- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Lee Dickman
- Location of story:
- Klagenfurt, Austria
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 June 2005
LET THERE BE LIGHT.
Some God, somewhere, said “Let there again be light.” and there was light.
Searchlights swept magic wands from side to side, parachute flares, brilliant white, floated slowly down, star shells plucked bursts of flame out of the sky, Verey lights arced red, green and orange in pale glimmers near the horizon, tracers dropped red necklaces into the cupped hands of the night. Everybody threw anything that exploded into the sky in an outpouring of joy, of relief, of hope.
It was V-E day; the killing had stopped.
I walked slowly through the disappearing dark of the small Austrian town of Klagenfurt with my pipe and my thoughts; golden druggets of light spilled across my feet as black-out curtains swept aside, shutters burst open, street lights, one in five, sputtered, flickered, then burned strong.
There was light. It was V-E day; the killing had stopped.
What had happened in the five years from a seventeen-year-young’s volunteering at Union Grounds in Johannesburg to an accelerated adult’s watching light spill across his feet in Klagenfurt, a million miles away?
I remembered colleagues who had died next to me, the horror of falling bombs, the sullen surrender of a disillusioned German soldier. I remembered the comradeship, the satisfaction as a Bailey bridge nose-cone dropped on the far bank of another river, uniting another war-split community. I thanked that anonymous God for the smashed, broken factories that had come back to life under our hands in Castellamare and Terni; for the rifle I polished, but never fired in anger; for the hundreds of mines I was able to lift without ever laying one.
For the fact that I, however minutely, had helped, to cast aside the evil dark that had shrouded Europe for so long; for the privilege of being there when the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby broadcast to the world the opening by Brigadier Davey, Chief Eighth Army Engineer, of the Springbok bridge at Pontelagoscuro that we South African engineers had thrown across the wide Po river in a record-breaking ten days.
I thanked that anonymous God that I had not been called upon to take the life of any person, nor caused injury to anyone, in all that horrible time.
It was V-E day; the killing had stopped. I could go home.
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