'Coyote' Part 21 'leaving home'
From the Author
We're following the story of two friend of mine, two friends who had to flee for their lives back when Saddam Hussein was in charge of Iraq, they tried and failed the first time, but they never gave up, they never gave up hope.
Read on what happened next, when all seemed lost, their story really only just began.
They never heard them coming. One minute everything was quiet, the next the first pair of shapes appeared low over the town and banking sharply, they were the 'escorts’, two Apache attack helicopters, armed to the teeth and making sure the others wouldn't have a problem.
As soon as they came out of the maneuver they peeled off, going opposite directions, taking up covering positions.
Next came the Blackhawks, two of them, you didn't need to see inside to know they'd be full of troops, soldiers to secure the perimeter for the next.
The noise was deafening, everything seemed to vibrate with the power of the downwash with the last two, he looked up, not thirty feet above them were two enormous cylinders, rotors at opposite ends, moving in opposite directions, three sets of wheels forming the triangle that was the undercarriage, both machines heading for the compound.
“Sorry sir” the young Peshmerga stepped out in front of them as they made their way, they were going to say goodbye to friends. “The Americans are evacuating all those who worked for agencies” he carried on.
“We know” Samir replied, “we've just come to say goodbye to friends” he went to move past the barrier, a wooden plank across two oil drums, the Peshmerga gently stood in his way, “sorry, but I have my orders, no one past this point!”
The two big helicopters were a strange shape, instead of the usual large rotor disk they had two, one at the front and one at the back, moving in opposite directions they have a massive downdraft.
They came in low and fast, undercarriage already deployed, as soon as they were over the landing area the pilots flared the aircraft, kicking off a fine cloud of dust and gravel, the crowd were sprayed with it. Rear doors lowered as the wheels touched the earth.
The two Blackhawks left as soon as they'd delivered their charges, ten well armed soldiers, three teams of two started sprinting for various points around the perimeter, they were gun teams, there in case things turned 'pear shaped’, their job, ‘protect Big Bird’.
The other four began separating the civilians into small groups, ready for the quickest possible boarding, this may be a humanitarian mission, but they were taking no chances, and everything was geared to the shortest possible time on the ground.
As soon as they touched down, the ramps were down and one of the crew walked out, he came round the front of the aircraft and started taking charge, he was the 'loadmaster’
One signal from the 'loadmaster’ and the first group were brought to the aircraft, there were ten in each, led by a soldier who wasn’t always being gentle, they were literally bundled into the back of the craft where another was waiting to ‘strap them in’
While you're here.
Not the only 'evacuation' they've done
Here they come
"What have they let themselves in for?"
Within minutes a small crowd had gathered to watch what was going on, no one said a thing, it was as if all life had been drained out of them as they watched the people who’d worked tirelessly to try and rebuild the country get taken away, it was as if hope itself was leaving.
Sara stood there, silently watching as each group was led to the back of the helicopters, as soon as the last ones were aboard, the rear door started rising. The loadmaster was the last one back aboard as the rear closed up, then they were away, lifting about five feet off the ground before the pilots dipped the noses and heading straight for the Turkish border with one of the Apaches leading the way.
Minutes later the Blackhawks were back, the soldiers loaded and they were gone, last of all the remaining Apache headed off protecting the tail end of the airborne convoy.
“I wonder if they really know what they’re heading for?” she couldn’t help vocalising her question, she glanced a look at her husband, not totally sure what she expected to see, what she was was a look of total concentration, and a determination she hadn’t seen in his eyes, she reached out and gently squeezed his hand.
“Come on” he said, his eyes still looking at the spot where the last helicopter disappeared, “We’ve got a lot to do, we’re leaving with the dawn tomorrow!”
A beautiful sunrise
'On our way'
Zakho at dawn is a spectacular sight, with the sun just kissing the tops of the snow capped peaks in the eastern sky, the white of the snow giving way to the green further down the slopes, and eventually to the brown of the valley floor where temperatures were still reaching the high twenties centigrade. Another month and temperatures would plummet even in the valleys to well below freezing at night, in the high passes they were already there.
Samir had loaded everything into the Dodge the night before, they had enough fuel for the trip, along with ten extra five gallon jerry cans on the back, “Should get around a million lira in Turkey” people had told him, about thirty dollars US.
Turgut had also told him of a ‘friend’ in Turkey who was always looking for a good 4x4, “Doesn’t matter how old it is” he’d said, “Just as long as she goes, and I’ve already vouched for your workmanship, you should get a fair price for it!” all he had to do was get there.
“You ready for this?” he asked Sara as she came into the garage, she had little George in tow, they both looked scared, George was whimpering from not having enough sleep.
“Not really” she replied truthfully, “but do we have a choice?”
“At least this way” he tried hard to find a positive thing to say, “we get to choose where travel to!” they’d talked all through the day before about the trip Luka and the rest of the people were taking, about the sheer daunting task before them, heading for a country they didn’t know, using a language most of them couldn’t speak, (okay, Luka spoke pretty good English, so did Ashraf, but most of the others didn’t speak any English, and even Azeem struggled with the language, they didn’t want to go, but had no choice in the matter!) and dealing with foods they’d never eaten before, at least Samir was choosing where they wanted to end up.
“How far do you think it is?” Sara asked as they pulled out of the garage, there wasn’t a soul on the road. “To the border, that is?”
“In Kilometers, it’s not far” he replied as he eased the truck onto the road, “about fifty to the nearest checkpoint, but we’ll need to go a bit further east, maybe a hundred kilometers, the real issue is the time it’s going to take as the roads are pretty rough”
She didn’t like the sound of that, they were in a 4x4 that’s built to take any roads, if Samir was saying they were rough then what were they? But she chose not to say anything.
“They aren’t so much roads” he began again, “as farm tracks up the mountains, and in places maybe just donkey tracks, but hey” he stopped for a moment and looked over at her, she was white with worry, “We’ll make it this time, we really will Okay!” he tried to reassure her.
“How long will it take do you think though?” she asked the same question a different way.
“There’s a deserted village just this side of the crossing” he began, “If everything goes well, we should be there just before nightfall, it’s one the smugglers use, but they stopped their runs for the winter, we should be safe there for the night, and into Turkey tomorrow!”