There’s a story I never tire of hearing about. But it may be a bit new to many of you. A tiny town came to America’s rescue on one of it’s darkest days. More here…
When Americans hear the words “New Foundland”, we usually think of the breed of dog that bears it’s name. But a small community on this Canadian island to the north of our American border played a major role on 9/11 that most folks don’t know about.
As you may remember, every American plane was grounded that day. All International flights were diverted to Canada. Pilots recall seeing planes do complete 180s in airspace in order to return to their European destinations. Air Control Central sent tons of planes to the tiny colony of Gander, New Foundland. Pilots concerned that their flights might contain terrorists, told passengers they needed to land due to mechanical problems. Gander was only prepared for their usual 8 flights. Instead, 38 jumbo jets with 200 people on each plane landed that day. Gander landed 167 planes in all without incident. The 10,000 residents suddenly found themselves sheltering and feeding thousands of unexpected guests. Most passengers had no idea where they even were.
Ironically, Gander was an airport before it was a town. During WWII it was a take off place for our American military. (Not built to house Jumbo jets, it sat rather silent until 9/11/01.)
In a matter of hours, Gander doubled their population that day. The only vehicles that could be found to transport the new guests were school buses. As luck would have it, the bus drivers were on strike! Without a thought, that afternoon, each driver showed up and did what was needed.
No one was allowed off of the planes until each and every passenger was processed. Basically, checking for terrorists. Passengers weren’t allowed to retrieve their luggage due to safety reasons. Some sat on places for 19 hours not really knowing what was going on in the outside world.
It wasn’t until 30 hours later that the passengers got their first look at the footage and the photos of the devastation. New York fire fighter Kevin O’Rourke’s parents were on one of those places that landed in Gander. Praying their son wasn’t working that day. Unfortunately, he was. Beulah Cooper, also the mother of a firefighter, but from Gander, did what she could do befriend the grieving mother. Sadly, the O’Rourke’s would soon learn that their son, of Rescue 2, was one of the brave first responders.
What is hard to believe, but what is truth, is that good things happened that day too.
Residents threw together home cooked meals to feed their new friends. But there just wasn’t enough food on hand to feed the stranded masses. So, it was hauled in from other areas and stored on the town’s ice rink. Which was quickly dubbed the world’s largest refrigerator.
Pharmacies, worked day and night, filling all prescriptions at no cost. People were sent into stores and were told to take what they needed off the shelves.
An oil man from England noticed a woman from Houston sitting on one of the Army cots their group was living on. Something inside told him that day that she would be the woman in his future. And so, it was to be. When the entire ordeal was over, he returned to England, requested a transfer to his company’s Houston office, and they were married a year later.
U.S. Airspace reopened on 9/13. And the passengers were allowed to return home. One passenger, once the groups were finally airborne, asked to make an announcement. She suggested the plane take up donations and create a scholarship fund for the children of Gander where they had lived during their unexpected detour. It is now up to one million dollars!
Though many lost faith in humanity that fateful day, our Northern neighbors proved that good can still be found–in the most unexpected places. We should look for that in the dark times. It’s not easy, but this wonderful story may be a helpful reminder to you this weekend…as we look back and remember.
Just my thoughts,
More here.