The Sept. 11 flight from Denmark was supposed to be a routine homecoming for Shirley Brooks-Jones, but it turned into the start of a million-dollar scholarship fund, celebrating the youth of a small Canadian town.

The Sept. 11 flight from Denmark was supposed to be a routine homecoming for Shirley Brooks-Jones, but it turned into the start of a million-dollar scholarship fund, celebrating the youth of a small Canadian town.

Brooks-Jones, a Dublin resident and founder of the Lewisporte Area Flight 15 Scholarship Fund, will be the featured speaker on March 6 at the Bexley Public Library.

The Bexley Women's Club partnered with the library for the organization's first joint event, which is free and open to anyone, regardless of membership in the club.

Brooks-Jones will discuss how a return flight that was supposed to stop in Atlanta before heading home to Columbus, turned into a six-day stay in Canada and the start of a scholarship fund that has benefited 134 students so far.

On the morning of Sept. 11, Brooks-Jones said passengers aboard Delta flight 15 knew nothing of the terrorist attacks, and were told they were diverted to Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, Canada, because of a slight mechanical problem.

Once on the ground, Brooks-Jones and the 217 other passengers aboard Flight 15 would wait on the tarmac for 28 hours before being released into the tiny town of Lewisporte.

"We were on the plane sitting on the tarmac for 28 hours and the captain monitored the BBC while we were sitting on the plane and was trying to tell us whatever he could find out," Brooks-Jones said.

"I started passing the time by writing in a notebook about what we were being told, at what time, and the reaction of the passengers. By the time I got home six days later, I had a pretty good journal of what our experience was like."

Nearly 7,000 passengers and crew members from planes that were forced to land at Gander International soon flooded into the nearby towns and villages, in some cases doubling their populations.

School bus drivers, who were on strike at the time, came off the picket line to shuttle the travelers to homes, churches, social halls and anywhere else they could find shelter.

Brooks-Jones spent the next several days at a social hall that had been turned into a temporary shelter, sleeping on a mat on the floor and relying on the kindness of strangers for food and clothing.

Passengers were not allowed to take their checked luggage with them when they were finally released from their planes.

"There we were, just with the clothes on our back. I was one of the really lucky ones that day. Those people absolutely opened their homes, their arms, everything to us," Brooks-Jones said. "They started calling us the plane people."

After six days, Brooks-Jones and the other passengers aboard Flight 15 were allowed to finish their flight. Brooks-Jones asked the captain if she could address the plane.

Using the same notebook she had chronicled the events of Sept. 11 in, Brooks-Jones tore out paper, creating makeshift "pledge sheets."

By the time the plane full of weary travelers landed in Atlanta, passengers had pledged $15,000.

"It's something that if you had planned it, it couldn't have worked out any better," Brooks-Jones said.

Starting a scholarship fund would be a way to repay the community's kindness and help a generation of youth, many of whom were economically disadvantaged.

"We felt that we wouldn't be offending the dignity of the people who had helped us," Brooks-Jones said. "You'd like to think that whenever you're faced with something where you could be helpful, you would do it."

After returning home to central Ohio, the initial $15,000 raised by Brooks-Jones' fellow passengers was matched by an anonymous donor, and the scholarship fund was born. It is managed by the Columbus Foundation.

"We are so pleased to join with the library to make it possible for the Bexley community to hear Shirley Brooks-Jones. Her story is special to Bexley Women's Club because it connects to our club's mission of philanthropy and providing scholarships to deserving students," said club president Mary Acree.

Brooks-Jones returns to Lewisporte every spring to award scholarships, and marks the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks there as well.

She has been back 22 times in the last decade and said the community now feels like a second home.

"It's just absolutely been amazing," Brooks-Jones said. "On 9/11, it just seems like that's where I have to be."

Although it was a day of tragedy and pain, Brooks-Jones also credits those days spent on an unexpected detour as "the most beautiful experience I have ever had in my life."

"It makes the world feel like a much smaller place," Brooks-Jones said.

Brooks-Jones will speak at 7 p.m., directly following the Bexley Women's Club annual meeting. The event will be held in the library auditorium, 2411 E. Main St.