Plans to return to the United States on September 11, 2001: How the Jordans ended up in Gander, Newfoundland

We Remember

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — For many, September 11, 2001 started out as a regular day. Many were on their way in to work, dropping their children off at school, or simply starting their everyday morning routine.

“Anyone who was alive on 9/11, I mean, you’ll never forget where you were and what you were doing,” said Amarillo resident, Liz Jordan Mozola.

Twenty years ago, Liz and her late husband, Phil Jordan, were preparing to return home to the United States after a ten-day vacation in Ireland.

Liz recalled that Tuesday morning initially being “flat, not eventful.” She explained, “We had flown into the Shannon airport and then we flew out of Dublin. So we were just excited. We were excited to go home.”

Nothing seemed unusual or out of the ordinary about the trip until the couple and their peers were in the air, midflight.

“We didn’t have a clue until the pilot came on and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we had- U.S. Airspace has been closed, and we are being diverted.” With Liz’s late husband being a private pilot, this news came as a major shock. She recalled Phil saying, “‘Did they say they closed U.S. Airspace?’ and we were going ‘yeah.’ He said, ‘That can’t be. They’ve never closed U.S. Airspace, even during Pearl Harbor. None. No times.'”

Even with this alarming announcement by the plane’s pilot, still nobody on board knew of the tragic events that had taken place back home in the U.S. However, some passengers were finally able to regain cell service as the flight was being rerouted.

“First they thought we were going to Nova Scotia, but then that airport was full. So they took us to Gander, Newfoundland.”

With so much remaining unknown, the passengers were not allowed to leave the plane immediately. In fact, not for hours. “We sat on the runway for twelve hours, because they had to check everybody’s.. had to make sure that, you know, there weren’t bombs on the plane,” said Liz.

Little did the passengers on the Jordans’ flight know that they were only one of over thirty planes that would be redirected to and take refuge in Gander, Newfoundland.

“Gander is- the runway is extremely long, because they would land planes there during World War Two to refuel before they went on to Europe. So they were capable of you know, handling a lot of planes,” said Liz.

This stop allowed passengers a huge relief.

Looking back on that day, Liz stated, “I remember sitting there with our blankets, and just watching the TV showing that the towers going down, you know, over and over, and then the Pentagon.. and the plane before it got to the Pentagon. And it was it was very surreal.”

The passengers on the Jordan’s flight remained in Gander for three days. During that time, Liz recalled meeting the kindest, most selfless people. “We got there and all these- it was like two in the morning, and all these sweet little ladies had made soup for us and they had blankets for us.”

Following the three days in Newfoundland, the group was returned to Dublin. After spending the night there, the Jordan’s were flown back to New York to LaGuardia. “It was such a surreal- you know, there were guys with machine gun- military with machine guns. They were doing everything by paper. They had no, no electrical way of doing that,” said Liz.

At last, from New York the Jordan’s were able to eventually fly to Dallas and from there, they were able to return home.

“It was an adventure. A sad adventure.”

Looking back now, twenty years later, there are two things that Liz vividly remembers from the experience.

The kindness that was shown by the people of Gander, Newfoundland to complete strangers and a couple that Liz and Phil met on their flight.

“One couple- I’ll always remember.. because they were going to see their son who was a fireman. They were so proud of that. And then, you know, he was one that didn’t make it.”

Twenty years later and just about anyone can recall where they were the day, “the world stopped turning.”

Since then, many stories similar to the Jordans’ have been shared, including from the perspectives of the people of Gander.

In 2003, the book “The Day the World Came to Town” by Jim Defede was published. Additionally, the musical, “Come From Away!” was inspired by these events.

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