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The Kindness of Strangers on 9/11: Restoring Faith in Humanity

Voice Of Reason

Reading Is Fundamental !
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9/11 brings with it such painful memories each year, I just thought it might be nice to start a thread about the good parts of humanity that arose out of the tragedy surrounding that day. If you have any similar airline/airport/crew related memories or stories that might help otherwise restore some faith in humanity, please add them...
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"[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The Kindness of Strangers[/FONT]
[SIZE=+1]For almost 14,000 stranded “plane people,” compassionate Newfoundlanders helped to ease a troubled time [/SIZE]

[SIZE=-1]BY DAVID MACDONALD[/SIZE]
On September 11, 2001, when Islamic terrorists attacked the United States with hijacked American airliners, Washington halted all civilian air traffic at 9:45 a.m. In 45 minutes, 132 aircraft approaching from Europe were diverted to Canada’s east coast, 83 to Newfoundland alone. Warned by radio, most pilots withheld the news to avoid panic. On Delta Flight 15 to Atlanta, Capt. Mike Sweeney simply lied to his 218 passengers over the PA system: “Folks, we’ve got a minor problem with an indicator light, so we’re going down to have it checked at Gander airport.”
Upon arrival, all were amazed to see 27 jets on the remote tarmac. “Our ‘problem’ was a ruse,” Sweeney confessed after landing. “The truth is, we’re here because American airspace is now closed.” Gravely, he told of the earlier flights seized over eastern American states that exploded on impact with the two 110-storey towers at New York’s World Trade Centre and the Pentagon near Washington, killing thousands.
In the business-class cabin, Shirley Brooks-Jones shuddered. A 65-year-old retired college official, she’d been in Denmark at a board meeting of People to People International, an organization founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower to foster global goodwill. Now, confronted instead by hatred for her homeland, she was deeply afraid. “I couldn’t imagine what might happen next.” Least of all could she have conceived that such evil would inspire thousands of total strangers to the finest acts of kindness she’d ever known.

By 2:36 p.m., 42 jets had reached Gander; 27 more were in the provincial capital of St. John’s, plus 15 at Goose Bay and Stephenville. Of the almost 14,000 passengers—mainly Americans—few knew where on earth they were.
What 530,000 Newfies call The Rock was Britain’s first colony in 1583. Long before joining Canada in 1949, its fisherfolk had adopted Samaritan ways in hard times. “They shared,” E. Annie Proulx wrote in her best-seller, The Shipping News, and “they helped their neighbour.” So their descendants were quick to aid the “plane people” who came that Tuesday.
At noon in St. John’s (population 175,000), an emergency-measures official phoned Glenn Stanford, manager of Mile One Stadium, wanting to use the 5,900-seat hockey arena as a staging area for some of the recent arrivals. “We’ll be ready,” Stanford vowed. When crowds appeared at 5 p.m., his staff dished out 300 litres of soup, 9,000 sandwiches, cookies and countless bottles of water. On one wall was a large map of Newfoundland, an arrow aimed at St. John’s, with “You are HERE!”
In Gander, 6,132 passengers from almost 40 lands stayed on the planes while local officials arranged to shelter them. Since the town of 10,000 had few hotels, students were sent home so classrooms and gyms could be used as dormitories, along with local churches and clubs. Sixty striking school-bus drivers pitched in without pay, and tonnes of donated food was stored in the ice rink.
After 4,200 visitors had landed in Gander, it was decided smaller communities would take the rest. In Lewisporte, a tidy town of 4,000 on Burnt Bay, Mayor Bill Hooper was phoned at his print shop by a Salvation Army padre just back from Gander. “They want our town,” said Maj. Lloyd George, “—all of it.”
“Okay, it’s theirs,” replied Hooper. That night at the “Sally Ann” hall, Hooper and his wife, Thelma, helped to lodge and feed 773 stranded passengers in four churches, three schools and various private homes. After the mayor made a radio plea for food, Lewisporte’s women cooked through the night while men went door-to-door rounding up bedding.
Typically, other communities pitched in. Besides casseroles, baked beans, pies, and such local delights as moose meat and cod tongues, they provided cases of baby food, toothpaste, razors, shampoo and deodorants, along with cribs, diapers, toys, dolls and games for all ages. As Gander received and distributed 4,000 army litters for the Great Canadian Sleepover, many kids lent blankets and pillows off their own beds.
The following morning, after a long wait, Delta Flight 15’s passengers left the plane with their carry-on bags to be screened by Customs and Immigration, then rode to Lewisporte in yellow school buses. As the first one arrived at the Lions Club, Mayor Hooper, wearing a Molson Canadian baseball cap, stepped aboard. “An awful tragedy brought you here,” he said, “but we hope you’ll see how welcome you are.”
Volunteer Phyllis Porter spotted an American girl weeping on her young husband’s chest and gave her a motherly hug. “Don’t fret, dear,” she said. “This is a safe haven.”
On phones installed just for them, many newcomers finally reached relatives around the globe, at no cost. On the club’s TV sets, they watched reruns of the terrorist attacks for the first time, gaping in horror and disbelief.
After a comfort-food lunch and naps under cosy quilts, the accidental tourists found that their hosts had anticipated every need. From the care of physicians and nurses to prescription drugs and laundry tokens, everything was free. During two days in town, visitors were lent baby strollers, golf clubs—even cars. Lewisporters also laid on hikes in the woods, whale-watching trips or quiet suppers at home. As Todd Hudson wrote to a Dallas newspaper, “Those Canadians took us into their arms as family.”
Nobody was more impressed than Dr. Robert Ferguson, 47, a neuroradiologist from Ontario who had recently moved to North Carolina. “At first I assumed governments were paying the shot,” he says. “But no, it was mainly the locals—in our poorest province!”
Linda Moyles turned her bedroom over to Jeannette DeCamp, a U.S. Army specialist from Florida who’d been sleeping on the floor of the United Church in her eighth month of pregnancy. Since Moyles’s husband was away, she also made room for a teenager en route to her grandfather’s funeral, plus two opera students from Germany. “Come and go as you like,” she told them. “The door’s never locked.”

Wherever plane people stayed, parties were held with old-time fiddlers and fishermen’s songs like “The Squid Jiggin’ Ground.” Scores of outlanders became honorary Newfies by downing high-octane rum called screech or by kissing a codfish.
There were also interfaith memorial services. After one in Norris Arm, where Canadians joined in “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a burly logger embraced an American man he didn’t know, tears streaming down his cheeks; not a word was said, or needed.
At a special mass in Gander, as Siobhain Butterworth wrote in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, “There were people weeping throughout the service, glad of the chance to let go.” With them, Father David Heale told the congregation, was a couple whose son was missing in New York. So prayers were said for him. Weeks later, word came back that firefighter Kevin O’Rourke, 44, father of two, had died in the trade centre ruins.

Among 117 guests at the Philadelphia Pentecostal Tabernacle in Lewisporte was the president of New York’s famed Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Gordon Conway, who’d been in Italy with his board and staffers. Conway ate and slept at the church but spent his days running one of the world’s richest endowment funds from a computer lab at the Lewisporte Middle School. Meanwhile, Vice-President Denise Gray-Felder became an ardent booster of the town. Calling her husband, she raved about its kindness until he loyally insisted that New Yorkers would be just as generous in such a situation. Said she: “I doubt it!”
But other Newfoundlanders surely were. Pleased by a busker’s zither playing in downtown St. John’s, Edith Bajema of Michigan offered a donation. “Not today, love,” said the busker. “I just want to give people some soothing music after what’s happened.”
Among the 361 guests at St. Paul’s Intermediate School in Gander were many British youngsters and escorts bound for Florida’s Disney World. There, Taylor Hudson from Yorkshire was supposed to meet “Cinderella” on September 14, her fourth birthday. Instead, local teachers staged a big party with four large cakes “from the people of Newfoundland,” delivered by high school girls in fairy wings. Happily Taylor got to Florida—and Disney World—after all.

When U.S. air-space reopened on Friday, Delta Flight 15 passengers were alerted about their return bus trips to Gander airport at 7:15 a.m. the next day. Back on the plane, chattering like magpies, people who’d recently seen Europe’s great cities were talking only of little Lewisporte and its hospitality. “It was like they had been on a cruise,” a crewman observed. “They totally bonded.”
Early in the flight to Atlanta, Dr. Robert Ferguson, the Canadian living in North Carolina, wondered how they could thank the people of Lewisporte for their kindness. When he suggested taking up a collection to endow college scholarships for the town, Shirley Brooks-Jones volunteered to help. After Captain Sweeney gave his okay for the use of the PA system (plus $500), Brooks-Jones made a pitch, and pledge sheets were sent around. Back came promises for $15,000 U.S.—then more than $23,500 in Canadian funds. "

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Voice Of Reason

Reading Is Fundamental !
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...continuation of prev post...

"...To date, the total has swelled to around $50,000 U.S., and contributions still arrive regularly. But Brooks-Jones, a sometime fund-raiser for Ohio State University, later raised her aim to $1 million, to be shared with Gander and possibly other Newfoundland towns that took plane people in.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ralph Kleiman of California, who was sheltered at Lewisporte’s Anglican church with his wife, Agatha, was so pleased by its hospitality that he paid $5,920 to install new lighting. Now they plan to spend every September 11 in Lewisporte. “Despite what sent us there,” Kleiman says, “it’s a place of very fond memories.”
In November the Rockefeller Foundation sent cheques for $15,000 U.S. to Lewisporte’s Pentecostal church and $52,500 U.S. for its middle school to open a second computer lab with 36 new machines. For their part, Lewisporters were un-easy at being rewarded for acts that seemed only natural to them. As Thelma Hooper put it, “We just did what we thought anyone would do.”
At the time, the federal and Newfoundland governments hadn’t offered to repay the cost of the plane people’s upkeep, or been asked to. Lewisporte spent over $20,000 on food alone. In time, the province repaid $2 million. But municipal affairs officials in St. John’s concede that the full amount spent by local residents—but never claimed— probably ran much higher.

After its busiest few days since the postwar era, when Gander was one of the main transatlantic refuelling points, the 64-year-old airport soon reverted to handling ten or more international flights per day on the ground. In the air, however, many pilots who were there on 9/11 began flying closer and calling down, “Thanks again.”
Among the first to do so was Capt. Beverley Bass of American Airlines, a genial Texan who always has a fond message for Pat Woodford, in Gander’s control tower, and his wife, Glenda. With good reason, too. When she brought in American Flight 49 on September 11, its 156 passengers were led to the Knights of Columbus club rooms by Woodford, an ardent member. “We hired a cook, who fed them up just fine —stuffed chicken, Jiggs’ dinner, venison—and there was entertainment every night.”
Besides putting up two couples at home, the Woodfords made 50-some friends who still keep in touch. As Woodford puts it, “They’re the silver lining to that devilish dark cloud.”
Over the past year, thousands of plane people have written the world’s media to tell how well they were treated in Newfoundland. One of the most memorable was a letter of thanks from Suzanne Bryant, a lawyer from Texas. “In the middle of a crisis,” she wrote, “there was an opportunity to experience the incredible kindness of strangers.”
[SIZE=-1]PHOTOS: © TOM HANSON/CP(Top); COURTESY 103 SEARCH AND RESCUE(Middle); COURTESY GANDER COLLEGIATE(Bottom)[/SIZE] What has been the enduring legacy of September 11 for you? "
http://www.readersdigest.ca/mag/2002/10/strangers.html
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Tom Brokaw piece on the events in Gander: (originally aired during Olympics):
http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/play/1335538/gander_brokaw_piece?wpid=5435
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There is also a book called :
The Day the World Came to Town:

9/11 In Gander, Newfoundland
by Defede, Jim
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727C47

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outstanding,if i couldn't be American,I would be a Canadian !!!
 

crxpilot

Waaasssuuuupppppp!!!!!
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oh please, you are gonna talk about humanity on THIS board?
 

Ty Webb

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Thanks for posting that. I'm glad to see that there were efforts to repay the kindness. No mention of any efforts to do so by the airlines . . . . . not too surprising, unfortunately.
 
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