On September 11th, 2001, Delta flight #15, flying from Frankfurt to Atlanta, was diverted to Gander, NFLD. The pilots that US flight borders had been closed and that the military controlled the airspace. The flight landed in Gander at 12:30 NFLD time along with 52 other planes. For the next 3 days, the people of Gander, population 10,000 hosted an estimated 8,000 people that were in shock from the day’s tragic events.
Lewisporte, a town of fewer than 4,000, took in 800 of the passengers for three days until the planes could enter the United States.” No matter where we were, we had everything we needed. People brought towels and blankets from their homes, they brought home-made food. We slept on cots or mats from the local school’s gym, and there were boxes and boxes of deodorant, shampoo and razors were provided…anything we needed. At night, the ladies of the town would pick up used towels, take them home to wash them, and bring them back fresh the next day. It was incredible,” shared Shirley Brooks-Jones.
On the plane back to the United States, Brooks-Jones and other passengers were determined to find a way to thank their generous hosts and decided to start a scholarship fund. Before they landed, they collected $15,000 in pledges. Brooks-Jones contacted the Columbus Foundation to establish the fund, and she has been its No. 1 promoter ever since.
Memories and relationships were created that fateful week that will last a lifetime. Brookes-Jones has been back almost 20 times since then and was in Lewisporte for 10 days for interviews with NBC former news anchor, Tom Brokaw, for the story that was aired during the 2010 Olympics.
On September 6th Brookes-Jones will attend an event in Atlanta, hosted by the Canadaian Consulate and on September 7th travels to Lewisporte where she will stay with Bill & Thelma Hooper, who she considers her second family. Bill served as Lewisporte Mayor during 9/11.
Today, as we approach the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, the Lewisporte Area Flight 15 Scholarship Fund has presented 134 college scholarships and has grown to nearly $1.5 million.