Nfld. & Labrador

Special scholarships for Lewisporte students a lasting legacy of 9/11 attacks

An academic scholarship program that was established in Lewisporte following the community's heartwarming response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks continues to touch lives.

Stranded passengers stayed at their school 15years ago

The first recipients of the Flight 15 scholarship were members of the 2002 graduating class at Lewisporte Collegiate. The scholarship was established by Delta Airlines passengers stranded in the community following the September 2001 terrorist attachs in the United States. Passenger Shirley Brooks-Jones (front row, far right) returned to Lewisporte to award the scholarships. (Angela Wilmott)

An academic scholarship program established in Lewisporte following the community's heartwarming response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks continues to touch lives.

Substitute teacher Jennifer Curlew is one of them.

"It's kind of impacted me as a teacher," Curlew said.

Bewildered passengers treated with kindness

Lewisporte was one of a number of communities that opened its doors — and their hearts — to stranded airline passengers following a series of terrorist attacks in the U.S., including the massive towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

Dozens of airliners were redirected to the airport in Gander after the airspace was closed in response to the attacks.

As a result, thousands of bewildered passengers were thrown into turmoil. 

But it was only temporary, and the welcome they received in Newfoundland and Labrador communities has become known worldwide.

Leaving a legacy through education

One of those planes was Delta Airlines Flight 15, which was travelling from Germany to Atlanta, Ga.

Its passengers were among the 800 people bused to Lewisporte for a three-day stay in local public buildings, including Lewisporte Collegiate.

They were so moved by the welcome, they wanted to leave something behind to thank the community.

It came in the form of a scholarship fund, with $15,000 raised in no time. The first scholarships were awarded in 2002 to graduates with an average of 85 per cent or higher over their three years of high school.

The fund is now worth more than $1.5-million, and 28 students —a third of the 2015-16 graduating class — qualified to receive it.

Among those first recipients were Curlew, and classmate Monique Eveleigh

Today, Eveleigh is a new mom and works as a pharmacist in her hometown. 

She says it's no coincidence that some of those first scholarship winners returned to the Lewisporte area to live and work after their post-secondary education.

"I've lived a lot of other places. My family moved around quite a bit. But there's always been something about this area that's drawn me to it," Eveleigh said.

Scholarship recipients proud of their community

As for Curlew, she remains especially connected to the scholarship because of her work as an educator in the town.

"I'm in the high school teaching quite frequently, and they actually still have the framed portrait of the first recipients enlarged and on their wall, and it's something they're quite proud of. And, it opens doors as a way of talking to the students about what happened.

"For us, it's part of our history, but the Grade 10s were actually born that year. So, when I'm talking to them now, it's an insignificant event in their lives, that becomes significant when they see the picture and say, 'Hey, miss, you're on that picture!' And to be able to talk to them about it and be part of that history means a lot."

Curlew is very proud of her community for the response to such a tragedy.

"It (9/11) gave me such a proud sense of my community. It made me very happy to be part of it and to be able to help those people. How everyone came together was so amazing at that time. It sticks with you."