Tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. On this tragic day 18 years ago, the world stayed united in the face of an unprecedented act of terrorism. One such story that emerged and has been widely circulating online is from a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15.
Here’s the unidentified flight attendant’s story:
“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,” the flight attendant wrote.
When she arrived at the cockpit, the captain handed her a printed message from Delta’s main office, which 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, Newfoundland.”
— The Sydney Morning Herald (@smh) April 1, 2019
While the crew prepared for landing at Gander in Canada, they came to learn about some terrorist activity in the New York area. Not wanting to cause anxiety, they kept the passengers in the dark about what was really going on, saying the plane had a simple instrument problem instead.
There was much grumbling among the passengers. Finally, forty minutes later, they landed in Gander at local time 12:30 PM (11:00 AM EST).
Once landed, the captain told the passengers the reality—the hijackings in the United States. Many passengers were in disbelief.
“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 US commercial jets,” the flight attendant wrote. “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.”
With 52 other stranded aircraft, staff at the Gander airport informed them at 6 p.m. that their turn to deplane would be 11 a.m. the next morning.
Passengers weren’t too happy, but they had no choice but to spend the night on the plane. Throughout their stay on the plane, Gander provided water, lavatory servicing, and medical attention when required.
“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 flight attendant wrote.
“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, the flight attendant and her co-workers were transported to a small hotel, and they had no idea where their passengers were heading.
“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 flight attendant wrote.
But thankfully, in the face of unprecedented terror, the friendly people of Gander had shown them great kindness and hospitality. The crew explored the town of Gander, which has a population of 10,400, and they had a good time.
This is why Gander airport in Newfoundland, Canada is one of the most fascinating and relevant aviation sites
Two days later, it was time to leave Gander and continue their flight back to the United States.
“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….,” the flight attendant wrote.
In an extraordinary act of kindness, the residents of Gander and all the surrounding communities, within about a 75-kilometer radius, opened its schools, meeting halls, lodges, other large gathering places, and homes to host the approximately 10,500 stranded passengers on the fateful day when the United States shut down its airspace.
“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,” the flight attendant wrote. “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,” she shared. “Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.”
‘I was stranded on a tiny Canadian island during 9/11 terror attacks – but I met the love of my life there’ https://t.co/LBAHIXXCTl
— The Sun (@TheSun) July 19, 2019
“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,” she continued. “Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day.”
The passengers were even offered “excursion” trips, in which they were given a choice to go on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors, or go hiking in the local forests.
To provide fresh bread for the stranded passengers, local bakeries stayed open. Food was cooked by the residents and brought to the schools for the passengers, or they were driven to the restaurants of their choice to eat hearty meals.
“Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft,” the flight attendant wrote. “In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.”
“They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time,” she said. “It was mind-boggling.” With everyone knowing each other by name, their flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight.
Today, we take our first completely carbon-neutral flight using biofuels and carbon offsets.A milestone we are proud of as we work to cut carbon emissions in half by 2050.
Then, an amazing thing happened.
One of the passengers came over asking if he could make an announcement over the PA system. The crew agreed, and the gentleman, an MD from Virginia, picked up the mic and went on to remind the passengers about the hospitality they had received from total strangers.
In appreciation, he would like to do something in return for the kindhearted people 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,” the flight attendant wrote.
“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!”
He promised to match the donations and forward this proposal to Delta Corporate to ask for their donation 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,” she said.
Debris was still smoldering at ground zero when former NYPD detective John Botte captured these images: http://cbsn.ws/1fZNmGh#September11 #NeverForget #Remember911
The flight attendant shared the story to remind people that in spite of all the bad things happening in today’s society, there’s still good in the world.
“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 them,” she wrote.
Are you touched by the kindness the Newfoundlanders offered to the travelers in the darkest hours? This story certainly restored our faith in humanity!