Tag Archives: Atlanta

Newfoundland and Baseball

“Some Newfies like to chase baseballs!”

I spent a good part of the morning trying to figure out how I could tie this great story into a blog about baseball and Newfoundland and I discovered this fact:

“Of the ten Canadian provinces, only Newfoundland hasn’t produced a major leaguer.”

 Well, okay, it’s a little lean there, but then I realized the story, just like baseball, is about teamwork and the human spirit and working towards the same goal.  This is a moving first-hand account of a Delta Airlines Flight Attendant on board Delta Airlines ­ Flight 15, enroute from Frankfurt, Germany to Atlanta, Georgia on September 11, 2001. 

“DELTA FLIGHT 15, SEPTEMBER 11, 2001″

“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 , New Foundland. 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.

“Gander, Newfoundland Area Map”

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.

“Gander Airport on 9/11/01″

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.

“A Shelter at Gander on 9/11/01″

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.

“Gander on 10th Anniversary of 9/11″

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 like 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 handsof total strangers. He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

Lewisporte, Newfoundland, Canada

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.

“Smiley Garlic Bobblehead”

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.”

GFBB Note:  A special thanks to Dan & Joni Quintell for sharing this great story with me.

Bobby Cox Going on a Cruise! …….. A Player’s Manager Retires.

I never knew much about Bobby Cox.  Oh sure, I heard a lot about him through the years.  After all he’s been managing the Braves since 1986 and it seems his name was always out there, usually for arguing with the umps or being ejected from a game, not necessarily what you want to be known for.  But during this last playoff series and especially during his last interview, I was struck by one comment he made.  It referred to a controversial call by an umpire at 2nd base.   The play was a head-first slide by Giants’ Buster Posey into 2nd and a safe call by the ump.   Replay shows Posey was clearly out, and it ended up being a deciding factor in the 1 run win by the Giants over Atlanta and eventually eliminated Atlanta from the series, ending Cox’s career.  Yet Bobby Cox didn’t utter a peep! Why?

On August 14, 2010, Bobby Cox broke the  MLB ejections record with 131 career ejections.   He’s a player’s manager.  Just getting ejected certainly doesn’t make one great, but when Bobby Cox got ejected he was doing it for the right reason.  He wasn’t just arguing a call to get the ump to change his mind, or to grandstand, or slow up the game.  He was always arguing in defense of his players.  Always!   He was out there every game defending his players, trying to even up the playing field making sure the other team wasn’t getting an unfair advantage.    When he felt his players had been treated unfairly by a call, he never, ever backed down.  That is his legacy. 

In an interview after this last game Cox was asked about that call at 2nd base.  He was told the replay clearly showed the runner was out and was asked why he didn’t challenge the call.  After all, his career and reputation was built on challenging umpire calls these past 32 years.  His response surprised me.   The reason he didn’t challenge the call was simple.   He was watching his 2nd baseman and outfielders and they showed no reaction.  Had any of them reacted as though they thought the runner was out, he would have been out on that field immediately in protest of the call.  Cox said it’s impossible to see what’s going on from the manager’s viewpoint so he’s always trusted his player’s reactions on how the play should have been called.  That’ s how he managed his entire career and his players loved him for it.   Of course, some players could easily have taken advantage of Bobby’s trust in them and I’m sure they did, but they always knew he had their back and that’s how loyalties are made.

I could write pages and pages about the career of this man.  It might surprise you that he only played in the major leagues for two years, as a 3rd baseman for the New York Yankees.   And did you know he ranks 4th on the Baseball All-time Managerial “Wins”  list?    It goes on and on.  Check out the  Related Articles below.  They’ll keep you reading for days.  

The team got together and gave Bobby and his wife a going away gift.  It’s a cruise and they’re leaving next April!   April?   That’s the beginning of another baseball season!   You don’t retire from baseball.   No one retires from baseball.   Welcome to Baseball Fandom Bobby Cox.   The only thing that’s changed is the players!