How I spent September 11, 2001

Old Sep 1, 04, 7:43 pm
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How I spent September 11, 2001

Replying to another thread, I was just recalling September 11, 2001.

After work shut down mid-morning Pacific time, I drove back to my home away from home and sat down to watch the horrifying news reports. But September 11 was also a Tuesday, and Southwest had just released an Internet Special fare in the LAX-OAK market for the first time in six weeks or more.

While I watched the news, I spent almost three hours booking new flights and re-booking some existing higher-fare reservations through early 2002. It was a little eerie planning all these trips after four flights had just been snuffed out by the terrorists along with, we thought at the time, tens of thousands of workers in the World Trade Center.

But life goes on. I knew that I was going to fly again at the earliest opportunity, which turned out to be that Friday. Booking a pile of flights was my personal finger in the eye of terrorists everywhere.
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Old Sep 1, 04, 7:57 pm
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I was in Las Vegas on my WN BUR-LAS-BUR itinerary. I woke early due to a call from my wife. After watching the televised footage I looked out the window. I was at Ballys on an upper floor with a view of the McCaron Airport. No flights, no traffic, nothing. I'm sure I will never see that again. I ended up driving back to Los Angeles with a friend. The flight situation was too much to deal with. Southwest credited my missed leg which I used on my next flight.

I like nsx, flew again very shortly afterwards. I was definitely going to fly again as soon as possible and not let a band of coward terrorists affect my travel.
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Old Sep 1, 04, 8:11 pm
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Exclamation Delta Flight 15: Diverted to Gander Newfoundland

This is a story that my parents participated in,aboard this flight. It wasn't my experience therefore, but reading this I felt as if it was. A truly amazing experience. Read & enjoy.

For those who prefer to read it now, here's the text:

Amazing Story of Delta Flight 15
(This was written by a crew member on the flight)
We were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt flying over the North Atlantic and I was in my crew rest seat taking my scheduled rest break. All of a sudden the curtains parted violently and I was told to go to the cockpit, right now, to see the captain. As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had one of those "All Business" looks on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. I quickly read the message and realized the importance of it. The message was from Atlanta, addressed to our flight, and simply said, "All airways over the Continental US are closed. Land ASAP at the nearest airport, advise your destination."

Now, when a dispatcher tells you to land immediately without suggesting which airport, one can assume that the dispatcher has reluctantly given up control of the flight to the captain. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. It was quickly decided that the nearest airport was 400 miles away, behind our right shoulder, in Gander, on the island of Newfoundland. A quick request was made to the Canadian traffic controller and a right turn, directly to Gander, was approved immediately. We found out later why there was no hesitation by the Canadian controller approving our request.

We, the in-flight crew, were told to get the airplane ready for an immediate landing. While this was going on another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. We briefed the in-flight crew about going to Gander and we went about our business 'closing down' the airplane for a landing. A few minutes later I went back to the cockpit to find out that some airplanes had been hijacked and were being flown into buildings all over the US. We decided to make an announcement and LIE to the passengers for the time being. We told them that an instrument problem had arisen on the airplane and that we needed to land at Gander, to have it checked. We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There were many unhappy passengers but that is par for the course.

We landed in Gander about 40 minutes after the start of this episode. There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world. 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. But the reality is that we are here for a good reason." Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the US. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief.

Local time at Gander was 12:30 pm. (11:00 AM EST)Gander control told us to stay put. No one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near the aircrafts. Only a car from the airport police would come around once in a while, look us over and go on to the next airplane.

In the next hour or so all the airways over the North Atlantic were vacated and Gander alone ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, out of which 27 were flying US flags. We were told that each and every plane was to be offloaded, one at a time, with the foreign carriers given the priority. We were No.14 in the US category. We were further told that we would be given a tentative time to deplane at 6 pm.

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 US were either blocked or jammed and to try again.

Some time late 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. Now the passengers were totally bewildered and emotionally exhausted but stayed calm as we kept reminding them to look around to see that we were not the only ones in this predicament. There were 52 other planes with people on them in the same situation. We also told them that the Canadian Government was in charge and we were at their mercy.

True to their word, at 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would come at 11 AM, the next morning. That took the last wind out of the passengers and they simply resigned and accepted this news without much noise and really started to get into a mode of spending the night on the airplane. Gander had promised us any and all medical attention if needed; medicine, water, and lavatory servicing. And they were true to their word. Fortunately we had no medical situation during the night. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her.

The night passed without any further complications on our airplane despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th we were told to get ready to leave the aircraft. A convoy of school buses showed up at the side of the airplane, the stairway was hooked up and the passengers were taken to the terminal for "processing" We, the crew, were taken to the same terminal but were told to go to a different section, where we were processed through Immigration and customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that we were isolated from our passengers and were taken in a caravan of vans to a very small hotel in the town of Gander. We had no idea where our passengers were going. The town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people. Red Cross told us that they were going to process about 10,500 passengers from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander. We were told to just relax at the hotel and wait for a call to go back to the airport, 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 enjoyed ourselves going around town discovering things and enjoying the hospitality. The people were so friendly and they just knew that we were the "Plane people". We all had a great time until we got that call, 2 days later, on the 14th at 7AM. We made it to the airport by 8:30AM and left for Atlanta at 12:30 PM arriving in Atlanta at about 4:30PM. (Gander is 1 hour and 30 minutes ahead of EST, yes!, 1 hour and 30 minutes.)

But that's not what I wanted to tell you. What passengers told us was so uplifting and incredible and the timing couldn't have been better. We found out that Gander and the surrounding small communities, within a 75 Kilometer radius, had closed all the high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to a mass lodging area. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up. ALL the high school students HAD to volunteer taking care of the "GUESTS".

Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 Kilometers from Gander. There they were put 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 given no choice and 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 type facility. There were DDSs on call and they had both male and female nurses available and stayed with the crowd for the duration. Phone calls and emails to US and Europe were available for every one once a day.

During the days the passengers were given a choice of "Excursion" trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went to see 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 school for those who elected to stay put. Others were driven to the eatery of their choice and fed. They were given tokens to go to the local Laundromat to wash their clothes, since their luggage was still on the aircraft. In other words every single need was met for those unfortunate travelers. Passengers were crying while telling us these stories.

After all that, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single one missing or late. All because the local Red Cross had all the information about the goings on back at Gander and knew which group needed to leave for the airport at what time. Absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everybody knew everybody else by their name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. It was mind boggling. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a party flight. We simply stayed out of their way. The passengers had totally bonded and they were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.

And then a strange thing happened. One of our business class passengers approached me and asked if he could speak over the PA to his fellow passengers. We never, never, allow that. But something told me to get out of his way. I said "of course". The gentleman 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 further stated that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of the town 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 a scholarship for high school student(s) of Lewisporte to help them go to college. 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, it totaled to $14.5K or about $20K Canadian. The gentleman who started all this turned out to be an MD from Virginia. He 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. Why, all of this? Just because some people in far away places were kind to some strangers, who happened to literally drop in among them? WHY NOT?
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Old Sep 1, 04, 10:48 pm
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I was here at home that day, and my wife was taking her morning shower, listening to the radio, when she heard about the first plane's impact. She woke me up, and I came downstairs, and we stood together watching as the second plane hit. She went to work, and later I delivered a radio to her office and listened to Peter Jennings on WGN (they had cut to the ABC News feed) as the South Tower collapsed while in my car on the way home.

Along with one of her coworkers, we spent the day here watching news, and in my home theater we have four televisions, so we had four different feeds going. Newsworld International was our consensus favorite feed.

On an aviation note, we had flown to STL over Labor Day weekend, and curiously we didn't have anything planned until a BWI/BUF trip late October. (My wife has always wanted to visit Niagara Falls.) We were in New York August 10-12 the previous month for a wedding, but it was brutally hot and we never spent time downtown. We mostly shuttled between LGA, Midtown, and Brookyln.

In early October, we got an email from UA offering ORD-Frankfurt for $300+taxes. I told my boss about the fare, and he encouraged me to ditch BUF on WN for FRA on UA. I did, and he subsequently sent an email to some folks in Belgium, and the three of us made it a business trip. We drove on the Autobahn from FRA to Brussels in late October, and he and I had a business lunch while my wife walked around the city. We flew back a few days later. (By the way, I got our Mercedes C-class up to 130mph, legally. Heaven! I kept the cruise control on about 105mph, typically.)

Both trans-Atlantic flights were relatively empty, and we felt proud to give United, as well as the airline industry in general, our business. Oh and double UA miles (17,000 each) were nice too.

We flew plenty that fall on WN, but I kinda feel bad for having cancelled our Niagara Falls trips, since we still haven't made it there. But I do feel that we did our share to help the airline industry recover.
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Old Sep 2, 04, 11:34 am
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Originally Posted by SteveinSTL

Amazing Story of Delta Flight 15
A very uplifting story. Thanks for sharing. It definitely has brightened my day.

As we reflect on the events of 9/11 (and as we look at all the troubles in the world today), it's worthwhile to remember that most people are good, charitable folk.
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Old Sep 2, 04, 1:49 pm
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Unique....stuck in Hawaii 9/11/2001

I was mid-trip in a Hawaiian Big Island/Maui/Honolulu and we got stranded in Maui. Was a speaker for a conf that got later cancelled in Honolulu and I was finally able to resume the flight schedule so as to end up in Honolulu to then make the return trip home post 9/11. Ironically - we flew SW to LAX for cheap and did Hawaiian Airlines west coast specials to/from HI.

The return flight from LAX to AUS stopped in LAS on the way....super empty flights and it was about 9/15 or so if I remember right....spooky being only 2 of approx a dozen folks on the whole plane on that trip!

Of course many others were very jealous of us getting stranded in Maui for 2 days but it was not all fun-in-the-sun as excursions were cancelled, certain foods were running short but the locals and operators went out of their way being nice extending stays at dirt cheap rates!

But as has been previously posted - many more dramatic, tragic and heroic things occurred that day and many gave their lives for it unknowingly.
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Old Sep 2, 04, 1:54 pm
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Originally Posted by kevinjet
Of course many others were very jealous of us getting stranded in Maui for 2 days but it was not all fun-in-the-sun...

Some have said the same to me as I was stranded in Vegas. It also was not fun. All I wanted to due was get back to my family. I had so many calls from my immediate family, my in-laws, and my friends. All of them wanting to know where I was and what my situation was. It made me feel good they were thinking of me.
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Old Sep 3, 04, 4:29 pm
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Stranded in IND attending a conference. The morning sessions had begun when word circulated. The Hilton set up a large TV in a lobby area and about 100 people just sat there all day watching, with others coming in and out.

As much as the President has disgusted me over the past 2 years, I found seeing him speak to be very comforting on 9-11. I guess that's why so many people still support him, they remember that tragedy and how it made everyone (maybe subconsciously) feel better to see the President and realize that the world had not come to an end.

As the old saying about politics goes, "Whatever happens on election day, the buses will still run the next day". I think it just took me a long time that day to realize that the next morning the buses would still be running and the world, broadly speaking, would go on functioning just like on September 10.
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Old Sep 7, 04, 6:26 pm
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Very interesting and timely thread. I was in WN country so I guess mine will be on topic.

I was on assignment in El Paso for workI was on about day 5 of a 4 month assignment. On the way to work with a CD on, I got a call from a school friend who asked where I wasshe didnt explain but said to watch the news. 10 min. later I arrived and saw the news coverage. As a visiting Washingtonian in the Texas office, I felt strange about the Pentagon crash since I took the bus to the Pentagon every day on my commute, and I had a direct bond that nobody else in the office did. I called a friend of a friend who worked there, and the call didnt go through, but he replied to an e-mail later that day. Later in the day I heard the news report the US-Mexico border had been closed this as I stood in the El Paso traffic management center and watched monitors show cars freely flowing between El Paso and Juarez On behalf of the TXDOT folks I offered a quick call to a San Diego CALTRANS border contact and determined that San Diego-Mexico border was still open, too. So much for accurate news reporting. Hours later one El Paso-Juarez bridge closed due to an unrelated incident, and reopened after an hour.

I was planning to return to DC that upcoming weekend on flights not yet booked, and I stayed in my apartment booking 2 days out, finding the flights cancelled, rebooking another day out, having them cancelledit was a good week before I made the trip. Into BWI, of course, as DCA was closed.

While Ive always felt that family and friends are just a couple hours flight away whenever I travel and move, I felt extremely isolated from loved ones while the flights were grounded. At the same time, though, I felt extremely safe because of El Pasos relative seclusion. Even now, as a recent Phoenecian, I now have far fewer security concerns as I did in DC in the shadow of the White House and Capitol.

Last edited by Viajero Joven; Sep 7, 04 at 6:31 pm
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Old Sep 14, 04, 11:15 pm
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Question Sky Evac - How'd they do it??

Quick question for the crew: does anyone know a thread or newstory about how the ATC folks managed to clear the skies so quickly on 9/11 with no incidents? A truly amazing feat to have all the planes cleared from the skies, in a time of high stress for all, sending planes surely to airport with limited capacity, no ground crews for smaller airlines, etc.

Sure would love to read about it.
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Old Sep 15, 04, 2:28 pm
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Herb and 9/11

I was stuck in Cleveland where we attempted to still work that day. Had flown in on AA the night before for some routine meetings.

Later, I heard stories from friends at WN about the quality of active leadership that Mr. Kelleher displayed that day and the days following. At each city where they had landed planes a team leader (a Captain) was designated to coordinate and pass info back and forth to keep all informed.

Herb was also instrumental in keeping everyone on an even keel when things would get a bit emotional. In fact, I think I might have seen a video where different employees are talking about how everyone pulled together that week.

I could be off base, but I think Southwest was the first carrier to restore and operate a full schedule.
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Old Sep 15, 04, 3:53 pm
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I believe that the other airlines immediately cut their schedules. Southwest maintained its schedule all the way to whatever the current schedule horizon was. Some of those flights were VERY empty in September and October.
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Old Sep 15, 04, 10:29 pm
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Sept 11

I was actually resting that home on an off day after traveling back & forth for work for the prior 4 months. Sept. 11 is my wedding anniversary, so this date really hits hard. My most frightening moment was trying to find out about my brother & sister who work in the DC area for the govt. Luckily they were fine. This day taught me also not to sweat the small stuff, because every day, every second, every hour we are here on this earth is truly a gift.

Tolerance and appreciation for the beauty that life has to offer all of us.
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Old Sep 15, 04, 11:58 pm
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Originally Posted by nsx
I believe that the other airlines immediately cut their schedules. Southwest maintained its schedule all the way to whatever the current schedule horizon was. Some of those flights were VERY empty in September and October.
I distinctly recall flying MDW-ISP shortly after airports re-opened and I was the one and only individual on the plane. I felt embarassed having 2 flight attendants standing around and I told them "Please, take your shoes off and relax for a few hours!" is offline  
Old Sep 27, 23, 6:27 am
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I get Flyertalk's newsletter wherein there was recently an article about 911. I felt inspired to share my experience of that day. Believe it or not, I was in Islamabad and Rawalpindi in Pakistan on September 11, 2001, visiting bookshops to collect payments for BBT books sold on consignment. When I went to a cyber cafe (remember those!) in the evening to check my email the boss showed me a video of the crashes. It was shocking. I don't recall any celebrations on the streets or anything of the sort. Over the next few days us foreigners got the message that it was better to leave so I hopped back over the border to India. Haven't been back to Pakistan since.

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Last edited by ATD; Nov 15, 23 at 1:26 am
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