September 11, 2001 started like a regular Tuesday but it didn’t end like one.
As news of the hijacked planes spread and the FAA closed North American airspace, all flights were instructed to land at their nearest airport. For London bound, Delta Flight 15, the closest strip was 400 miles behind them in Gander, a small town in Eastern Canada. Once safely on the ground the plane was joined by another 53 commercial airliners and told to sit until further instructions came. There was shock, anxiety and obvious horror amongst the 218 passengers as the news from the Twin Towers sank in; only worsened by authorities insisting the aircraft sit on the tarmac for 24 hours while arrangements were made. It would be 3 full days before airports reopened, so the passengers were moved to a small town 45 kilometers away called Lewisporte, Newfoundland.
The marooned travellers were adopted by the town’s residents like family. They were put up in the local high school and made as comfortable as possible. A young, pregnant passenger was taken in by a family in their private home opposite a medical facility to ensure she was comfortable. Local bakeries worked 24 hours a day to guarantee fresh bread was plentiful. The town conducted excursions hiking the local forests, and offering free boat tours of the nearby lakes. There were large social gatherings at night and home cooked meals prepared for the enjoyment of the stranded tourists.
So touched were the passengers of Delta 15 by the caring and hospitable residents they set up a Trust Fund for scholarships for high school students of the small town. The passenger’s donations were generous and were then matched by Delta Airlines, and as the story grew so did the deposits until over 1.5 million dollars was raised.
You have never heard of Lewisporte but 218 people will never forget the place. Amazing stories can be born out of horrible situations and your radio station has the power to truly affect people in need and the city around you.
Be generous when the situation arises, not for publicity but because you can.
When your brand speaks from the heart, it becomes human, tangible. It is then that the connection with your audience and the market you live in is it’s most authentic.
Billboards are great, TV ads are cool but philanthropy and seizing the moment to help a need in a truly altruistic way is much more powerful and memorable than any advertising campaign.