It was an act of compassion that lifted the soul.
The Iraqi Army helicopter pilot had landed on Sinjar Mountain. Five minutes on the ground was what he’d stipulated; and just a handful of people could be allowed on board for the airlift out of mile-high hell.
Twenty minutes later and there were more than fifty of us crammed onto that old bird and she was struggling to lift off. The pilot had relented and allowed all of those who had rushed us to get on. The captain later told me that the helicopter has a recommended passenger capacity of 15. We were more than times three that.
One of the crew gestured with five fingers…..five people had to get off. The young men were the obvious choice and at least one was reluctantly ejected. A middle-aged man stood and stoically said farewell to his wife and children before walking down the ramp.
The weight difference was just enough and we lifted off the top of Mount Sinjar, a mile-high hell on which these people had survived for a week without much in the way of anything.
There’s a reason the mountain is uninhabited. It’s barren and boiling, there’s little in the way of shade or shelter and no food or water. The faces of the people on the helicopter told the story. Redemption was theirs and they cried and cried.
The Iraqi Army helicopter was codenamed Fox 1. This was the third journey to and from the mountain taken by the crew on Monday. It was one of two helicopters operating. Obviously they, on their own, can’t bring enough supplies up or transport enough people down.
Exactly how many Yazidis are left on the mountain nobody knows for sure, but it must run into the thousands.
There were fifty fewer thanks to the bravery of the crew of Fox 1 and the compassion of the skipper.
When we landed and the relieved Yazidis limped off onto the tarmac they sat down. The captain counted and took pictures. He couldn't quite believe what they’d managed.
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