This is what happens when empathy conquers ignorance.
It was 9/11, 2001 and Delta Flight 15 was on its way home to the US from Germany when it got the call to land immediately. The closest airport was Gander, somewhere in Canada. They landed along with 37 other planes who’d received the same alert and started playing the waiting game. The travelers were just stuck in the terminal, confused and worried.
What they didn’t expect was that Gander and the surrounding area – called Lewisporte (with a population barely larger than the number of stranded plane passengers) – would come to the rescue. In comfort and style, no less. Lewisporte shut down all schools and public places to make time and space for the travelers. They fed them, offered laundry and medical services, and even took folks out to tour the town.
When it was time to leave, Shirley Brooks-Jones, a passenger from Flight 15, remembers: “Everybody was crying. I mean, the men and the women, I mean, the passengers, the little kids. We didn’t want to leave, you know?”
Shirley was so moved that she decided to start an education fund right there at the departure gate. She named it the Lewisporte Flight 15 Scholarship Fund, and all proceeds would be used to send Lewisporte students to college and trade schools. That day, in the terminal, they raised more than $15,000. Now, it has raised upwards of 2 million. The fund has radically changed the future for local students, many of whom were dropping out of school. Now, several students are doctors or on their way to getting PhDs.
This story is a solid reminder that no matter how overwhelming the world might feel sometimes, we all share something profound – the experience of being human.