Saturday, September 11, 2021

September 11: When Israel Landed in Wichita

Wichita's Eisenhower National Airport
USA Today says it is one of the best airports in the nation.

When the F.A.A. made the decision to immediately ground every non-military flight on September 11, 40 passenger airliners and seven cargo flights landed in Wichita as it is a high-capacity airport with long runways. The interesting story is here

I wish to focus on one aspect of the story because it relates to some of the unfortunate division in our nation today. 
A small portion of the 47 planes that had to immediately
land in Wichita

One of the flights that landed in Wichita was Israel's EL AL Airlines' Flight #005 to Los Angeles. Most None of the passengers had never been to America's Heartland before, some had never been to the USA before, and some of them didn't speak English. According to news coverage, many of the passengers were afraid to land in Wichita because they were concerned the great people of our city would be anti-Semitic and/or would 'blame' Israel for September 11. They couldn't have been more wrong! 

Valerie Wise, Air Service Manager recalled, “I can remember one elderly Israeli lady who was frightened and in tears. She could not speak English and I felt badly for her. The rabbi from the local Jewish Federation had been contacted and came to the airport to interpret and provide assistance. Members of the Jewish Federation brought kosher food for them.”

The story of the day "Israel Came to Wichita" is told here. I have a friend who was involved in working with our visitors and the experience was wonderful for her as well as our guests.
Letter to the Editor of the Wichita Eagle

Two days after the attacks, most of the diverted airplanes were able to depart, including the EL AL flight. “The elderly lady who was frightened and in tears was all smiles and waving the American flag,” Wise said.

The point is this: the view of America's Heartland that is characterized by the New York Times or The Washington Post couldn't be more wrong. We are welcoming, open-minded, entrepreneurial people as the Australia tourism magazine also discovered. The latter's reporter was shocked to learn that virtually no one in Wichita or Oklahoma City (the two cities he visited) wore Trump hats. 

Perhaps the retelling of stories of that awful, terrible day might somehow rekindle memories of a better time and will promote unity in our nation.

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