Claim: The Newfoundland town of Gander played host to thousands of airline passengers stranded there when American airspace was closed after the
Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 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 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 decided that the nearest airport was 400 miles away, behind our right shoulder, in Gander, on the island of New Foundland.
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 approving our request. We, the
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Origins: Gander, a town of about 10,000 people (and 550 hotel rooms) in Newfoundland, Canada, lies in the northeastern tip of North America and has long served as a refueling stop for trans-Atlantic flights and a temporary haven for flights diverted from their destinations. On
There were some with special needs. Carl and Ethna Smith found kosher food through an airport caterer and a new set of kitchenware for an orthodox Jewish family from New York. At the Gander Baptist Church, Gary and Donna House dealt with the needs of four Moldovan refugee families, members of a religious sect who spoke no English and were bewildered by events.
We spent the next 23 hours locked on the plane until we could be safely cleared to leave the plane, and then we were transported to the Salvation Army in Lewisporte,
During that time when all of us were frantic to find out what had happened, make sure our loved ones were safe and contact those who would be missing us in the next few days, our hosts were endlessly cheerful, giving and kind. They dropped everything to cook for us and make us feel less isolated and abandoned during those five days of uncertainty.
When we finally received word of the plane's clearance for leaving, we said goodbye with bittersweet memories of a group of people of unlimited generosity. This experience will stay with us during this time and continue to remind us that we have more friends than enemies in this world, and we are grateful for the proximity to our country of some of them.
We were the fourth of 37 planes to land in Gander and were kept on the plane for seven hours. Then we proceeded to immigration, where many compassionate people met us. An unidentified woman approached and put her arm around us and wanted to know if there was anything she could do to help us. At this point we were greatly concerned about our two sons who work in Manhattan. She took us to a phone, where we called our oldest son, who assured us that he and his brother were safe.
From there we were put on school buses and taken to the College of the North Atlantic. Many ordinary, caring people met us and made all
Everyone was extraordinarily thoughtful of each other. One woman must have put her life on hold and was constantly checking on us. She even came to the airport when we finally left to make sure we all were fine. I never saw her without a smile. The lady who ran the cafeteria along with many neighbors made hot meals and brought in casseroles each day. Students helped us to use
We will never be able to think of Gander, Newfoundland, without remembering all the goodness and kindness that was showered upon us by our neighbors and friends from Canada.
Other towns in Newfoundland and Labrador (and across Canada) also took in temporarily displaced passengers with hospitality that day and are equally deserving of our gratitude.
Variations: A variant of this item circulated in 2012 identified Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as the Delta Flight 15 passenger who established a scholarship trust fund for Lewisporte high school students. Romney was not a passenger on that flight, nor did he establish a scholarship trust fund for Lewisporte students.
|Unexpected Guests Warm Hearts in the Frozen North
(The New York Times)
Last updated: 12 August 2015
Crosette, Barbara. "Unexpected Guests Warm Hearts in the Frozen North." The New York Times. 18 November 2001. Lewis, Donna Williams. "Local Travelers Find Help Far from Home." The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. 27 September 2001 (p. JE9). Lowe, Ed. "Little Canadian Town, But Big Hearts." [New York] Newsday. 30 September 2001 (p. G5). Simon, Bernard. "After the Attacks: The Northern Haven." The New York Times 15 September 2001 (p. A19). Sweet, Patricia R. "Surely, Canada Is Our Best Friend, Closest Ally." The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer. 1 October 2001 (p. B6). Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Letters to the Editor." 2 October 2001 (p. A10). Weirton Daily Times. "Gander Fund Founder to Speak." 12 April 2010.