We all remember what we were doing on that fateful day in 2001. I was driving my youngest son, then aged 15, home from school about 3.30pm, when the news came over the radio that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. I began to worry straight away, as my husband Sam was at that moment sitting on a plane on its way to the USA (Cleveland) on business. In 2001 he didn’t have a mobile phone, and neither did I.
I tried to stay upbeat because of the boys, but then spent the rest of the night anxiously listening to news bulletins, and it wasn’t until the following evening that I had a phone call from the customer that Sam had been going to see. Sam’s flight had been diverted to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Apparently another passenger had kindly allowed Sam to use his mobile phone. My husband had called his customer to let him know why he hadn’t arrived, and then asked the customer to contact me.
On the second day I had a phone call from Sam. St. John’s is a small airport, used to one or two international flights per week. After landing the captain had informed the passengers what had happened, and Sam went on to say that on 9/11 27 jumbo jets had descended out of the sky and landed at St.John’s within a couple of hours, but then a well-rehearsed major incident procedure had taken place. All the passengers on the 27 flights were taken to an ice hockey stadium, and given free food and drink by the Red Cross. Sam’s flight were all given hotel rooms free of charge, with free food for the remainder of their stay, but some others were put up in halls or dormitories, whatever was available. The phone company AT&T opened up their offices for free phone calls, and at last I could speak to Sam.
Sam has nothing but praise for the way he and his fellow passengers were treated at The Battery Hotel, St. John’s, during that terrible time. They stayed there for a week until airspace was opened up again, and from St. John’s Sam flew straight back to the U.K. He made another uneventful flight some time later to visit the customer in Cleveland that he had originally been going to see. During that time he got to know some of the other passengers, and for some months afterwards he received postcards and letters from his new-found friends.
We often talk about that time, and the generosity of the people of St. John’s. Could you see that kind of generosity happening here in the U.K? Free hotel stay, free food and free phone calls? Hmm….
Where were you on 9/11?