As I sit here in the parking lot, listening to rain pummeling the roof of my car while thunder and lightening compete for attention, I’m reminded of the tragic storm that struck one tiny British town exactly seventy-three years ago today.
The plane crash and disaster that ensued in Freckleton, Lancashire, was one of the greatest Allied tragedies of WW2. And at the time, Lily and Fred were both living within walking distance.
They never spoke of those memories with their children, so we cannot know for sure where they were or what they were doing at the time. But the following excerpt from my book brings to life the events as Lily and Fred might have experienced them on that terrible day in 1944…
Fred and Jerry were within sight of the café when coal-black clouds blotted out the sun, burying the village in eerie darkness. Moments later, the rain came like a tidal wave, washing in so suddenly that Fred was soaked before he could even think to run for shelter. Wet to the skin, he dodged over to the nearest roof overhang. Jerry crowded in beside him.
Gasping, Fred pressed himself against the wall and blinked away water that was running out of his hair in rivulets. Rain poured from above in a roaring torrent. Lighting flashed, ripping across the blackened sky like flaming daggers, and thunder shook the ground he stood on. Gusts of wind struck him hard enough to have knocked him flat if he hadn’t already been flattened against the rough plaster.
“Good grief!” he hollered into Jerry’s ear. “I guess it must have looked about like this when the Flood started!”
“What flood?” Jerry shouted back.
“The Flood.” he tried to yell louder than the storm. “You know, Noah’s Ark and the animals two-by-two?”
Jerry nodded, then pointed into the storm. “Look! You can’t even see the other side of the road anymore!”
It was true. Between the rain and the darkness, houses only a few yards away might as well have been imaginary. They were completely invisible.
“I hope none of the fellas are trying to fly in this!” Fred’s eyes automatically scanned the sky above, though he could see nothing but darkness.
“Yeah.” Jerry kept his head down, hat pulled low to ward off the rain. “I bet they canceled all the flights when they saw the storm coming though.”
Fred watched the storm another minute. Then shook Jerry’s shoulder. “Come on. Let’s make a run for the snack bar! This roof isn’t helping anyhow.”
And maybe Lily was in the café, waiting for him.
“What? Are you crazy?” Jerry shouted back at him. “You want to run through this storm? The wind will knock you clean over!”
“Aw come on. Let’s just try. I don’t want to keep standing out here getting soaked!” The Sad Sack was no more than twenty yards away, though he couldn’t make it out in the storm. They might as well try to get to it. At least it would be dry in there.
Jerry just looked at him and shook his head.
Alright then, he’d go alone.
Bracing himself, he ducked away from the building and tried to run. At first the wind smacked into him like a brick wall, nearly knocking the air out of his lungs. But a second later it changed directions and came from behind, pushing him up the street instead. Rain pelted down like there was no tomorrow. Lighting flashes gave him quick glimpses ahead, where he could just barely make out the café, windows lit up like it was night. Just a few more yards…
Another clap of thunder exploded in his ears, far louder than the rest had been. The ground vibrated under his feet. Lighting lit up the town like midday. And then, something made him turn around.
That’s when he saw it.
The plane came cartwheeling up the street like something out of a nightmare. A mindless steel monster, spitting sparks and fire and crashing to pieces everything in its path.
It was headed straight for him. Straight for the café. Straight for…
* * * * * *
Lily and Mary stood at the window with their teacups, watching the storm. There wasn’t really anything to see, exactly, except when the lightening flashed. With the lamp now lit in the room behind them, they were mostly just staring into darkness, but the power of the storm drew them to the window, nonetheless.
Lily wondered if Freddie was standing at one of the café windows, watching as well.
“I don’t know what you both keep staring out there for. There’s nothing to see. It’s black as pitch.” Mary’s mother commented from where she sat, knitting at the table.
Lily opened her mouth to reply, but the words died on her lips. For suddenly, there was something to see. As the house trembled in another terrible crash, the whole town was suddenly illuminated in a ball of fire that seemed to have come from nowhere, casting the nearby houses into dark silhouette.
Kirk bolted to his feet as if he’d been struck by lightening. For a moment he stood, transfixed, the hair along the scruff of his neck standing straight up on end. Then he gave a terrible yowl and hurled himself at the door.
“What is that?” Lily gasped, pressing her face to the window-glass and peering at the sudden fiery blaze out in the darkness. “Something is on fire! Mary, isn’t that….isn’t that the school???”
Mary’s teacup shattered into splinters on the floor.
Stay tuned! I’ll be releasing another excerpt next week on Lily and Fred’s 70th anniversary. Plus, I’ll also be making an exciting announcement about the book!!
Did you enjoy this sneak peek? Any questions, comments, or suggestions? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or get in touch with me through my contact page.