Brighter than the Sun


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(Chapter 4: Operation Noah)


Operation Noah

Flying a rescue mission at the edge of a poisoned world. The chapter might also be called, Abraham failed, for the cause of it.

In the Sodom and Gomorrah allegory two cities were doomed by an impending, large, astrophysical event. Abraham was in a dialog with God about saving the cities. How many people would it take to avert the disaster? Would 50 people be enough, being fully alive with their humanity, as sentinels of universal love? Would those be enough to save the cities? Abraham had his doubts, though, that 50 could be found. But what about 20, or 10, or 5, or even just 1? Would one such person be enough? God agreed that it would suffice. Indeed, a single person intensely motivated with universal love would be enough to alert the people of the danger, thus to rouse themselves to flee to higher ground, thereby saving the cities, with the people being the cities. But this minimal one person did not exist in that society. Without love for one-another as human beings no one could hear the voice of God to have received the critical warning. In the allegory the cities died. The writer seems to suggest that there were no innocent victims among them. But what about nuclear war? Does the allegory still apply?

One wonders if those who would fly the rescue missions in the case of a small nuclear holocaust, would ask themselves if the tragedy could have been avoided, and wasn't, because too little had been done, including by themselves, to prevent it in the face of the 'writing on the wall' that everybody knew about? The question isn't mentioned, but it hangs in the air in the novel, Brighter than the Sun, though pushed into the background by the overwhelming need to go on living. Universal love becomes expressed in retrospect, which should have been expressed before the deed was done, but wasn't.

Of course, as the old saying goes, "hindsight is easier than foresight." But is this true? Is this true in the case of nuclear war that the whole of humanity knows must never happen, with the exception for a small clique of traitors who play the game and command it? This question needs to be answered now. We stand at the edge of the precipice. We stand there by our own choice of submission. The consequences are so utterly a human tragedy that the universal answer should be spontaneously, a resounding, "Never Again," backed up by the commitment to make it so. Instead, we stand as potential victims by choice.

The dialog presented here is of the 4th chapter of the novel, Brighter than the Sun, by Rolf Witzsche.



   "We are taking seven hundred to Calgary," Ken informed us as we entered the flight deck.

     "Seven hundred?" I repeated.

     "Yes," Ken confirmed. "The aircraft can haul 200,000 pounds. If we take no freight, no baggage, we can carry more than a thousand passengers, if we can squeeze them in."

     "Seven hundred... A thousand... It's all the same to me," I said to Ken as I climbed into the captain's seat. "If you feel that taking seven hundred is safe, it's all right with me."

     Actually the number startled me. In order to get seven hundred people on board they would have to be stacked like sardines. I was startled by the idea that this might be possible. By the same token my pathetic attitude towards this rescue venture startled me even more. I determined to pull myself together. "Let's take a thousand if you think we won't exceed the floor loading limits," I told Ken.

     Ken nodded, "OK skipper, a thousand it is!" Ken relayed the change through to the tower and to the boarding gate. After he conferred with Harry, he turned to me once more and added; "This may be the first flight of the largest airlift the world has ever seen."

     As I said this, I noticed Harry becoming interested in what Ken and I had to say.

     Ken told us that the Government of Canada had received offers of assistance from all over the world. "A thousand planes will be involved. Vancouver must be evacuated within ten hours, before the fallout becomes critical." He began to grin and almost whispered, "I hope you gentlemen don't mind that I volunteered our services."

     "That's quite all right, Ken," I said to him.

     It didn't seem important to me from this point on what happened to me. Besides, I couldn't get anyway from this plane anyway. With people streaming in, there would be no way open to get out. And if I did, where would I go?

     "We'll do this together," I said. I was fully prepared to go on flying until I dropped dead. That's as much as I cared about myself. I could understand Harry now. I told him so.

     Harry nodded in agreement about flying together.

     The tumult of loading passengers had started at this point. Someone with a loud voice directed the people to squeeze together. While this happened, I noticed that we were also taking on fuel. Ken was in control of everything. I was glad that one of us had a clear head still for the necessary administrative thinking. Harry was slowly coming around. I heard him telling Ken not to skimp on the fuel. "Give us a 20% buffer, even if that put us over the landing weight limit" he demanded.

     Wondering about how many people we would eventually take, I felt more and more satisfied that flying an airplane at this time, was the best thing anyone could do to devote the rest of his life to. I reasoned that our life probably wouldn't last long anyway once the nuclear conflict got into full swing.

     At this point my thoughts went back to Melanie and the children. I pictured them waiting for us, cheering among themselves as our giant aircraft approached in the distance, but only to see me pull the wheels up and never touch the runway, disappearing in the distance in a trail of black smoke while the broadcast started to tell its gruesome story. I couldn't get this scene out of my mind.

     I trained my thoughts onto Jennie. I had directed her to the spare seat behind me. It hurt that now the only person that I had left, which I felt very close to, seemed so far away. That tragedy had created yet one more barrier. I puzzled over this problem until I felt the plane moving again. Harry had the controls. I motioned him to carry on.

     "What is our flight number?" he asked, as he was about to call the tower.

     Ken didn't know.

     I shrugged my shoulders. "We certainly aren't United 023 anymore," I said. "United Airlines may have ceased to exist. Just tell them the 747 is ready," I said to Ken, "They'll understand."

     Harry nodded, and started to call.

     "Wait," I demanded, "I've got it! Tell them 'Operation Noah' is ready and requesting clearance for takeoff!"

     "Operation Noah?" Harry repeated. He made a face like a kid rejecting its porridge.

     "I like it!" Ken came to my rescue. "It has a ring to it. Let's stick with that."

     "Let's make it official," I added. I called the tower myself, and then switched the PA system on. "Friends, as your captain, let me welcome you to the first flight of Operation Noah. The flight that you are on marks the beginning of what will become the largest airlift in history. Some of you may have lost a great deal today, homes, friends, and family. What I personally have lost, cannot be measured. But I am alive, thank God, and so are you. To keep things that way, a thousand aircraft have been offered to Canada to evacuate every citizen of Vancouver and Victoria before the fallout reaches critical levels. This kind of commitment means only one thing, that the world is rooting for us, that we are held dear in the hearts of mankind at this hour." I turned the intercom off and leaned back.

     "That was a fine speech," Harry approved, as we became airborne.

     "A fine theory anyway," I added. "I needed to say something positive, something that would get myself out of the rut."

     "Well, did it work?"

     "Not quite, Harry. Not quite."

     "Maybe in time, it will."

     "Yes, maybe," I replied.

     "Anyway, your speech was perfectly timed," said Ken as we came through the overcast. The passengers now came face to face with the mushroom clouds.

     I left the flight deck to check on the passengers. As soon as I opened the door, it became obvious that Ken was mistaken about the seven hundred passengers he felt we could carry. We must have had far more than a thousand persons on board, many of them children. Every square-inch of floor space was occupied. People were standing in the aisles, in the galleys, wherever one could sit, crouch, or squat. Even the stairway was occupied. It was almost impossible to get down to the main cabins. The luggage racks, as far as I could tell, accommodated most of the children. I saw people climb over other people's seats to reach the toilets. Most people had someone sitting on their lap, and this in those cramped spaces. To my surprise, I noticed Jennie in the crowd holding a bag of diapers in her hand. She was helping a woman with three tiny babies. It felt good to see her somewhat happier again and occupied.

     The mood, in general, was one of despair, confusion, anger, hope, and gratitude, all mixed into one. I saw an old man who could not remember why he was there. He called for his wife, but no one answered. Some people cried while they looked out the window. Some swore at the Russians. In the rear cabin, most remarkably, undisturbed by the commotion, a group of youngsters were playing a card game. Maybe they have the best idea, I thought.

     The weather was perfect in Calgary. We encountered no storms, no crosswinds, and no overcast. It was a rare, perfect day! The landing was equally perfect, thank God. We seemed to be dangerously overloaded. I could hardly feel the wheels touch the runway, so gently did I get us down. While we taxied to the gate I stressed the need for a quick and orderly disembarking. The 'passengers' complied so well that the plane was empty before we had finished refueling. Five minutes later we were in the air again, going back.

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From the political and romantic fiction novel by Rolf A. F. Witzsche

Brighter than the Sun

Page 26
Chapter 4: Operation Noah

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