Monday, October 3, 2011

A few minutes at a deserted runway

The early morning air was still and silent and we coasted along the rough roads going to one of the island’s historic landmarks some weeks back. The day has just begun as we headed for one of the long deserted airstrips at the northernmost part of the island.
Photos by Raquel C. BagnolRubbing my sleep-deprived eyes and trying to fight off a wave of drowsiness, I fished out my camera from my sling bag and started clicking away, capturing landscape and views.
I’ve been to the North Field of Tinian several times before, but it was different this time because first, it was very early in the morning (which means practically midnight for a nocturnal being like me), and second, I was with a professional photographer who knew the place and had a deeper understanding about history than what our lenses could capture.
The sun was slowly making its way up the horizon when we glided smoothly into the Runway A (Able) as my companion Dirk Spennemann started capturing the neglected airstrip with his cameras from all angles. He was collecting photos for an upcoming exhibit about places  that played roles in World War II battles all over the Pacific.
The lonely airstrip constructed of crushed coral and asphalt stretched emptily before us, with weeds and bushes growing in several parts a silent testimony to its state of neglect.
I stood still for a few moments, closing my eyes against the glare of the sun and trying to imagine what the place looked like 66 years ago.
Runway Able was just one of the six airstrips the Seabees and Marines constructed in 1945. They named the four airstrips at the North Field ABCD for Able, Baker, Charlie and Dog. Runway Able is the extra-long runway which was used for the B-29 bomber Enola Gay that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
We didn’t go to the three other runways anymore as Dirk had more places on his list to check out and photograph. We drove out of the Runway Able and proceeded to another historical place nearby — the bomb pits where Japanese soldiers used to store their bombs and fuel.
Those few minutes we spent at Runway Able gave me a new perspective about a place many people on island may have taken for granted. It played a big role in  World War II.
A few minutes at a deserted runway | around-the-island.