I am starting a new series of writings titled; Jesus with Skin On. I would love to have you my readers, family and friends, your friends, their friends (even those I have never met) send me true life stories to share with others. Why? Because they make us feel good. Because we all need encouragement in our lives. Because, I believe Jesus is alive in the hearts of all mankind. Because, many feel Jesus is not here because we cannot physically see or touch him… Yet, it is in stories like the one I am sharing today, where we get to see “Jesus with skin on” as he works though people to touch the hearts of many.
The Kindness of Strangers in Newfoundland
September 11, 2001 a day I will never forget and I’m fairly certain, you won’t either. I discovered a story worthy of sharing. Its a heartwarming, encouraging story involving the generous spirited people of Gander and Lewisporte, New Foundland, and a big-hearted passenger, Shirley Brooks-Jones, from Delta’s Flight 15.
On September 11, 2001, 38 airliners carrying nearly 6700 passengers, found themselves diverted from their United States destination to the small community of Gander Newfoundland. A necessary diversion, due to terrorists attacks on U.S. soil requiring the closure of all United States airports. Passengers sat on the runways of Gander Airport for hours before being allowed to deplane. The town of Gander and outlying communities needed time to prepare for their unexpected and somewhat frightened visitors; no one knew how long they would be staying. Plane by plane the passengers would be allowed to deplane and buses would bus them to shelters and homes ready to care for their every need. And care for their every need they did!
Approximately 28 hours after arriving at Gander Airport, passengers on Delta’s Flight 15 deplaned and were bussed to the small town of Lewisporte. Lewisporte cared for them beyond their expectations. The local high-school closed to make temporary accommodations for the weary travelers sleeping and housing needs. Boxes of shampoo, razors, soap and deodorant along with many other necessities were provided without cost. Bakeries stayed open, working overtime, providing fresh bread and pastries, for free. Some passengers needed prescriptions filled. After an examination by volunteer physician’s the prescriptions were filled by local drug stores free of charge. Residents not able to provide sleeping accommodations opened their homes for showers and meals. Some of the passengers were housed in private homes and treated like family. For those housed in shelters, cots, pillows, towels and blankets were provided. Townspeople would pick up the used towels each evening; returning them fresh and clean the next day. Tours of the town and local sites of interest were offered to the passengers. Similar scenarios were taking place throughout Gander and other adjoining communities making a frightening and potentially impossible situation, not only possible, but pleasurable.
4 Days later, on the flight home, Shirley Brooks-Jones, feeling very grateful for the treatment she and others had experienced in Lewisporte, went forward asking Captain Michael Sweeney’s permission to use the intercom. Shirley desired to ask the passengers for pledges to start a scholarship fund for the students of Lewisporte. Captain Sweeney gave permission, and the rest, as they say, is history. Several people helped Shirley create pledge sheets, which they handed out to the passengers. At the end of the flight, pledges totaling more than fifteen thousand dollars had been collected. It is reported an anonymous donor matched the pledge total that day.
The Gander Flight 15 Scholarship fund is currently managed by The Columbus Foundation and has since raised more than one million dollars and continues to grow. Since that dreadful day in 2001, Shirley returns to Lewisporte each year on 9/11 and each spring to hand out scholarships.
The passengers stranded in Gander experienced “Jesus with Skin On” through the kindness of strangers. The expressions of love offered live on in the hearts and memories of those diverted to Gander, New Foundland in 2001.
Until next time,