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.