I received this story last week and thought I would pass it on today the 11th anniversary of 9-11. I checked it out on Snopes.com and it is a true story told by one of the passengers on a flight from Europe on that fateful day. It is a little long but worth the read.
"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
“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
“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 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
“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
“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 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
“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
“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
From David Greisman at the Columbia Association:
Columbia Art Center’s Empty Bowls fundraiser returns to help Howard County residents in need
Empty bowls will help lead to full plates — and financial assistance and other help for Howard County residents in need.
Association’s (CA) Columbia Art Center will again be hosting its “Empty
Bowls” fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 6, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. The Art
Center is located at 6100 Foreland Garth in the Long Reach Village
are $20 and can be purchased at the Art Center or over the telephone.
Guests receive their pick of one of 300 beautiful, one-of-a-kind
handmade bowls made by Art Center students and faculty, and will also be
entertained by live music, a studio demonstration, a silent art
auction, raffles and light fare.
proceeds of the event will be donated to FISH of Howard County Inc. For
more than three decades, the agency has provided food, financial
assistance, referral information and other aid to county residents with
legitimate emergency needs, according to its website.
This is the fourth Empty Bowls event hosted at the Columbia Art Center. The first was held in 2008.
believe it is important to do our part in giving back to the community
in whatever ways we can,” said Liz Henzey, director of the Columbia Art
Center. “There is something really amazing about artists and community
members coming together for a wonderful cause and sharing their talents
and creativity to impact change.”
to the FISH of Howard County website, the agency received more than
2,250 requests for assistance in a recent 12-month period.
2,000-plus calls translated into food supplies for approximately 29,000
nutritionally balanced meals delivered to the homes of hungry families,
more than $40,000 in assistance for evictions, utility turnoffs or
other crisis needs, and nearly $39,000 for prescription assistance,” the
For more information, contact the Columbia Art Center at 410-730-0075.