Sharing a 9/11 story of kindness, humanity

One man shares his story when his plane was diverted to a Canadian airport to clear U.S. airspace on Sept. 11.

SILVER SPRING, MD (WUSA9) - Sunday marks 15 years since the deadly September 11 attacks. For one Silver Spring man, his memories of that day are not of violence and grief, but of love and humanity.

Vince Kensil shared his story. He said it’s more of what we need today.

“I remember when I got to the doorway and I looked out, it was jumbo jet, jumbo jet, jumbo jet, wing-tip to wing-tip, scattered like toys all, as far as you could see,” the 74-year-old Kensil said.

He was stranded in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada.

Canada, in an effort to help clear airspace, had opened their airports to U.S. flights after planes struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was called Operation Yellow Ribbon. 

During Operation Yellow Ribbon, it was reported that Canada diverted more than 200 flights to about 17 different airports across the country.

Along with the Italian leather jackets he purchased, Kensil said he was on his way home to Silver Spring, Maryland, from Italy when the pilot announced that Dulles International Airport had been shut down.

“By now we had heard that there was some kind of bombing,” he said. “But we didn’t know what that meant.”

While concerned, Kensil said he never really felt afraid because strangers made him feel welcomed.

“We were dropped on a country, unannounced, in a city not equipped to handle surprises like this,” he said. “This was a city of three little motels, LITTLE motels, Bates-style motels, and yet they went way out of their way but to not only welcome us, but to treat us like royalty.”

Kensil said the neighbors cooked for passengers and fed the thousands stranded at a brand new hockey arena that hadn’t opened yet. 

As they walked to the store, people offered rides.

“They would ask us, ‘Are you the plane people?’” Kensil said.

The Vietnam Veteran spent two days in the small town of St. John’s before having to flying Brussels, Belgium, where again he described people opening their arms and doors without question.

A world-traveler, Kensil said he never went back to St. John’s, Newfoundland, or Brussels, Belgium, at least not physically. Mentally, Kensil said he visits that experience now more than ever and wants to share his story as the country moves through what he calls “a polarizing presidential election.”

“Today, there’s a lot of rejection of this reaching out. I’m not sure why. I mean, we have so much here and it’s nothing to reach out a little bit. And, you know, people are terribly afraid,” Kensil said.

“You know, they can do it temporarily, but people need help when they’re stuck," he said. "And whether it be the explosion that happened here in Silver Spring, those people, or it be people from another country who are in dire straits.”


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