Getting People Out at the End (8)

When I escaped during the fall of Saigon on 29 April 1975, I was in bad physical shape from sleep deprivation and lack of food. Though I didn’t know it at the time, my hearing was severely damaged from the shelling, and I was suffering from amoebic dysentery and pneumonia. More than once, I lost consciousness while flying out to the 7th Fleet on a helicopter and after I was aboard the Oklahoma City. Toward the end of Last of the Annamese, I described the hallucinations I experienced during those lapses:

Lights—little flecks of them, playful, zesty—swam and fluttered and hovered and vanished. They were stars on a black sky swimming over a black ocean. . . They smiled as they flew about, streaked themselves into lines and circles, then merged and disappeared. {Chuck] couldn’t hear them, but he knew they were singing sweet songs about breathing clean air. They told him to let go. He could grieve later, but now all he had to do was rest. No more searching. . . The last shred of awareness blanked out as if someone had switched off the sweet lights.

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