Blink

Goosevia Daily Prompt: Blink

I was sitting with my mother this past summer during an early evening in June.  My husband was discussing some of the finer points of the agenda for the 75-year Commemoration of the bombing of Dutch Harbor and the evacuation of the Unangan people.  Events were to include a memorial ceremony, historical presentations, personal stories, many luncheons and dinners, and flyovers by historical aircraft.  The commemoration of a little-recognized part of history is significant and educational not only for those connected to World War II in the Aleutians, but for a much broader international public.  My mother, who was 87 1/2 in June, had been 12 years old when the events of WWII enveloped the islands that she called home and changed her life forever.

On the morning of June 3, 1942 and continuing June 4, Japanese planes rained bombs on her home town of Unalaska and the Navy and Army infrastructure that had been constructed for the protection of Alaska and the lower 48 states.  Within a month, her family was split apart as older siblings joined the military or, in the case of her two older sisters who had married servicemen, were evacuated to their husbands’ families in the lower 48.  She, three of her siblings and her mother were forcibly evacuated to an abandoned fish cannery in Southeast Alaska.  Her father, not being native, was not allowed to accompany them.  They were not allowed to return to their home until late in 1945.  Although the war ended, and things were supposed to return to normal, nothing was ever normal again.  Families were smaller, having suffered the loss of 10 percent of their population in the detention camp.  Economies were changed as industries that had been in place prior to the war had disappeared.  Many Unangan homes had been ransacked by the military personnel and were unfit for habitation.  The trust that they had in their government was badly damaged.  My mother’s family was never, ever all together again after July of 1942.

So, a 75th year commemoration was a pretty important event in the life of my mother.  It would mark a time when she knew that it most likely would be the last time she would see any of her friends who might come back for the commemoration.  Only a handful of original evacuees remain living in Unalaska, so she was looking forward to seeing her now distant friends.

As she sat in the living room of the home in which she grew up, a drone of engines, starting out faintly, grew louder and louder, soon passing directly over the house.  She turned toward us and in a surprised voice said, “The Japanese.”  In the blink of an eye, with the sound of the plane engines, she was transported back to what was, most certainly, a hellish part of her life.

 

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

~

~

This is what I am hoping for on Sunday morning.  Clear blue skies with just enough of a breeze to give an airplane good lift so that our luggage will not be left behind due to weight and balance.  I am taking off for about two weeks.  Going to brave the frantic pace of the lower 48.  Crowded airports,  milling crowds….traffic.  I also will get to see my sisters, so that, in itself, makes it all worthwhile.  I’m packed.  A novelty for me as I usually am packing the morning of my flight….that must be where my daughter learned the habit.

That is an airplane in the photo, by the way,  on final approach.  Not a bird.  It is a Saab turbo prop with 30 seats.  Typically it takes about 3 hours to Anchorage where we will switch to a jet.  We can hope for a tailwind, in which case we may make it in 2 hours and 40 minutes or so.  If it is a rocking and rolling takeoff, I’m at least hoping that I will be granted a tailwind aloft.

I’ll be checking out all your blogs while I am gone, but am only taking my Kindle Fire, so no posts for me.  I guess you can say I will be on vacation.

The angst of flying.

Flying in and out of Unalaska causes much angst.  Mountains.  Bering Sea.  Birthplace of the winds.  3905 foot runway.  Grown men crying.  Grown men who fish out in the dangerous Bering Sea crying.  You get the picture.  Everyone has a story…or 20 stories to tell of incredible flights in or out of “Dutch”.  The sad issue is that it is just as angst-ridden for those on the ground waiting for loved ones to depart or land.  You either have to be really hard up for money (60%) or love it like you’ve never loved a place before (25%),  or be totally indifferent to your environment (15%) to live here and suffer the angst.

Case in point.  SP’s Mom flew out yesterday.  At our little airport there were 5 Saabs on the ground, a KingAir, and 2 Dash8s.  That’s a lot of propellers.  Jockeying for position on icy ramps.  All completely safe…except in the eyes of an 11 year old boy seeing his mother off.  There was a stiff little breeze, probably 15-20 knots out of the northwest.  Visibility was great when we got there.  Then, the airline, for whatever reason, decided that the passenger plane, which was set to depart at 10:00 am, was not as important as all of the freighters.  So we waited.  And waited.  By the time SP’s mom got on the plane  ( which was about as far away from the terminal as was possible without being off the tarmac), this is what had happened to the weather.

Aleutian flying weather.

Aleutian flying weather.

As you can see, you can’t even see the end of the runway.  So, even though SP and I had to get home to finish making macaroni salad for a potluck we were to attend at noon, we waited.  He just didn’t want to leave his mom in the hands of the ‘idiots’, I believe was his phrase.  (Angst causes you to think badly of people and to blame them for things that are not in their control, lol.)

Angst.

Angst.

Then when the weather started to lighten and brighten up, they decided to de-ice the plane, even though not a single one of the other 5 planes that had just taken off within the past 1/2 hour had been de-iced.  And they couldn’t get the de-icing machine to start.  At 11:22, having been at the airport for 2 hours, SP and I decided we could wait no longer.  We had to get that salad made.  We reluctantly departed the airport without having witnessed the plane taking off safely.  This is just not something we EVER do.  Thank goodness the crazy, hilarious, mad-cap antics of getting the salad finished took away our angst.