USA flagOn September 11, thousands of Good Samaritans were inspired to generosity, kindness and helpfulness. In turn, we were inspired by them.

When all North American airspace was closed on 9-11 following the terrorist attacks in New York and DC, Delta flight 15 and 52 other airplanes from all over the world were diverted to Gander International Airport in Newfoundland.

Under the direction of the Red Cross, the town of Gander and surrounding small towns and communities sent convoys of school buses to ferry 10,500 stranded passengers to high schools, meeting halls, and lodges where they were given cots, or mats with sleeping bags and pillows. Families were kept together. The elderly were taken to private homes. Women’s-only facilities were made available. High school kids worked to take care of the “plane people”.

Stranded passengers were offered phone calls and e-mails once a day. All were offered a choice of excursions for boating on lakes and harbors, or to visit forests. Bakeries baked fresh bread. Food was either delivered, or eateries served it up. Tokens to laundromats were offered. Every need was met. The Red Cross knew where each person was and when to shuttle them back for re-boarding.

A flight attendant recalls, “When passengers reboarded, it was like they had been on a cruise. They were swapping stories, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight to Atlanta looked like a party. The passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers and addresses.”

“Then, one of our business passengers stood up and stated he would like to do something for the town of Lewisporte, 30 miles east of Gander, where several hundred people stayed. He wanted to set up a trust fund under the name DELTA 15 to provide college scholarships for their high school students. He asked for donations. When the paper came back with names, phone numbers, and addresses, it totaled $14,500!”thank-you-liberty-card

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The gentleman, who was a Virginia doctor, said he would ask Delta headquarters to donate. He promised to match each donation and start the fund’s administration.

The choreographed care the Red Cross provided for the 10,000 stranded airline travelers reportedly was a plan some 40 years-old constructed in case of nuclear attack against New York City.

[2013 Editor’s Note: Wikepedia today reports that 6,600 passengers from 38 planes were stranded in Gander. The numbers in this original article came from news reports of the day.]

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