Tuesday, February 25, 2020
US flag

When U.S. airspace was closed until further notice

We pause to remember the thousands of people, most of them Americans, who lost their lives in the terrorist hijackings of commercial jets on September 11, 2001, 15 years ago today, in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

Gander International Airport, Newfoundland, Canada (Facebook page)

The attacks caused federal officials to close US airspace: all airways over the United States were shut down, and planes that found themselves outside US airspace weren’t allowed to come in.

Air traffic controllers advised planes to land at their earliest convenience, wherever they were. More than three dozen planes diverted to the international airport in the town of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, with a population of a little more than 10,000 people.

One flight, Delta 15, landed and found itself amid 20 or so other planes that had already landed. Then passengers were told what had happened in the US, but officials had to keep them on the plane until 11 AM on the morning of September 12.

When they deplaned and were processed by Canadian authorities, they were taken to hotels. The 218 passengers from Delta Flight 15 were taken in school buses to the town of Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander. Authorities were expecting an influx of about 10,500 “plane people,” according to an email message written by a member of the flight crew.

Yet the people of Gander and Lewisporte opened their arms and homes to the stranded passengers. Bakers made bread. Nurses made a local urgent-care facility available. Dentists were even available. Local schools were closed, as passengers had to live for a few days in their classrooms and gymnasiums.

When the flight was finally allowed to resume to Atlanta, some two days later, passengers felt so much gratitude for the people of Lewisporte that a scholarship fund was established so high school students from the area could afford college.

According to Shirley Brooks-Jones, one of the passengers aboard Flight 15, that fund, which was initially set up by a doctor from Virginia, is now endowed in an amount close to $1 million. More than 200 students reportedly have received college scholarships through the fund. She said in an NPR interview:

As of this year, that fund is approaching something like a million dollars. Two hundred and twenty-eight kids from that little tiny area of our world, the Lewisporte area, which is Lewisporte and the 14 outport villages that feed into it, 228 kids have received that scholarship. And they are amazing young people. There are three or four of them who are now MDs. There are a number of them who have gone on for advanced degrees—you know, master’s, PhDs. It’s wonderful. I mean, I just can’t believe—I have to pinch myself and think, gee, Shirley, is this really happening?

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Most detailed images ever of the sun

A new telescope at the National Solar Observatory snapped the most detailed pictures of the sun's surface we have ever seen.

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.

Md. & IL bands perform on New Year’s in...

Bands from IL and Md. once again entertained thousands of people who lined the streets of London and Rome on New Year's Day.

Howard Co. sounds an under-staffing alarm

Teachers in a Md. district have filed a grievance over missing planning and lunch periods and, as a result, putting the most vulnerable students at risk.

Top 11 school stories of 2019

We find these 11 stories to have the greatest potential for influencing activity and direction in schools for the near future.

Girls’ volleyball champs in Illinois

We congratulate the Illinois state champions in girls' volleyball: Newark, St Teresa, Sterling, & Benet Academy.

A weekend of ‘band geeks’ across America

The musical Band Geeks was in performance at a MD high school, just as marching bands from across America named a national champion.

2 dead, 3 wounded in Calif. school shooting

Another school shooting has resulted in the death of 2 California high school students. The suspect shot himself and is in custody.

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.