The Hospitality of A Newfoundland Town to the Passengers of a Diverted American Jetliner on September 11Truth!



Summary of eRumor:
The inspiring and warm account of a planeload of passengers on a Delta Airlines flight on the day of the terrorist attack on the United States in September, 2001.  They were ordered to land and found themselves in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.  There was disruption in schedules, discomfort, and inconvenience for the passengers, but the hospitality shown by the people of the Gander area was so gripping that the passengers ended up forming a scholarship fund for the youth of Gander to show their thanks.

The Truth:

The eRumor about Delta Flight 15 is said to have been written by a member of the crew, Nazim-Amin.

There are plenty of other stories, not only from the passengers of flight 15, but from people from the other more than 50 airplanes that found themselves stranded in Newfoundland when air traffic was shut down in the United States because of the terrorist hijacking of four airliners.

The residents of Gander and some of her surrounding communities were so warm, hospitable, caring, and generous that the stranded travelers they helped seem unable to express how much it meant to them.  The stories from those days are numerous and inspiring.

The passengers of Delta Flight 15 were not the only ones to have been warmed by the good folk of Gander and the surrounding communities.  As Nazim-Amin’s account says, there were many other flights that were stuck in Newfoundland.  The passengers from other planes experienced similar hospitality and a bonding amongst themselves…so much so that they are setting up websites to document their stories and to honor the people who helped them so much.

Here are some of the sites and links:

Delta Flight # 37
It was flying from London to Cincinnati.  Passenger Wayne Newland put together this site.    CLICK HERE for details.

United Airlines Flight # 929
There is a website from the passengers of this flight. 
CLICK HERE for details.


A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

 Have you ever thought about what happened to all the passengers of  planes that were told to land at the first available airport and had to  stay  there for several days? This is a very touching story of one such plane,  written by one of the flight attendants.   

We were 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  decided that the nearest airport was 400 miles away, behind our right  shoulder, in Gander, on the island of 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 approving our  request.   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. (11:00 AM EST) 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 fallen.   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. 

True to their word,  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. 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 for  “processing.” 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 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  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 7 AM. We made it to the airport by 8:30  AM and left for Atlanta at 12:30 PM arriving in Atlanta at about 4:30PM.   (Gander is 1 hour and 30 minutes ahead of EST, yes!, 1 hour and 30  minutes.)  

But that’s not what I wanted to tell you. What passengers told us was so  uplifting and incredible and the timing couldn’t have been better.   

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  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.” 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  given no choice and 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 DDS 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 every one 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 lundromat to  wash  their clothes, since their luggage was still on the aircraft. In other  words every single need was met for those unfortunate travelers.  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. This was 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 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 student(s) of Lewisporte to help them go to  college. He requested donations of any amount from the other travelers.   When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone  numbers and addresses, it totaled to $14.5K or about $20K 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 far away places were kind to  some strangers, who happened to literally drop in among them? WHY NOT?