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Wall Street Journal Article
Posted on Thursday 15 November @ 18:31:35
In the PressHere is the article in which we are featured. Reproduced from the 7th November edition of the Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) without permission by an unnamed passenger (Thanks, Clare!) Despite the site not actually giving our web address, it doubled the number daily of visitors to our site overnight!!


Some of 200 Planes Rerouted, Many Got to Newfoundland; Army Cots and Fast Friends.

By Clare Ansberry, Staff Reporter of the Wall Street Journal

Lynn Nemser, a Pittsburg managemeng consultants, recieves updates about work, the flu season and local foliage from a new group of friends, including tow men from a pharmaceutical company, a director of a university brian-science program, a hardware salesman and a Salvation Army major.

In September, they spent three days together at Camp of the Silver Birches, a Salvation Army retreat on a lake in Newfoundland. It was an unplanned stay for all of them, but so memorable that it formed deep bonds that endure two months later.

Their USAir jet, which left London for Pittsburgh on Sept. 11, was diverted to Canada - along with more than 200 other planes-when the U.S. closed its border to incoming flights in response to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Thier captain on lfight 741 explained that they were heading to Canada because of congestion on the East Coast. Pilots in other planes made up stroies about equipment problems and medical emergencies as they headed for small towns all across the island. Only when they had landed were passangers told of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The USAir plane landed in Stephenville, on old U.S. Air Force base 90 minutes away from Silver Birches where streets have names like New Mexico Drive and Florida Loop. It had to welcome 13 flights and about 1,200 people, increasing the local population by more than 10%. Gander, Newfoundland, with 10,00 residents and 550 hotel rooms had already recieved more than 30 planes and 6,500 passangers and could accommodate no more. St. John had about 30 flights. Other landed elsewhere in Canada.

Displaced Newfoundland passangers slept in churches and Diane Breen’s first-grade classroom, on army cots at the Lion’s hall and on pallets inside St. John’s new civic center. Bill Hooper, the mahor of Lewisporte and his wife, Thelma, played host to several people and served partridgeberry jam on toast for breakfast. Locals donated cribs, diapers and Pokemon games for young children, and after-shave lotion for men.

Bus drivers, on strike at the time, set down their picket signs to transport passangers. Townspeople organized hikes in the woods and trips to Bye the Bay Museum and to see whales migrate. One Delta flight attendant said when passangers finally got back on the planeto return home, it seemed as if they had been on a cruise together.

There were glitches. A group at one overcrowded school was bused to a camp that had no Internet access, only to be shuttled to a college when the camp’s water sustem broke down. When one group of Americans were told they had to return to Belgium, where their flight originated, they hired a lawyer and got an injunction so theycould return to the U.S. instead. Some pople had return flights delayed as many as 12 times.

But for many, the ordeal became an opportunity to make friends. A handful of new Web sites have sprung up, including “TheRefugeesofAirFranceFlight004” and the “GanderConnection.” An Italian passenger e-mails an American on a Continental Flight 45 site, asking whether he is safe from anthrax, while one of their Canadian hosts says the town is lonely since thy left. Groups are planning reunions. The home page of Gander’s municipal Web site has been updated to feature “Comments from Stranded Passengers,” with hundreds of letters.

Click on “UA929 in Gambo” and see, coutesy of a man named Monty who had his camera with him, footage of the Road to Gambo, a small town outside Gander and the Kwikway Store. There’s also a recording of “Waiting for a Plane,” a song recorded by a fellow passenger and folk singer: “Our plates are never emptyu, Lord, they’re feeding us again. A thousand miles away from home and waiting for a plane.” Craig Fisher, a consultant who works for a wireless communications company in England, began creating the Web site while sitting in a Salvation Army Church as a way from people to “hang together” after their stay in Gambo. It gets between 400 and 500 visits a day, among them postings of get-well wishes, reports from a flight attendant that she expected to be fired and then was, and news that one passenger’s much-awaited embryo transplant had failed and she planned to try.

Maj. Ross Bungay, the Salvation Army coordinator at Camp of the Silver Birches has a binder full of mail from Ms. Nemser and other passengers sitting in the coffee room of his small office in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland.

It was his biggest crisis in 25 years and he was proud of the Army and local community. “We’ve had brush firs, but nothing like this,” he says. A store owner donated new sheets valued at $3000. Tje cab;e company installed a dish outside the Craft Building, gratis, to supplement the news carried in the Humber Log, the daily newspaper. There’s a letter signed by all 156 passengers, thanking the Salvation Army and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who cooked and served scrambled eggs, bacon and toast one morning. Grateful parents, whose daughter was stranded there, wrote. When the major receives e-mails, he gathers his staff of officers, four secretaries and the maintenance mand, all of whom pitched in at the camp, in front of his computer to read them.

“We’ve been receiving mesanges as you would from a family away. It’s amazing how deeply our exchange went in such a short time,” Maj. Bungay wrote Ms. Nemser. Those on the plane spent 19 hours on the tarmac. “Usually I don’t have a clue who I sit by in an airplane,” says Jack Bush, who never knew anyone who worked with brain implants until he started talking to John Donaghue, executive director of the Brain Science Profram at Brown University. Mr. Bush, a manager of business research at EMD Pharmecuticals, in Durham, N.C. has been invited to fellow passengers’ North Carolina beach house and wants to plan a small reunion with others.

After their long stay on the tarmac, they were bussed to the camp. They couldn’t stray because they didn’t know when their plane would be leaving. There was some entertainment. The Sharecroppers, a trio of full-time teachers, part-time musicians, came by to sing about cod fishing and lumber, the two big local industries. A politician gave a speech and handed out pins and maps of Canada, which helped because many of them didn’t know where Newfoundland was.

Nor did thy know much about the Salvation Army, other than the group is responsible for ringing bells and manning kettles at Christmas. Ms. Nemser, who says she is not a religious person, feared days of preaching. There weren’t any. She ended up good friends with Frank Johnson, the chaplain who wore a blue tie and white shirt and stayed up all night in case someone needed to talk. He sent her a picture of a nine-year old girl missing from Calgary and asked her to pass it around. She exchanged notes with Slavation Armymember David Porter, who sells hardware at Crane Supply. he took a vacation day so he could stand in the front of Cabin 1, where she stayed, and greet arriving passengers and see if they neede anythign. His wife, Ada, worked in the kitchen.

Ms. Nemser says she wants to keep in touch because she wants to preserve the only good memories she has of Sept. 11.

Same with Thomas Werk, of EMD Pharmaceuticals. He was struck that, in spite of the circumstances, everyone was so gracious. Cellphones were passed around until their batteries died. They gave each other money to buy the Sharecropper’s CD. First-class passengers were sleeping on bunks usually reserved for Junior Soldiers and Senior Soldiers, exchanging suit coats for sweaters from the Salvation Army thrift store and trying to fit into undewear a size too small, donated by shops. People had to wait in line for more than two hours to make a five-minute phone call. The only complaint he heard involved snoring.

“It was a pretty unnerving situation. We realized that everything was totally out of our control, and that we were at the mercy of the Salvation Army and strangers,” says Mr. Werk. “They did everything for us. It really affirms your faith in humanity. No one wants to lose that.”

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