that day with the kindnesses that they received in a little and isolated town. We got a “Gander” of what it could all be. Thank you.

  8. Thank you, Suzanne and the wonderful airline flight attendant for sharing this story. I believe every human has this goodness in their nature, though with some people it has been hidden because of unfortunate circumstances and influences and frustrations. I am deeply moved to hear this piece of “good news,” and we need to share more stories of wonderful, selfless deeds which are really done.

  9. I had heard this story, and I love that they “assigned” the students to this duty. Canadians already take care of one another through their health care system. That is another beautiful lesson we could learn from them. Fear just like pain exists for a reason. It really is all about how you choose to act or react! I wish many more blessings for Gander.

  10. Hi Suzanne,

    Thank you so much for this story. It had me weeping as well. Just wanted to forward an email I received from a friend that shared it with, so that you can see how it will move forward in the World, and that it did, in fact happen!

    Hi Beth,

    A few years ago, during the last Winter Olympics, I watched this story unfold as they reenacted it with some of the actual passengers of Flight 15. I cried then watching it, as I did again now reading it.

    I have since told many people of the story, but unless they happened to be watching the Olympics that day, they just missed it! And try as I might, I didn’t find it again. Couldn’t even remember the name of the town. And I definitely didn’t know the happy ending about the scholarships, because they didn’t report that part in the aired story. How cool was that?

    Thank you so much for now sharing this with me in email form so I can effectively pass it on.



    1. The Gander story did get at least some press, but to the best of my knowledge the money raised after the immediate response by Gander and the generous passengers wasn’t reported. Love seeing it get circulated. So good for all our hearts!

  11. Thank you, Suzanne, for e-mailing this story. It touched me. I do have faith in the goodness of our hearts. Human beings can be so wonderfully loving … if they allow themselves to be so. Letting go of fear is the way. There is nothing to fear, even terrorists. Blessings…

  12. This is such a wonderful wonderful story!! Brought tears to my eyes to have strangers helping strangers in such a warm, open, kind-hearted manner and then to have had those people who needed help raise 1,5 million plus for the kids of that town? This is humanity at its best – this is why we are here to recognize our own unique goodness and spread that goodness to others – this is what peace on earth is all about. So wonderfully touched.

  13. Thank you for sharing this story, and you were right, it was a great way to start the week.

    I was also impressed by your invitation to ‘click through.’ I, like everyone else, ‘skim’ (instead of read) the mountain of emails that come in every day. Something in your invitation moved me to stop my impossibly busy day today, and read the article. So glad I did, thank you again.

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