Profound experience reading “The Day the world came to town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland”

A long haul of Easter weekend has left me with a profound experience of reading a special book.

It is written by a member of a Delta Flight crew called Nazim, following 9-11 … True to their word. I am sharing the excerpts of the book.

A good  real life story after all the bad ones that we hear. I had never really thought of what happened to all the other flights headed for the States on 9/11.

It is 13 years since 9/11 and here is a wonderful story about that terrible day:

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 terrafirma 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.

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 , New Foundland, 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 air crafts. 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.

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 twin towers 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.

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 of10,400 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 travellers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.

ALL the 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.

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 laundramats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft. In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travellers.

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

“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.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.

“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 faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them.

It reminds me how much good there is in the world.

“In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward.”

ThE wEddIng story of my sIstEr & brOthEr In lOvE

My sister and brother-in-love dated for some light years. They were best friends for life with two different personalities which are poles apart. My BIL was a heart throb for many chicks in his college days. His heart would go racing for all those gorgeous damsels on planet earth. Each time he was heart broken, he would come to my sister for some expert advise on how to flirt and date. Ahem !!! Ahem !!! Sorry, BIL, had to spill the beans over here 😉 😉

One fine day Cupid struck his heart and a bright idea popped in his brilliant mind. He decided to religiously wait for my sister at the bus-stop and be a hero in her eyes and drive her around on his green LML Vespa (a “proud” owner in those good ole’ days). Typical filmy eshtyleeee !!!

I presume, as they were friends in the beginning, their hearts were filled with love, affection, care n concern for each other. They never had to impress each other. They teased and pulled each other’s leg like friends do. They were comfortable with each other and shared those comfort levels where they can discuss anything under the sun. They share a deep emotional bonding, intimacy and mental connection.

Snow capped mountain grandeur, lush green surroundings, fruit laden orchards, green meadows with blossoming flowers, alluring Dal Lake, Mughal gardens adding glitter to the beauty of Dal lake, beautiful landscape with versatile diversities, a real paradise on earth, Cashmere, that’s where my BIL has his roots.

A beautiful land of breathtaking beauty, coconut gardens and rich rice fields that brings alive the varied charm of Mother Nature, vibrant unspoiled bounteous beauty, banking on the shores of untamed, pristine and virgin beauty of the gentle waters of river Godavari, Konaseema, Andhra Pradesh, that’s where my sister has her roots.

Two distinct states, two distinct habitats, two distinct cultures they might have hailed from, nonetheless when Sandhya and Vinayak met, their souls instantly embraced each like their own, magically melding into one, like night into day, dusk into dawn. And what happens with a love like that? It brightens up the whole world with its sunshine, just as did theirs.

Language, customs, boundaries, there will never be a barrier daunting enough for love to trounce. Because somehow, all the imaginary, fabricated borders come tumbling down when two lovers hold hands, when two souls walk as one. States muddled, because their home is only the one they find in each other. The comforting feeling of being one, after a long haul, a taxing search and finding the one. Transcending race, ethnicity, religion. Nothing matters anymore. You’re home.

The synchronicity of their collective lives that converged, like two beautiful wings of the same bird with a love that soars, melding into one, was always WRITTEN BY THE ALMIGHTY.

Some things are meant to happen, just not meant to be. Some things are meant to come into your life, just not meant to stay.

SIS n BIL love each other moon and back and can’t wait to make more memories along life’s high way. It may have took them 15+ years to find each other but good things come to those who wait and God has BLESSED them with two dolls who are twins, Angel and Princess ❤ ❤

They never loved each other any more than they do, right this second. And they’ll never love each other any less than do, right this second. Don’t know if they could ever be without each other coz they complete being one. ❤

I believe the secret of their love and marriage is remembering what made them fall in love with each other in the first place inspite of the bumps on the high way of life. Remembering what made them come together in the beginning inspite of every day mundane life. With these reminders, they fall in love again. Keep the romance in their relationship alive. That’s how, am sure with God’s Grace, they will stay in love for a lifetime.

Hat tip and big love to two of my favorite people and marriage role models, Vinayak and Sandhya!  15+ years; lots of road and red seas walked, mountains climbed … With a good side of laughs and luff. Love you and admire your example.

An ode to you SIS n BIL, ❤ U, now and forever. 🙂

SB

The Lilies of the Field

In my quiet time this morning, as i was pondering on this verse,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”

~ Matthew 6:25a

it took me back to my childhood and my Sunday school days. A simply story beautifully narrated by my Kids Church teacher and it is vivid and crystal clear in my mind. I think i was about 6 to 7 years old. She brought a smooth stone and a bouquet of flowers. My eyes popped out of my socket wondering what on earth would she do with them.

My teacher said, “Look at this stone I have. It is a small, flat stone that fits into my hand in such a way that I can rub it with my thumb. Some people carry a stone like this with them all the time. They call it a “worry stone.” When they start to worry about something, they just reach into their pocket or purse, take out the stone, and rub it with their thumb. They believe that rubbing the smooth surface of the stone gives them a peaceful feeling and helps them to stop worrying.”

As a little girl, i wondered, “Isn’t that silly? How could rubbing on a stone take away your worries?”

The teacher continued, “What are some of the things that people worry about? Well, some might worry about whether they will have enough money to buy food and clothing for themselves and their family. Food and clothing are very important. In fact, they are things which we must have, but does worrying about it help us to get the food and clothing that we need?”

She then narrated a beautiful story from the Bible,

One day a large group of people was gathered around Jesus on a hillside and he began to teach them. “Don’t worry about whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear,” he said. “There are more important things in life than food and clothes.”

“Look at the birds in the air,” Jesus said. “They don’t worry where their next meal is coming from. They don’t store up grain in barns. And yet, the Heavenly Father takes care of them.”

Surely you are worth more to him than a bird.

“And why worry about your clothing?” Jesus continued. “Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, and yet Solomon in all his glory wasn’t dressed as beautifully as they are. If God cares so wonderfully for these wildflowers, surely he will take care of you. Why do you show your lack of faith by worrying about these things?”

As a little girl, i imagined, the beautiful birds in the air, the lilies in the field, hill side, grain in the barns, and thoughts kept racing in my mind.

“Does this mean that we can sit around and wait for food and clothes to drop from the sky?”

No. God provides food for the birds, but he doesn’t throw it into their nest. It is up to them to go out and gather their food. God provides clothing for us by giving us jobs so that we will have the money to buy clothes. Sometimes God provides clothes through friends and family who give us clothes. I thought to myself, “that’s how mummy buys me pretty frocks and shoes for my birthday.”

The teacher, then said, “We need to have faith that God will provide, but we do have to do our part as well. Just remember — our part does not include worry!”

The teacher concluded mentioning, “This morning I not only brought a worry stone, I also brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I want each of you to have one of the flowers. As you look at the flower, remember that you are more important to God than the most beautiful flower. If he cares for the flowers, he surely cares for you!”

I was so delighted and imagined myself to be a pretty Rose because i love roses. 🙂 🙂

We as adults worry about so many things in our day-to-day life. It is like a rocking chair. I stepped into the shoes of a child this morning and told myself, “I am more important to God than the most beautiful flower. If God cares for the flowers, HE surely cares for me”

Father, we thank you that you provide our every need. Help us not to worry, but to have faith. Amen.

people in your life

I have been pondering upon writing a blog since a long time on various subjects. Just like i do, most bloggers start writing for many reasons, a platform to express themselves, to keep a diary, as a platform to update friends and family about their lives. Whatever the reason, we see ourselves here … we give this space a personality that reflects our own … we feel happy when someone visits and comments … atleast i do …

do you believe that the people in your life are there for a reason? and so is the case with the ones that aren’t there are also there for a reason? I do …

I’ve been thinking about a lot of the people in my life … the ones that are still there, some I’ve grown closer to, some I’ve kept at arm’s length. Some have amazed me by what they can do with their lives, taught me lessons on how to follow your heart and be brave … some have taught me the same lessons with examples of what not to do …

i told my bestie E, the other day that i would have broken in mind and spirit many times in life, if she wasn’t by my side and today was one of the days when i truly thanked the Lord for her presence in my life … she’s been my pillar of strength, my fiercest ally and most honest critic. There are times when only she has the audacity to tell it on my face, i’d not have it any other way!

Friends teach you many things. They are the most accepting of who you are and don’t judge you for what you become eventually either by choice or fate. They inspire and help and kick your ass if needed.

The friends who call me beautiful when i want to cry after getting onto the weighing scales, the ones who tell me i can do anything i ever want to … the ones who encourage me, silently and with gentle chiding … the ones who will grow old with me and always be there in my life no matter which part of the world we live in …

the ones who with their nastiness and highhandedness made me rejoice that i am not them … the ones who taught me how great it is to be humble, which does not necessarily mean that you are a doormat, the ones who have made me thank my upbringing and everything else that does not make me fake or false …

My parents have always cherished and treasured friends. I believe so as i grew up watching them more than anything else. They have taught me important lessons in life. to cherish the people and relationships around me in the present. So i give my friends the kind of attention i would want them to give me … and its not always reciprocated … i have pursued relationships which sometimes i wondered why i wanted so desperately even though the lack to attention was at low self esteem times deprecating to say the least … but it paid off. I am surrounded by the ones i love … i live in a home that’s all mine … and i have a warm bed and hot food at all times. Even on the days when i am feeling rotten and unworthy, the Lord provides me paneer (cottage cheese) to make me feel better …

So i am really grateful for all the living – loving things in my life… occasionally i am also grateful for the stuff that is not living, the Godrej cupboard that mum sent, to keep my clothes safe from all the termites that chewed away my favorite` dupattas!

the ones who have truly earned my admiration and respect, the ones who lost it because their masks fell, they all make my life richer … thank you!

Life is all about experiences

My feet needed pampering and hence i went to a Spa called, “Naturals”. It’s a chain of franchise in India. Well, to cut the story short i met this young girl and the best make-up she wore was her smile. 🙂 Engaged in a conversation with her, i’ve learnt that she hails from a remote town in Madhya Pradesh. Further conversation with her, i’ve learnt that “Naturals” and their team believe in ‘women empowerment’ and tap the latent talent and raw potential hidden in these young girls, otherwise, would have been behind the four walls of their home. I was like, “WOW”. That sounds interesting. She “REALLY” is skillful and talented. She had pleasing manners, simple with no air and aura about herself. 🙂 🙂 I just could not resist leaving her a note of appreciation in their guest compliments book. She was calm and composed and with a pleasing smile, she just said, “ThanQ”. I believe she is simple and down to earth and her customer centric attitude comes very naturally to her. I am overwhelmed with an awesome experience that i had today. Life is all about experiences. 🙂

Making Room for What Really Matters

I want to thank the Lord and give glory to HIM for am on the mend. Survived yet another Asthama attack. This time it was massive. My mother’s sister, a chest physician, prescribed medicines. God has given her wisdom and i thank God for Blessing her in abundance with HIS knowledge and wisdom and in turn being a blessing to many, as a doctor, for HIS glory.

Most of us lead pretty full lives, yes? We are always on the go. Our to do lists are never ending and the activities never ceasing. But yet, in those still quiet moments, we get that gnawing feeling that somehow we are unfulfilled – something needs to change. Ever feel that way?

It happens to most of us from time to time. It’s kind of like when our closets are bulging with clothes or the attic or tool shed is so packed we can’t find anything. We stand there in confusion wondering how to find what it is we’re looking for. Do we really know?

If the rooms of our lives are so full with stuff i.e activities, how can we possibly know and then make room for what truly matters to us? Begin by throwing out what is no longer useful. Every 6 months or so, I ask myself this question “What am I holding on to that I no longer need?” and then I begin an inventory of my life. I start with the easy and mundane like my kitchen drawers and cabinets. Then I move on to the house and closets. Then it’s time to analyze the deeper things like my priorities, my lifestyle, my habits.Which of these are no longer useful or bearing fruit?

Many times as a Christian i say i have faith but it is not demonstrated in my actions and the bible says that without faith, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. I always think and it made me realize that faith without works is really not faith at all. It is simply a wish. So praying and praying and praying for healing without adjusting my diet or my lifestyle or failing to make time to exercise will have little to no positive effects. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that prayer is useless. Far from it. What I am saying is that praying alone is not enough if it is not backed up with faith demonstrated through works. During my illness i have been meditating on the book of Hebrews chapter 11 and i see true faith is always being backed up by actions. The entire chapter speaks about faith through actions. It says that by faith Abel ‘offered’, by faith Noah ‘moved with fear’, by faith Abraham ‘obeyed’, by faith Sara ‘received strength to conceive a child’.

The key is to realize that i am doing something that is non-productive sooner rather than later, and then – let it go! When I make room for what really matters in my life, then I make room for something better to come along.

Pray and adjust my diet, my work-life balance, my life style, most important, make time to exercise a bit.

Republic Day in my office ~ 26th Jan 2015

It was a moment of pride and honour as i walked into my work place this morning. I could hear a faint melody of patriotic songs from distance filling the foggy morning with music. The security personnel were crisp and sharp in their uniforms, all set for the march past. What a delight to see the national flag fluttering in cool winter breeze as i sang the national anthem. The patriotic feeling from the depths of my heart for my country leaves me speechless each time. The security personnel sang few patriotic songs with such fervency, i had goosebumps. The entire episode transports me back to my school days singing “Hum honge kaamiyab” with all those gathered to witness the occasion.

Watching Captain Pooja Takur in Guard of Honour , and Captain Divya Ajit Kumar leading her wing at Republic Day Parade on the TV, first women officers to take this pride, filled my heart with ripples of joy. It was a ‘WOW’ moment. Loved the Indian Republic Day Parade, especially the all-women contingents! It was a fantastic moment 🙂

26th Jan, in spirit. One of the most important day’s in Indian history or perhaps the most important day.

Don’t quit, Keep playing

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her.

Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “No admission.” When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking our “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.” Then leaning over Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience were mesmerized.

That’s the way it is with life. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. But when we trust in the hands of THE LORD, our life’s work truly can be beautiful.

Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of The Master, whispering in your ear, Don’t quit, Keep playing,

Tell Your Problems You Have Got a Big God

Two men went fishing. One man was an experienced fisherman, the other wasn’t. Every time the experienced fisherman caught a big fish, he put it in his ice chest to keep it fresh. Whenever the inexperienced fisherman caught a big fish, he threw it back. The experienced fisherman watched this go on all day and finally got tired of seeing this man waste good fish.

“Why do you keep throwing back all the big fish you catch?” he asked. The inexperienced fisherman replied, “I only have a small frying pan.

Sometimes, like that fisherman, we throw back the big plans, the big dreams, the big jobs and the big opportunities that God gives us. Our faith is too small.

We laugh at that fisherman who didn’t figure out that all he needed was a bigger frying pan; yet how ready are we to increase the size of our faith? Whether it’s a problem or a possibility, God will never give you anything bigger than you can handle. That means we can confidently walk into anything God brings our way.

I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).

We are to believe and place our faith in God who is the source of our life. It’s never over until God says it’s over. Leave the punctuation of your life up to God. Until God puts a period on your adventure with him, faith must rule your days. Impossible is not in God’s vocabulary, and it shouldn’t be in yours. Nothing is too big for God. “Stop telling God you have got big problems. Tell your problems you have got a big God!”