Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The legacy of Gander. Let's never forget.

This week, as we mark the anniversary of 9-11, let's remember the legacy of Gander. Many of us know where we were when we heard about the tragedy of 9-11, but some may have forgotten that all U.S. airspace was closed for several days after the attacks. This meant passengers flying home to the States were all diverted to Canada. It was a challenge for big city Canadian airports, but for the airport in Gander, Newfoundland, it provoked a miracle of kindness.

Gander was a town of 10,000 residents with two police officers. Its airport usually received eight domestic flights daily. On September 11, 2001, 39 airliners carrying 6,579 passengers rapidly landed, one-after-another. Most passengers didn't know why they were diverted until after they landed. All had to spend that first night trying to sleep on their plane as 9-11 news trickled in. Little did they know it would be four days until American airspace reopened, but outside the airport, the people of Gander were opening their hearts.
As one flight attendant recalls, "Gander and surrounding communities had closed all high schools and meeting halls, converting them into mass lodging areas. Some had cots or mats and sleeping bags with pillows all set up, and high school students were required to care for their 'guests.' A convoy of school busses showed up at the side of our plane and passengers were taken to the terminal for processing. Our 218 passengers stayed at a high school in Lewisport. Families were kept together, while the elderly were taken to private homes. Food was prepared by local residents and brought to the schools. Bakeries stayed open late, making fresh bread for 'the plane people.' Every need was met for these unfortunate travelers. When they came back onboard,  passengers cried while telling of the kindness they received. Everyone knew everyone else by name and exchanged phone numbers and email addresses."

But the passengers on this flight did not forget the people of Gander, as you'll see if you watch the heartwarming 5-minute video linked here.

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