(Story updated 9/11/19) When we remember September 11, it's hard not to focus on the sadness and the sheer terror from that day. But amidst the stories of loss and tragedy, there are also many stories of the loving unity that arose from the ashes of the terrifying attack. A flight attendant on a 9/11 Delta flight rerouted during the attacks shares the compassion she witnessed firsthand in a community near Gander Newfoundland. Read on to learn how this story has since inspired a movie and Broadway musical about the true events of that day.
On 9/11, the shock of it all caused a collective pause, as people struggled to make sense of what had just occurred. But the stunned pause quickly gave way to action. People all across the world put aside differences and came together — to minister, to mend, to offer support and to love.
Below is the story of a Delta flight rerouted to Canada due to the attacks. A flight attendant who was onboard tells the story. It began circulating the internet in 2001, and goes to show that light shall not be overcome by darkness.
Read on to hear this touching account of how kindness persevered during a time of darkness...
Delta Flight Attendant’s Account of 9/11 Plane Diverted to Newfoundland Canada
We were about five hours out of Frankfurt flying over the North Atlantic. All of a sudden, I was told to go to the cockpit to see the captain. As soon as I got there I noticed the crew had one of those "all business" looks on their faces.
The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Atlanta, addressed to our flight, and simply said,
"All airways over the Continental U.S. are closed. Land ASAP at the nearest airport, advise your destination."
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 the town of Gander, on the Canadian island of Newfoundland. A quick request was made to the Canadian traffic controller and a turn to Gander was approved immediately.
Delta Flight Rerouted To Newfoundland Canada on 9/11
We found out later why there was no hesitation by the Canadian controller approving our request. We 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.
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 U.S.
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.
When we landed, we saw that there were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world. After we parked on the ramp, the captain announced the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief.
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.
Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were flying U.S. flags.
Gander Newfoundland Hospitality after 9/11
Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, a while away from Gander. 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. A young pregnant lady was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour urgent care facility.
Gander had promised us any and all medical attention if needed; medicine, water, and lavatory servicing.
The locals were so friendly and they just knew that we were the "plane people."
We found out that Gander and the surrounding small communities 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."
During the day, the passengers were taken on "excursion trips." Some people went on boat cruises on 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. Others were driven to the eatery of their choice and were fed.
They were given tokens to go to the local Laundromat to wash their clothes, since their luggage was still on the aircraft. Every single need was met for those unfortunate travelers.
Delta 15 Scholarship for Newfoundland Community after 9/11
When it came time for the passengers to fly back to Atlanta, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everybody knew everybody else by their name. They were swapping stories of their stay.
Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a party flight. The passengers were 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 P.A. to his fellow passengers.
We never, never, allow that. But something told me to get out of his way.
The gentleman picked up the P.A. 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 students of Lewisporte to help them go to college. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers.
When the paper with donations got back to us, it totaled $14,500.
Gander Newfoundland 9/11 Movie | You Are Here: A Come from Away Story
The story of the generosity and empathy shown the more than 6,700 US passengers by our Canadian neighbors in Newfoundland is now an inspiring documentary. The ‘You Are Here: A Come from Away Story’ movie shares the story behind this amazing show of hospitality to our nation in our time of need.
WATCH: Story Behind Gander Newfoundland on 9/11 | You Are Here: A Come from Away Story
9/11 Musical ‘Come from Away’
The true stories that happened when those planes were diverted to Newfoundland also inspired a Broadway musical.
WATCH: Song ‘Prayer’ from Come From Away Broadway Musical about 9/11 Stories
What Does ‘Come from Away’ Mean?
‘Come from away’ is the term that residents of Newfoundland use to describe visitors and those who moved to the island.
How many people live in Gander, Newfoundland?
The population of Gander, Newfoundland is estimated to be around 9,400 in 2001. So you can imagine the impact that nearly 7,000 visitors made when the 38 planes landed in this small community!
Meet Real-Life ‘Come from Away’ Pilot, Beverly Bass
Beverly Bass was piloting 158 passengers aboard her Dallas-bound Boeing 777 when she received news of the tragedy at the World Trade Center. Her plane was one of the 38 that landed in Newfoundland on 9/11, and her ‘character’ is featured prominently in the musical ‘Come from Away.’ Watch below as Beverly talks about how well the true story of ‘Come from Away’ was depicted–she shares that she was in tears and missed 75% of it the first time she because she was in tears the whole time. (But don’t worry–she’s seen it about 100 more times since then!) Beverly shared, "This is not the story of 9/11, It is the story of 9/12. It is a celebration of the best in humankind."
Be the Light
In Hebrews 13:2 we are told that hospitality should be shown to strangers, for you may be entertaining angels. Satan was certainly at work on September 11. But so were God's angels! The sense of community, hospitality and unity that followed the terror is truly inspiring. And it's a great reminder of the amazing things that can happen when people look to serve each other in love.
5 Bible verses TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN YOU reflect on 9/11
1) “The LORD is a safe place for the oppressed-a safe place in difficult times” (Psalm 9:9)
2) “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)
3) “But you, LORD, are my shield! You are my glory! You are the one who restores me” (Psalm 3:3)
4) “The LORD loves justice. He will never leave his faithful all alone. They are guarded forever, but the children of the wicked are eliminated” (Psalm 37:28)
5) “Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God” (1 John 4:7)
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h/t: Inspire More