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Delta Flight 15 on 9-11-01

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  • Delta Flight 15 on 9-11-01

    > From a retired Delta Employee.
    > An interesting story about one flight during September 11th.
    > Amazing Story of Delta Flight 15
    > Written by a flight attendant.
    > "On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of
    > Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic . All of a sudden the curtains
    > parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.
    > As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that "All Business" look
    > on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta's
    > main office in Atlanta and simply read, "All airways over the Continental
    > United
    > States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest
    > airport. Advise your destination."
    > No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious
    > situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined
    > that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander , Newfoundland.
    > He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic
    > controller and approval was granted immediately--no questions asked. We
    > found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our
    > request.
    > While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message
    > arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New
    > York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.
    > We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told
    > them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land
    > at
    > the nearest airport in Gander , Newfoundland to have it checked out.
    > We promised to give more information after landing in Gander . There was
    > much grumbling among the passengers, but that's nothing new! Forty minutes
    > later, we landed in Gander . Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM! . . ..
    > that's 11:00 AM EST.
    > There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the
    > world that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S.
    > 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.
    > The reality is that we are here for another reason." Then he went on to
    > explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S.
    > There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed
    > passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay
    > put.
    > The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was
    > allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come
    > near any of the aircraft. Only airport police would come around
    > periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane. In the next hour
    > or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over
    > the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial jets.
    > 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 U.S. were either blocked
    > or jammed.
    > Sometime in the evening the news
    > filtered to us that the World Trade Center
    > buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash.
    > By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to
    > mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm. We had only to look
    > out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not
    > the only ones in this predicament.
    > We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes
    > one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to
    > deplane would be 11 am the next morning. Passengers were not happy, but they
    > simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to
    > prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.
    > Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory
    > servicing. And they were true to their word. Fortunately we had no medical
    > situations to worry about. We did have a
    > young lady who was 33 weeks into
    > her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without
    > incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.
    > About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up.
    > We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through
    > Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.
    > After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken
    > in vans to a small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We
    > learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of
    > 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all
    > the airplanes that were forced into Gander ! We were told to just relax at
    > the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again, 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 had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of
    > Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the "plane people."
    > We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up
    > having a pretty good time.
    > Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport.
    > Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what
    > they had been doing for the past two days. What we found out was incredible.
    > Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer
    > radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other
    > large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging
    > areas for all the stranded travelers. Some had cots set up, some had mats
    > with sleeping bags and pillows set
    > up.
    > ALL high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care
    > of the "guests." Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte,
    > about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up 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 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 facility. There was a dentist
    > on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the
    > duration.
    > Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to
    > everyone once a day. During the day, passengers were offered "Excursion"
    > trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went
    > for hikes in 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 schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered
    > wonderful meals.
    > Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes,
    > since luggage was still on the aircraft. In other words, every single need
    > was met for those stranded travelers.
    > Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they
    > were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the
    > airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The
    > local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and
    > every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the
    > planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully. It was
    > absolutely incredible.
    > When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise.
    > Everyone knew each other by name. They
    > were swapping stories of their stay,
    > impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight back to
    > Atlanta looked li ke a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of
    > their way. It was mind-boggling. Passengers had totally bonded and were
    > calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers,
    > addresses, and email addresses.
    > And then a very unusual thing happened. One of our passengers approached me
    > and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never,
    > ever allow that.. But this time was different. I said "of course" and handed
    > him the mike. He 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 continued by saying
    > that he would like to do something in return for the good folks 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 college
    > scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte. He asked for
    > donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with
    > donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and
    > addresses, the total was for more than 14,000 dollars!
    > The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , 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.
    > I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It
    > gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a far away place
    > were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them. It reminds me
    > how much good there is in the world."
    > This trust fund is now at more than $1.5 million
    > and has assisted 134
    > students in college education.

  • #2
    Re: Delta Flight 15 on 9-11-01

    What a fantastic story. Thanks so much..


    • #3
      Re: Delta Flight 15 on 9-11-01

      You meet some very nice people now and then, but never often enough. This story made my eyes water a little. The fact that the passengers were willing to "pay it forward" shows no good deed goes unrewarded.


      • #4
        Re: Delta Flight 15 on 9-11-01

        Thanks for posting that, made my day to read it.
        I decided to change calling the bathroom the "John" and renamed it the "Jim". I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.