Your Memoirs – “20 November 1974”

The cloud had smothered the savannah for weeks, selfishly holding onto its precious cargo. Our car slowed to avoid the bloated carcass of a cow, it’s juices seeping onto the dirt road. Nature was withholding the manna from above.    

‘Looks like there’s a hut on fire at the site’. The driver motioned to a black column curling into the grey. The flat landscape streaked our windows as we sped toward our work on the new airport site.  

We rose to meet a new road, a loose stone causeway cutting across the flat land. The normally deserted place was littered with vehicles; Land Rovers, station wagons and corrugated Citroens.   

We stood above the surrounding country locked into a crowd, workers from the site and local villagers. Ragged with bewildered eyes. I checked my footing on the jagged stones and caught sight of my flared jeans and boots among the bare legs and bloated feet around me. I’d been speaking, pondering what was happening, when my voice tailed off, words stifled in a sawdust throat. Below us lay a Jumbo Jet, its roof ripped open like a sardine tin. Its contents strewn for miles around; fuselage panels, newspapers and hand baggage. 

Blurred figures were leaving the wreck; one or two in uniform, some staggering and some helped by others.     

The grey light and the swirling smoke formed a screen before me. I saw a film in mono. Reality had gone; my brain could not accept the broken plane lying in the bush. So far away from its majestic life, silhouetted against the sun, or zipping along runways, I couldn’t comprehend it dropping from the sky and lying dead, it’s insides spewed over the familiar landscape.

Police in shorts with rifles called out for the road to be cleared, the ambulances and fire engines were trapped too far away. We returned to the car and carried on our commute in choked silence. 

A mile on two barefoot men were stashing cabin bags into a site hut, watches swung loose from their skinny wrists- Manna from above.

Submitted by Ken Tracy, 73, Orpington

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