Friendship from 9-11 tragedy

Danette Dooley
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Arizona couple planning return to Newfoundland and Labrador

Peggy and Leonard Kirschner stand in front of the legislature during a trip to Victoria, B.C. — Submitted photo

Peggy and Leonard Kirschner of Arizona will be in St. John’s on Sept. 11 to mark the 10th anniversary of al-Qaida terrorists’ attacks on the United States.

The Kirschners were among 3,000 passengers on 27 planes that were diverted to this province on Sept. 11, 2001.

Leonard is a retired physician and retired colonel and pilot with the U.S. air force.

During a telephone interview earlier this week, he recalled how the passengers were treated with compassion, concern and love when they were taken off the plane in St. John’s, having spent nine hours on the runway.

“It was a wonderful outpouring of the best of what people could do,” he said.

After clearing customs, the passengers were taken by bus to Mile One Centre where they were given food before being driven to the Hub on Merrymeeting Road. The facility for the physically challenged opened its doors to stranded passengers.

It’s at the Hub that the Kirschners met volunteer Nancy Puddicome who invited them to stay with her aunt and uncle, Cavell and Ashton Stanley in Kilbride.

A special friendship has developed between both families as a result of the horrific events known worldwide as 9-11.

This will be the Kirschners’ second trip to this province since the attacks.

In 2003, they spent a week touring Newfoundland and Labrador with the Stanleys.

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Leonard said he often thinks about how the world has changed as a result of the attacks on his home country.

It’s good that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks, “has finally found his resting place,” he said.

A frequent flyer, Leonard has seen many changes in airport security. It’s not unusual to see a sense of fear on travellers’ faces, he said.

“We have lost a lot of our naivety.… It’s a more dangerous and a scary world that we live in, Leonard said.”

He also speaks of the good things that have come from the horror. Things like his friendship with the Stanleys.

Leonard and Peggy have visited Cavell and Ashton’s son, daughter-in-law and grandchild in Florida. They’ll also meet up with them at the Hub on Sept. 11 when the facility hosts a get-together to mark the anniversary.

Peggy said she’s looking forward to seeing Cavell and Ashton and other familiar faces, including the Hub’s executive director Tom Badcock.

“And we hope to see Nancy, too. She was just so wonderful to us,” she said.

When contacted by phone on Tuesday, Cavell Stanley said many things have happened since 9-11. She’s kept in touch with the Kirschners and has told them about Nancy’s marriage to Steve Hodder. She’s hoping they’ll get to meet the couple’s children on this trip, she said.

Peggy said while she loves this province’s landscape, it’s the people that draw her to this place.

“I can’t explain the emotions you feel when you’re told you can’t land in your own country. But Newfoundland took us in and it was so wonderful.… I’m looking forward to reuniting with the people that were so kind to us,” she said.

Organizations: Al-Qaida

Geographic location: Arizona, U.S., Newfoundland and Labrador Merrymeeting Road Florida

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Recent comments

  • Diane and Ray Hanley
    September 03, 2011 - 21:04

    We know that Len and Peggy are sterling folks, and we know that St. John's is a wonderful place. God bless you all as you renew the bonds of friendship and help heal the sadness of the 911 anniversary.

  • Brad Lush
    September 03, 2011 - 17:55

    Welcome back Peggy and Leonard!

    • Risa and Bruce
      September 06, 2011 - 20:14

      What a great story!

  • MBC
    September 03, 2011 - 13:12

    As newfoundlanders it's just what we do for good people.

  • Sarah
    September 03, 2011 - 11:13

    I could be wrong, but I believe it was far more than 3000 people and 27 planes that landed in Newfoundland. Gander alone got about 7000.

    • Phil
      September 04, 2011 - 06:35

      There were 27 planes that landed in St. John's. I think Gander had around 35. I got called in to help park those planes that landed in St. John's on 9/11...certainly a day that I will never forget.

    • Gwen
      September 04, 2011 - 06:40

      You're absolutely right Sarah. A total of 37 planes with 6500 passengers landed in Gander alone, increasing Gander's population by 60%.

  • Leonard and Peggy Kirschner
    September 03, 2011 - 10:26

    Peggy and I are looking forward to returning to St. John's next week.

    • Melissa
      September 03, 2011 - 21:30

      What an amazing story!! Ashton and Cavell are so sweet and I was happy to see their names in the paper but not in the least bit surprised. I used to deliver the newspaper to them for years and that was more than 10 years ago. I always enjoyed having a chat with them and think of them often whenever I drive down their street on the way to my parents!! I hope you have another great trip here and meet more kind people....God Bless!!

    • Geordie King
      September 03, 2011 - 22:29

      This story illustrates the fact that even in the face of horrific tragedy, manmade or otherwise, there may and hopefully always will be acts of humanity which trump those of evil. I am an American fisherman who has visited "the rock" several times and have always found Newfoundlanders to be some of the most sincere, down to earth folks I've ever met. There were countless acts of humanity around the world in the wake of that event but none more honorable than those that you Newfoundalnders collectively displayed with open arms and hearts on the eve of that day. On this 10th anniversery of 9-11, I choose to not only remember those poor and unfortunate souls lost in that tragedy but also those such as yourselves that offer a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. Rock on Newfoundland!----