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Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

Posted by Steve P on 10/20/01 at 09:33 (063335)

To Wendy, Tammy & our other Canadians --- another reminder that you were there for us when we needed you......

E-MAIL FROM A DELTA AIRLINES PILOT

Re: September 11, 2001

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
determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles away in Gander, Newfoundland.

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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

What the passengers told us was so uplifting and incredible.
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 into 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 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 everyone 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, the Newfoundlanders met every single need
of their stranded guests.

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 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 the Newfoundlanders. 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 students 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 it totaled $14,000 or about $20,000 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 a far away place were kind
to some strangers, who happened to literally drop in among them!

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

Laurie R on 10/20/01 at 09:57 (063336)

Dear Steve and Wendy and Tammy, Frist of all ,this brought tears to my eyes . Thanks Steve I did not want to start my day in tears.....But these are happy tears. Their is so much evil in our world , but we must remember the good . Their is so much good around us.

I knew from when Wendy first posted to me here on the board, that she is a wonderful and compassionate person . Plus she is so smart. Always willing to help anyone that needs it . Yes Wendy this is you all the way ....If you are ever in the US especially near San Francisco you must visit me .

This story is so beautiful .... Like I said the good out weight the evil ...

Thank you for posting this Uncle Steve.

Peace and love to all.Laurie R

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

nancy s. on 10/20/01 at 11:29 (063341)

i can certainly vouch for the goodness of newfoundlanders, having led a research team partway up the eastern coast of newfoundland twenty years ago. two of our stops were in gander and lewisporte, where we stayed at a wonderful hospitality house. the people there, and all during our journey, were the warmest, most welcoming people i'd ever met. the experience changed my life.
they deserve all the help they can get. life was very hard there twenty years ago, and today it's a lot harder. they all seemed to have a great spirit, great humor, and great humanity, regardless of the toughness of their lives.

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

JudyS on 10/20/01 at 14:10 (063350)

well Uncle Steve, I thought all the tears were gone......at least THESE ones are happy ones. Thanks

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

Suzanne D on 10/21/01 at 07:14 (063374)

I will join the list of those who have responded to this post by saying they got tears in their eyes! I did, too. Since the tragedy, I have heard many question, 'Where was God on September 11?' I think He was in the hearts of the people in this story and many like them who gave of themselves so unselfishly to come to the rescue of many. Thank you, Steve, for sharing this with us. It made my day! :-)

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

Tammy M on 10/21/01 at 11:29 (063383)

Steve...it was so thoughtful of you to take the time to post this. I have many friends from Newfoundland, and they are all wonderful people. I'm not sure how familiar everyone out there is with Canada, but it is a national pastime of ours to tell 'Newfie' jokes--which are sometimes insulting, stereotypifying the people of Newfoundland as being 'simple' minded....It has been my experience that just the opposite is true. I immediately like someone when I find out they are from 'The Rock', as it is known here. They are the warmest, kindest, and most gentle people imaginable, and a HUGE sense of humour is par for the course...not to mention Great musicians-I am so happy that the people travelling on those airplanes had the luck of being in the care of the people of Newfoundland. God bless all of my American friends--what a trying time we all have ahead of us. I watched on television the send-off from Halifax of our 3 naval ships with far too many tears--knowing that so many more are going to be shed across the world. We have to buckle up tight and know we are doing the right thing. Thank you, Steve.

Re: Thanks again, Canada... tammy m

nancy s. on 10/21/01 at 12:17 (063385)

tammy, when i was there i found that the newfoundlanders had the wit and smarts to tell the best 'newfie' jokes on themselves! and then they'd usually follow up with several deeply felt reasons why they wouldn't trade living in newfoundland for any other place in the world. after my time there, it was easy to see why. they are so open-hearted, so lively, and so appreciative of basic goodness and the simpler ways of life.
and yes, they're fantastic dancers!!! we went to a pub one night where anyone there who felt like it could and did get up and dance/clog to the celtic-type music the band was playing. i felt like i could have stayed all night -- my teammates had to drag me out of there at about 2 a.m.!
it doesn't surprise me at all that they'd help anyone in need in any way they can. if you're a stranger, as i was, and show up at someone's back door in some outport village in the middle of nowhere, they open the door, give you a big smile, invite you in, and insist that you sit down and let them make you a meal -- whether it's mealtime for them or not. they're amazing people.

Re: Thanks again, Canada...

nancy s. on 10/22/01 at 01:56 (063405)

actually, i keep meaning to say: the people have been just great every time i've ever been anywhere in canada. my husband and i drive through on our way to visit his family in michigan each year, and we appreciate so much about the canadian people. they are always really nice and friendly, and good to strangers. and they have one of my very favorite antiques places of all time! -- very interesting old things, and they always give a good deal to a fellow dealer, bless their hearts.
many canadians come in the summer to old orchard beach, where we're moving in two weeks, and i look forward to seeing them there.

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

John H on 10/22/01 at 09:14 (063414)

Gander,Goose Bay, and Harmon were places I spent a lot of time in. I always picked up the best lobster in the world there and had it fresh on my table withing 24 hours of coming out of the ocean. Over the years there have been some serious accidents at Gander. A tough place to land in the winter. Steep glide slope, unpredicticable winds, ice and snow. Gander serves as a rescue base.

Re: I just took time to read this to and its ditto for me

Tammie on 10/23/01 at 09:39 (063451)

I think you said it very much how I would have liked to Suzanne, but I could not have wrote it with so much finesse. So If I may ,I would like to echo what u so graciously wrote! It was truly beautiful and so very true! What a beautiful message this has been and what a wonderful outcome from a scary situation! May we all learn from the compassion of those who truly open there arms and homes in the times of uncertain and turmoil! Compassion and Love are beautiful words but much better felt then said! Hugsssssssssss to all.

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

Laurie R on 10/20/01 at 09:57 (063336)

Dear Steve and Wendy and Tammy, Frist of all ,this brought tears to my eyes . Thanks Steve I did not want to start my day in tears.....But these are happy tears. Their is so much evil in our world , but we must remember the good . Their is so much good around us.

I knew from when Wendy first posted to me here on the board, that she is a wonderful and compassionate person . Plus she is so smart. Always willing to help anyone that needs it . Yes Wendy this is you all the way ....If you are ever in the US especially near San Francisco you must visit me .

This story is so beautiful .... Like I said the good out weight the evil ...

Thank you for posting this Uncle Steve.

Peace and love to all.Laurie R

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

nancy s. on 10/20/01 at 11:29 (063341)

i can certainly vouch for the goodness of newfoundlanders, having led a research team partway up the eastern coast of newfoundland twenty years ago. two of our stops were in gander and lewisporte, where we stayed at a wonderful hospitality house. the people there, and all during our journey, were the warmest, most welcoming people i'd ever met. the experience changed my life.
they deserve all the help they can get. life was very hard there twenty years ago, and today it's a lot harder. they all seemed to have a great spirit, great humor, and great humanity, regardless of the toughness of their lives.

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

JudyS on 10/20/01 at 14:10 (063350)

well Uncle Steve, I thought all the tears were gone......at least THESE ones are happy ones. Thanks

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

Suzanne D on 10/21/01 at 07:14 (063374)

I will join the list of those who have responded to this post by saying they got tears in their eyes! I did, too. Since the tragedy, I have heard many question, 'Where was God on September 11?' I think He was in the hearts of the people in this story and many like them who gave of themselves so unselfishly to come to the rescue of many. Thank you, Steve, for sharing this with us. It made my day! :-)

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

Tammy M on 10/21/01 at 11:29 (063383)

Steve...it was so thoughtful of you to take the time to post this. I have many friends from Newfoundland, and they are all wonderful people. I'm not sure how familiar everyone out there is with Canada, but it is a national pastime of ours to tell 'Newfie' jokes--which are sometimes insulting, stereotypifying the people of Newfoundland as being 'simple' minded....It has been my experience that just the opposite is true. I immediately like someone when I find out they are from 'The Rock', as it is known here. They are the warmest, kindest, and most gentle people imaginable, and a HUGE sense of humour is par for the course...not to mention Great musicians-I am so happy that the people travelling on those airplanes had the luck of being in the care of the people of Newfoundland. God bless all of my American friends--what a trying time we all have ahead of us. I watched on television the send-off from Halifax of our 3 naval ships with far too many tears--knowing that so many more are going to be shed across the world. We have to buckle up tight and know we are doing the right thing. Thank you, Steve.

Re: Thanks again, Canada... tammy m

nancy s. on 10/21/01 at 12:17 (063385)

tammy, when i was there i found that the newfoundlanders had the wit and smarts to tell the best 'newfie' jokes on themselves! and then they'd usually follow up with several deeply felt reasons why they wouldn't trade living in newfoundland for any other place in the world. after my time there, it was easy to see why. they are so open-hearted, so lively, and so appreciative of basic goodness and the simpler ways of life.
and yes, they're fantastic dancers!!! we went to a pub one night where anyone there who felt like it could and did get up and dance/clog to the celtic-type music the band was playing. i felt like i could have stayed all night -- my teammates had to drag me out of there at about 2 a.m.!
it doesn't surprise me at all that they'd help anyone in need in any way they can. if you're a stranger, as i was, and show up at someone's back door in some outport village in the middle of nowhere, they open the door, give you a big smile, invite you in, and insist that you sit down and let them make you a meal -- whether it's mealtime for them or not. they're amazing people.

Re: Thanks again, Canada...

nancy s. on 10/22/01 at 01:56 (063405)

actually, i keep meaning to say: the people have been just great every time i've ever been anywhere in canada. my husband and i drive through on our way to visit his family in michigan each year, and we appreciate so much about the canadian people. they are always really nice and friendly, and good to strangers. and they have one of my very favorite antiques places of all time! -- very interesting old things, and they always give a good deal to a fellow dealer, bless their hearts.
many canadians come in the summer to old orchard beach, where we're moving in two weeks, and i look forward to seeing them there.

Re: Thanks again, Canada......................A Pilot's E-Mail Story

John H on 10/22/01 at 09:14 (063414)

Gander,Goose Bay, and Harmon were places I spent a lot of time in. I always picked up the best lobster in the world there and had it fresh on my table withing 24 hours of coming out of the ocean. Over the years there have been some serious accidents at Gander. A tough place to land in the winter. Steep glide slope, unpredicticable winds, ice and snow. Gander serves as a rescue base.

Re: I just took time to read this to and its ditto for me

Tammie on 10/23/01 at 09:39 (063451)

I think you said it very much how I would have liked to Suzanne, but I could not have wrote it with so much finesse. So If I may ,I would like to echo what u so graciously wrote! It was truly beautiful and so very true! What a beautiful message this has been and what a wonderful outcome from a scary situation! May we all learn from the compassion of those who truly open there arms and homes in the times of uncertain and turmoil! Compassion and Love are beautiful words but much better felt then said! Hugsssssssssss to all.