In the book, The spirit of Canada, edited by Amy Newmark & Janet Matthews, Shirley Brooks-Jones of Dublin, Ohio, tells about a flight she was on from Frankfurt, Germany, headed for Atlanta, Georgia.
As they were flying over the Altantic, the pilot announced they would be stopping in Gander, Newfoundland to check out “a slight mechanical problem.” But as soon as they landed in Gander, the pilot first of all apologized for his misleading information, and told passengers why they had to land was because: “Planes had hit the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and that something had happened in Pennsylvania, too.”
They had to stay aboard the plane while the Captain was trying to find out what next to do. Eventually we learned that many other planes, headed for the United States, had to land elsewhere in Canada.
As Shirley wrote, “Finally, after 28 1/2 hours, we saw long lines of yellow school buses approaching. ...Once we were cleared (customs and security) we were transported to many small towns and villages surrounding Gander. Much later I learned that bus drivers had actually been on strike, but had walked off picket lines to help ‘the Plane People’, as we were called.
“Four planeloads of passengers were taken to the tiny town of Lewisporte. There we were greeted with open arms by warm, wonderful, funny people who truly cared what had happened to the United States. Throughout the hours we sat waiting, I had not allowed myself to give in to fear or panic. I just knew we’d be okay.”
She mentioned that in Lewisporte, there were flags flying at half-staff; and when she saw there was an American flag, she started to cry, thinking the people were very thoughtful.
She also realized she’d been assigned to the Lions Centre in town, and that was especially meaningful to her. Years ago, the school nurse had sent a note home with her, saying she needed “an eye exam and glasses”, but the family could not afford that expense. As she wrote, “So the nurse arranged with a local Lions Club to pay for that expense. For nearly 60 years, I have been eternally grateful to those anonymous Lions...Now I couldn’t stop (crying) and blurted out, ‘The Lions are still taking care of me’.”
She describes how wonderfully they were treated during their stay, and they wanted to express their thanks in some way. They decided to establish a scholarship fund for graduates of Lewisporte Collegiate. As she writes, “We wanted those kind, gentle Newfoundlanders to know that we would never forget what they had done for us.”
And the author notes: “As of May, 2017 there have been 256 recipients of Lewisporte area Flight 15 scholarships!.”
Having recently seen the musical, “Come from away”, I found the above article is a good description of the musical’s story line.
Harvie Barker is a Penticton resident and author of inspirational messages. This column appears every third Monday in The Herald.