I was very young - but I remember as if it were yesterday.
Death is something people dont think about until a loved one is taken away. Then, all its horror, all its mystery rushes to mind. But for someone who has lived to see the hand of death come toward them not just once but three times - the thought of death is much more real, much more vital to their everyday life. David McCallum is such a person. He has had three narrow escapes from death and has lived to talk about them. The horror is still very real to him; it is proven by the fact that although they all took place during his early childhood, David remembers each and every escape as if it had happened only last week, last night, this morning.
David was just seven when World War II was at its height. The Nazis had overrun most of Europe and Britain was the one country that was effectively stopping Hitlers dream of world conquest. So it was that day after day the Luftwaffe rained hate on innocent British children. David was one of them. Many, many times he had heard the air-raid siren, the screech of the bombs, the ear-shattering explosions. But always they had been a safe distance away. Yet a strange noise woke him on this particular night. It wasnt like the other noises hed heard - this one was different. It sounded as if it were coming from the next room. Young as he was, David knew something was going to happen. I jumped out of my bed, he recalls, and ran into my parents room. And just as the explosion came, I was in my mothers bed, my arms around her neck as tightly as I could put them. Sometimes now I wonder why I didnt strangle her. The room shook, the house shook, the street shook. Then it was deadly quiet. The next morning when everyone went out to survey the street, it almost was not there. Our house was still standing, but it was about the only one.
It wasnt too long after the narrow escape that Mr. and Mrs. McCallum decided to send David and his older brother Iain to Scotland. They didnt return to London until 1944. By then, with America in the war, the tide was beginning to turn. The Germans were beaten. Gradually, there were fewer and fewer bombings, the sirens did not sound as often as before. And though the war was still going in full force on the Continent, the raids on London had lessened. And because of it, David was allowed to go off to play wherever he could find a playground or park. As he played one day, A plane flew over the park, he remembers, but I paid no attention to it, there had been no raid siren, no warning at all. Suddenly a man came running toward me yelling, Get down, lie down, its a buzz bomb. It exploded less than twenty feet from where we were. Glass, dirt and bricks went flying all around. Some of the glass hit me. When the man saw that I had been hurt, that my hands were bleeding, he tried to help me - but I ran home - making it in record time. When the blood was washed off, the wound was not serious - it healed in no time, but the awful memory is still there.
Eventually, old and young alike, Britons learned that there was absolutely no sense in running when you heard a bomb. There was no point in it because there was no way of predicting where it would fall. David knew this as well as he knew his own name. He was extra-positive about it the day he had his third escape from death. He tells it this way: Some friends and I were walking home from school one day, and taking our time about it. We had all heard about the V2 rockets the Nazis had been sending, but we had never actually seen one. Suddenly, there was one coming at us. I had long since learned that there was nothing to do but stand exactly where you were because the blasted things were unpredictable. If you ran, you had just as much of a chance to run into it as you did if you stayed put. So I stayed put. I just stood there in the middle of the street hoping and praying that it wouldnt hit me, that it would veer off and hit some open area or something. It didnt hit me, of course, but it didnt hit an open area, either. It landed smack in the middle of a street - or what would have been a street had it not been for the V2. It wiped out the whole block - one rocket. One moment there had been houses and trees and people and life. The next, there was nothing - nothing but bricks and rubble and holes, smoke, black fire and death. It was one of the most horrible things Ive ever seen in my life. If shall never forget it. Its been a bit over twenty years and I have not forgotten it. There are many other people who have had much more horrible war experiences than I have. It must be a terrible thing to live with - just terrible. I hope my children - all children everywhere - never have to go through the terrifying horrors of another war.
God is one subject that David is loathe to talk about. All he will say is that his approach to God is a subjective one. He feels his religion is part and parcel of his private life, a personal thing to be kept within himself. Sometimes those who feel deeply about a subject, talk little about it. But David feels that hes mighty lucky to have survived his young years, to have grown up to be healthy, wealthy and wise. And when he speaks of all the good things that have come to him, there is the unmistakable feeling that deep in his heart - whether hell admit it or not - its due to something much bigger than just luck.