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Pilot Beverley Bass recalls story of 9/11

Pilot Beverley Bass, September. 11, 2001 began “as an incredibly beautiful day” at Paris. She was sluggishly transporting 158 passengers at 35,000 meters above Atlantic Ocean with her feet set on the stripe of the American Airlines Boeing 777 when she received the news that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

The alarm turned to concern within 20 minutes after another tower got struck and then the term “terrorism.”

“Things changed during that time, clearly in our cockpits,” Bass said.

U.S. airspace was immediately closed , and 38 commercial pilots were instructed to take off from the tiny Canadian city in Gander on the small island called Newfoundland to avoid the chaos.

Bass knew that if all the planes had been instructed to stop here, it could indicate one thing: there was an emergency brewing in someplace. After just 3 hours the small town, which was a remote aviation hub, was joined by 7,000 people who were forced to travel. They needed to be housed, clothed and fed over the following five days. The next incident became the basis of”Come From Away,” the winner of the Tony Awards “Come From Away” musical Bass insists is not the true story of 9/11. It’s the story of 9/12.

“It is an occasion to celebrate the very greatest human beings,” she said.

Bass is the 37th pilot of 38 to arrive at Gander 8 hours after leaving Paris heading to Dallas. There was no way to be let off the plane for 19 hours as there was no space for the passengers to leave. Since cell phones weren’t yet widely used, no one was aware of what was going on within New York. Many, Bass said, assumed that World War III had broken out.

“I am still able to remember entering the terminal, and then being awed by the rows of dining tables,” Bass said. “The Gander people had been up all night making food. It was amazing.”

The relief effort that was spontaneously organized was known as Operation Yellow Ribbon. Since passengers were not permitted access to their baggage, Gander residents brought diapers and baby formula to the airport. They filled out 2,000 prescriptions. They also brought insulin needles as well as any other items they believed might be required. The local stores have cleared their shelves but without taking inventory. Gander is an area that has just 500 rooms in motels, which is why residents took strangers to their homes for showers. One local veterinarian was in responsibility for feeding animals who were locked in cargo hold of an airplane.

Bass who is now aged 70, and now retired set the record by becoming the very first captain female on American Airlines in October 1986 when she was just 34 years old. In the following month, she commanded the first female-only group in history of commercial jet aviation on a trip between Washington, D.C. to Dallas. However, she doesn’t consider herself to be a pioneer. She sees herself as an air pilot.

Bass has heard “Come From Away” in concert at more than 100 times.

“It is such a joyful production,” she said. “It’s an event that would not be possible without the events of 9/11. However, it’s really about the generosity and kindness that was shown to us as we were able to enter the lovely city of Gander.”

Bass doesn’t consider herself as a religious person, however she does consider Gander is a sacred location. Her husband, Tom have visited the place five times and thought about moving there when they attended a huge 10-year reunion in the year 2011.

In that instant, Bass was nearly halfway across the Atlantic traveling from Paris up to DFW on the day of the 9/11 attacks when the aircraft in front on the American Airlines Boeing 777 radioed something about a plane landing at the World Trade Center.

She claims she and her first officer began to discuss the issue while eating lunch and were mainly thinking about what we did in the beginning. What could happen if an airplane crashes the tower?

As the events unfolded, Bass was still actually just a few hours from interaction with the air traffic control. In essence, he was flying blindly to the next thing that was to come.

Even after hearing a radio message from a different pilot regarding a plane entering it, Bass said, “We aren’t aware that planes were hijacked, we don’t even know that the pilots had their throats cut with box cutters. We don’t think they’ve taken control of the plane We don’t have the details of any of these incidents.”

As the airspace in U.S. begins to shut down, Bass finally comes in radio contact with controllers in Gander Newfoundland. The usual place where trans-North Atlantic aircraft begin to speak with controllers.

The moment, however, was to be the first time in her career as a pilot, where she was given the order to be able to land.

Still not up to date on everything happening, Bass said, “We arrived, we were stopped and Canadian officials arrived on the plane and told us that we’re not leaving until the next day,’ and we were actually landing at 10:30 in the early morning of the 11th of September.”

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