Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Touching Tale of Delta Flight 15 post 9/11

Rekha Shahani, Principal of Kamala Highschool, Mumbai, also a Trustee at Initiatives of Change,India, contributes the following heart touching account:

Since the story brings out the 'care' part so vividly, and it has an universal appeal, I thought this India I Care platform should present this story to inspire viewers for doing their bit in their parts of India.

Rekha writes --


 Although this was a long time ago, i had never read this story. And, it is so heartwarming, that I hope you are touched by it as much as I did.

 " Here is an amazing story from a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15, written following 9-11:

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 terra firma 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 World Trade Center 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 of 10,400 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 MATCH 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 travelers.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 laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft. In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.

 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.
 *This is one of those stories that need to be shared. Please do so...*
Much love 

Hope you all liked the story of human compassion, and gratitude.

D I L I P
for IIC 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Page Two...

...Expand It.

It is almost two years since I created, and have been using this process called 'Life's Balance Sheet' ( LBS for short) in most of my training programs with excellent results. Very briefly, the LBS process encourages you to look at your life as a company handed over to you by the Creator, and made you its CEO. And now you are constructing, for the first time, its balance sheet.

Here, the currency is happiness, and transactions are the interactions we have with ourselves, others, society, systems and environment. The purpose is to maximize  happiness (profits).

The LBS has to be constructed in 4 pages. Page One, and Page Two, show the assets , and the Page Three, and Page Four, reflect liabilities.

Life's Balance Sheet

I  encourage you to build  your LBS's Page One, and Page Two, right now, as you are reading this. So, get yourself a note pad and designate a blank page as 'Page One' ( You may also like to build your LBS on your computer).

Now, go down  your memory lane, and recall all those people in your life who have done some good to you, without any preconditions, your asking, or expectations. If you experience a sense of happiness, right now, merely by recalling them and the associated event/situation, then register them  on this 'Page One'  with brief descriptions. Affirm that the benefits you derived from their those deeds have remained your source of happiness till this day, and in some cases, your defining moments. Your life, as a company, is built on the capital of this happiness.

We come to the 'Page Two' now:

As you grew up, you too must have done some good to others without preconditions, their asking, or  your any overt or covert expectations... while these acts of yours must have given happiness to the beneficiaries, you must have felt some sense of happiness yourself too! These are the entries on your 'Page Two' Now spare some moments to recall such incidents and record them on Page Two.

Two aspects have come out very strongly, so far, from umpteen number of experiments that I have conducted  with several groups of trainees ( multinational, multicultural, and from belonging to the highest cadres in bureaucracy and corporate world to the grass root level functionaries) in India   using the LBS process.

One, that the lengths ( entries) of the 'Page Two' are found to be far too shorter (lesser) than that of the Page One! This observation is echoed every time by almost 70 to 80 percent experimenters.I would be very keen to know from you  your personal observation of comparison between your Page One and Page Two entries.

And two, that most of the experimenters, having found their page two too short, have now a desire to consciously  start doing 'good' to others without any overt or covert selfish expectations. This would now start adding regularly to their currency called happiness in their company called Life.

If I have succeeded in invoking your desire to start expanding your Page Two, congratulate yourself for being a conscientious World Citizen! I would be eager to hear from you your past and future stories of Page Two people and the related events.  

                                                                      *******

And now, in the second part of this post I have to make an appeal to you. Please take this opportunity to expand your Page Two. I did it by making a loan ( yes, it is a LOAN, and not a donation!) of Rs 2500/- for helping Yellavva Shinge and Group who are struggling to eke out an honorable living. Please read all about this here. 

And as I said it is a LOAN, it makes a very interesting proposition. Your timely intervention helps some one, and the person returns the money which becomes a credit in your account with Milaap, the innovative NGO spearheading this highly laudable project of rehabilitating 'Devadasis'( literally meaning the servants of Goddesses, but in reality, women at those temples being treated as sex workers) You can either redeem your loan amount, or rotate it as another loan for another worthy cause.

Here is a very illustrative video about the plight of these Devadassies-



I find that in less than 24 hours since I made my first loan, many loans came through and Yellavva and Group's target got met. There are people in this world who operate from the mind set of 'abundance'. I am hoping that you are one of them.

Click : http://milaap.org/campaigns/hope

You can make a difference. 

Thank You.

D I L I P  P A T E L
Member, India I Care


This post has been written for the Hope Project undertaken by Milaap on Indiblogger.