THE LONG NIGHT
The Mitchell family had worked their coal mine since 1897. Great-grandfather Mitchell bought a large hill on which he planned to establish an apple orchard. However, a week of heavy rain resulted in a mud slide that changed his plan.
The mud slide revealed a large vein of coal. At first, he dug the coal for his own use, later he began to sell it to others.
Mining the exposed vein initially created a large cavernous opening in the side of the hill. As he dug deeper into the hillside, the coal vein got smaller, but remained about six feet-high and eight feet-wide sloping deep into the ground. Deep below the coal seemed to run in several directions.
Great-grandfather Mitchell owned his hill, but it was not enough property to justify the large investment necessary for a large mining operation. Large coal companies were formed and owned property surrounding his hill. He could have sold out to these companies and pocketed a large profit. However, he decided to keep his mine operation small and provide employment for himself and his family.
SUNDAY – DAY 1
Bob Mitchell, a man in his mid-50’s, was standing alone in the coal mine office. He began to move his hand along the bottom tunnels of a drawing, illustrating the interior of his mine.
He was mildly startled when his wife, Mable, entered the office. His wife, an attractive woman also in her 50’s, walked up beside Bob, looked at the drawing and placed her arms around his waist.
“You can be proud, Bob, you have kept the mine going when bigger operations have been in real trouble.” Bob replied, “I don’t know how much longer family coal mining will survive, but as long as the boys want to work it, I’ll do my best to keep it going.”
Mable gave him a squeeze and together they walked down the hillside to their home. Inside, their two daughters, Helen and Ruth, set the Sunday dinner table. In the den their husbands and two grandchildren were talking and watching a ballgame.
After a considerable discussion, the family quits the ballgame and begins dinner. The main topic of conversation was Helen and Mike’s upcoming vacation. They would leave right after dinner, for two weeks in Beach City.
When the ballgame was over, Bob tuned into a local TV news program. The news anchor, listed several items of local significance. He concluded with the fact that occasional communications problems may continue. For several days, some radio and TV signal disruption had been blamed on sunspots. Scientists now predicted the cycle of sunspots should peak over the next several days. The news also had film showing small blue-black areas appearing then disappearing on the sun’s surface.
MONDAY – DAY 2
The next day was a normal workday at the mine. Ruth’s husband, Jack, and three mine employees were working below. Mable and Bob were working in the office.
They had the radio on. The sunspot cycle dominated the news. Mable commented, “It kind of scares me.” Bob walked onto the office porch and takes a quick glance at the sun. “Mable, I believe you can see the spots. I’ll bet they didn’t expect them to be this big.”
At that instant, the sunshine perceptibly diminished. As Bob and Mable quickly look at the sun, a black band appears to grow around the center of the sun.
“Oh my God!”, Bob said for both of them. “Bob, what’s happening!”, Mable whispered as tears began to run down her cheeks.
As they look down at their home and the road below, the sunlight has taken on a shade of orange. On the road, a car had stopped and the driver has gotten out for a look at the sun. He quickly gets back in the car and races off.
Bob, phones below and tells Jack to get the men out of the mine. A few minutes later, Jack and the three miners walk out of cavernous opening in the hillside. All pause to look at the sun, then quickly move toward the office. Before reaching the office, one man breaks and races to his car and with tires spinning, drives away.
Bob sends the men and Jack home to their families. He and Mable also go home to watch the news.
A national news anchor interrupts, “On The Street Interview” with a notification that The White House is going to make an announcement. The scene switched to The White House’s newsroom.
The President has been assured by the National Observatory, that the sunspots were a passing phenomenon. The band of sunspots around the sun was expected to disperse within hours.
Reporters bombarded the Public Affairs Officer with questions like, “What caused it?” They replied, “We don’t know, but we’re looking into it.”
One reporter informed the PAO that a Professor Silversmith at University of California, reports that it is impossible to say when the spots could disperse. He also said that he thinks it could get even worse.
After a long quiet pause, the PAO state that talk of this nature was counterproductive. None of us should contribute to public apprehension. The reporter commented, “Does that mean only good news?”
Late in the evening, Mable fixed some sandwiches. They and most of the world had been watching the news all day. The national news anchor was discussing street violence in several cities that was blamed on public panic over the reduced sunlight.
TUESDAY – DAY 3
After a restless night, Bob sleepily got out of bed and went to the window. He looked out on a landscape dimly light with an orange glow, resembling a bright moonlight in intensity.
Mable joined him and together they gazed out the window in silence. After several minutes, Bob moved into their den and turned on the TV.
National news anchors were discussing the catastrophe. One anchor shouted, “Yes, the consequences of this are incomprehensible!” The second anchor stated, “For those of you who just tuned in, last night at approximately 3:45 AM, Eastern Daylight Time, sunspots covered the face of the sun.” “We have Professor Silversmith on the line at our facilities in California. Professor, can you explain some of the ramifications of reduced sunlight?”
Professor Silversmith, “It is not my intention to contribute to your viewers’ alarm, but I want to response to your question.” First, the planet will begin to cool. Without sunlight, the drop in temperature will be rapid and worldwide. Second, without heat and sunlight, all plant life will die. Even the jungles will become barren. Third, the severe cold will cause fuel and supplies to quickly be consumed, making transportation almost impossible. Eventually, when nearby food supplies are exhausted, man will perish.
And obviously alarmed TV anchor has hesitatingly stated, that's a - gloomy report – one, I guess, to confirm my worst fears. Let us take a break for a commercial message.
Bob feels crushed and holds his head in his hands in despair. He is aroused when he realizes that Mabel has entered the den and it's sobbing. Quickly regaining his composure, hugs and comforts Mabel. Their Embrace and when Ruth, in the grandchildren are heard entering the house. His grandson, Ted asks, “What's the matter grandmother?” Children bring out the best of our strength, composing herself she hugs the child and answers, “Grandma's alright, don't worry.”
Bob and Jack walk out onto the porch. Bob confides to Jack that he is worried about Helen and Mike.
Jack, lacking conviction, responds that they will be home soon. Then putting his hands into his pockets for warmth, states “It’s already getting cool. Summer is shot to hell.”
Bob thinks for a minute, then says “Let’s go in, it’s up to us to hold things together. God willing, it’ll be over in a few days.
Mike and Helen had driven hours on Sunday to reach the beach. They could hardly wait to start two weeks of leisure on the beach, in the sun.
By the time they were far from the beach and traffic had eased, their gas was running. To their dismay every gas station they tried was closed or sold out. At last, they found and open station. The gas per gallon had been taped over. With a grin, the attendant calmly stated that it was $50 a gallon, cash. Take it or leave it.
When Mike wanted to argue, an older man with a shotgun came to the station door. Grumbling, Mike spent their last bit of cash for almost five gallons. It would almost get them home.
Helen knew her mother and father were worried about them, so they stopped at almost every phone they saw. Every time, all the lines were busy. Late in the afternoon when they drove into a town to try a phone, they saw that a large crowd had congregated in a shopping center. Mike drove their car into the parking lot near a phone and stopped.
People were crowding around a grocery store, yelling to the manager to open up, they needed food. He remained behind a locked door shaking his head no, and motioning for the people to leave. At that instant, one of the grocery’s plate glass windows was broken and came crashing down. The crowd quickly stepped over the glass and moved into the store. The manager frantically tries to hold back the crowd. Several punches are thrown. He staggers aside with his face bloodied.
In minutes, the police arrived and attempted to clear the store and stop the looting. The police were unwilling to shoot and the people were not willing to listen. The police then attempted to have people pay for the good taken. It was a losing battle. As Mike and Helen drove away they saw police taking bags of canned goods to their police cars. Passing through town they saw several stores that had already been looted, with their burglar alarms loudly ringing.
At about 10 PM, Mike and Helen ran out of gas. The car coasted to a stop at the side of the highway. They were about 40 miles from home. Except for the lights of a farmhouse across a wide field, the area was deserted.
They decided to spend the night in the car. It was already getting cool, so they put on the only extra clothing available, shirts. They didn’t even have a sweater, as it was summer.
Early the next morning, they were on the highway walking toward home. A candy bar and two sodas were the only things they had to eat or drink for supper and breakfast.
Hunger had not yet become a real problem. They, like the rest of the world, were more concerned with the condition of the sun. The dull glowing sun resembled a hot coal in the sky. The orange light illuminated familiar objects with an eerie glow.
Once in a while, a car would come down the highway. Mike and Helen would frantically wave for a lift. No one would stop. They would drive to the far side of the road and speed by.
After several hours of walking, they reached a small town. Even though it was not yet noon of the first day of reduced light, there seemed to be no law and order. Society had already began to collapse.
The town’s shopping district was in shambles. Stores had been looted, people were standing around in groups outside and inside of stores. Police were not to be seen, but a police car that had been burned was still smoking.
Mike and Helen guardedly and briskly, walked through the area. They both feared being attacked, but no one seemed to pay them any attention.
At the edge of the looted area, they went into a ransacked grocery store. There was still a great deal of food left. The looters had cleaned out the expensive foods, meats and such. Mike found a loaf of bread, several cans of soup and soft drinks. It was harder to find a can opener, but one was found near a check-out counter.
After eating, they felt better and continued walking toward home. They were so concerned with reaching home, the ramifications of the lack of sunshine were pushed to the back of their minds.
As they passed through the residential areas, they saw that the churches were crowded as if it were Sunday. While not hostile, the parishioners seemed too preoccupied to be friendly. With church bells ringing, people turned to God for comfort.
Mike and Helen hurried out of the town and onto the highway. By the end of the day, I guess you could still call it day, they had passed through several towns. The devastation and panic was the same. Footsore, they spent a cold night in an abandoned car. They had at least another day’s walk before reaching home. Having seen the chaos prevalent everywhere, they wondered what home was going to be like.
WEDNESDAY – DAY 4
Bob and Mable were up at dawn. The night had been as dark as any they had ever experienced. There was no apparent moonlight even though it was supposed to be a full moon. If you looked closely, a very faint outline of the moon could be seen. The sun no longer put out enough light to be seen.
As they ate breakfast, Bob began to explain an idea to Mable. I woke up at 4:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I kept asking myself, what can we do to cope with this?
We have enough coal to heat the house, but without heat from the sun, temperatures will drop to over a hundred below zero. There’s no way we can survive in this house. Shaking her head in agreement, Mable asks, “What can we do?”
Bob then quietly said, “We’ll live in the mine.” Mable paused with her folk filled with eggs in mid-air raised her head, “Did you say in the mine?” “Yes.”
Mable sat her fork down uneaten, paused then said, “No one could live in a mine, it’s damp, dark and cramped.” Bob grinned, “Everything you said is true. We will have to change the mine.”
“The most important fact is that the temperature that far into the earth naturally stays a constant 50-degrees with or without the sun.”
Bob continued, “Secondly, we have an abundance of fuel, coal, to heat the mine and generate electricity make our own light.”
“Thirdly, we can enlarge the cramped areas. They are now small because we only wanted to remove coal. Adequate living spaces could be made by removing rock. We have always had a secure rock formation over the mine.”
“In addition, water is available. We now have to regularly pump water from the bottom level. This is good water. We could drink it.”
Mable reached out and touched his hand, “That sounds wonderful and terrible. I hope it never comes to that. Let’s see what’s on the news.”
TV anchors are discussing the weather that had already begun to change. An anchor says, “Reports today show that temperatures around the world have significantly dropped.”
The second anchor said, “Temperatures in the equatorial areas have already reached an all-time low. Horticulturalists in Africa and Brazil say that several days of these low temperatures will severely damage or kill the bulk of the area’s vegetation.”
The anchor says, “Weather forecasters area a bit baffled. Weather patterns have often moved in conjunction with changes in heat on the earth’s surface. With the global cooling, nothing is acting according to established patterns.”
The second anchor shouts, “We have just been informed that The White House has an announcement, so we will switch to the press room.”
The White House PAO calmly reads a prepared statement, “Leading physicists across the world have conferred and come up with a plan to restart the nuclear fusion action on the sun on the sun. In layman’s terms, reignite the sun.”
The plan provided that all of the world’s strategic ballistic missiles would be simultaneously fired at the center of the sun at 8 AM tomorrow. It was hoped that the combined nuclear explosions would act as an ignitor, a match, to relight the sun.
Bob and Mable finished breakfast listening to several physicist discuss the project. After a bit, Mable commented, “From what they say, the chance of a relighting is about 50/50. We had better start on your plan, just in case.”
That morning Ruth, Jack and their two children moved in with Bob and Mable. Together they worked up a plan. The old mine steam engine would have to be repaired and modified to drive and electric generator. It hadn’t been used since the early 1950’s, when it had been used to power mine processing equipment. The plan was to heat and light the mine using coal as fuel for the steam electric generator. This was a critical component of the plan.
Using routine construction materials, they would build rooms inside of the mine. The construction would be similar to regular home building, wood framing, insulation, home lighting fixtures, etc.
They would try to establish a self-sufficient underground community. The Mitchell family, the mine employees and their families to start with. Then people from various vocations would be invited. This latter group would include a doctor, dentist, nurse, horticulturalist, educator, construction workers and others as needed.
The remainder of the day was spent contacting prospective members of this unusual community. Almost without exception, the reception was very positive.
The enormity of the disaster was being driven home by the changing weather. Last Saturday it had been a hot and sunny summer day. Now just four days later, it was dark and gloomy. The temperature has steadily dropped from hot, too cool and it was cold with everyone wearing jackets.
In the back of all their minds was the knowledge that absence of sunlight meant the end of life on earth. When the Mitchell’s offered an alternative, most people jumped at the opportunity.
However, there were several exceptions. Some people had already mentally collapsed. Ignoring the old proverb that, “God helps those who helps those who help themselves”, they stopped all personal endeavors, and prayed.
Late Wednesday night, Helen and Mike made it home. It had been a grueling 40 mile-walk. Tired and sore, they were joyously welcomed home to a hot meal, shower and bed.
THURSDAY – DAY 5
Members of the new community began arriving at the Mitchell’s at 6 AM. Plans were discussed and everyone prepared to go into the city to obtain supplies and equipment.
The members were organized into foraging groups. Each group had a truck and went after specific items related to that particular team’s areas of expertise. The largest team had two trucks and went after the construction supplies.
Before leaving the mine area, they watched the news coverage of numerous missiles being launched toward the sun. Coverage included launches from the USA, Russia, France and others. It was ironic that these missiles that were constructed for possible use against each other were now fired in joint action to relight the sun.
As their caravan of trucks and cars entered the city the scene made even the strongest apprehensive. Chaos is the only word to describe the city. It appeared that every store had been broken into and looted. Here and there were sullen groups of people, many holding items obviously taken from stores. They passed several houses on fire with only citizens equipped with only garden hoses to fight the fire.
Helen and Mike had experienced this condition on their way home from the beach. The others had watched such scenes on TV, but were unprepared to experience the real thing in their hometown.
Bob and Mike went straight to a major equipment company. The door was open but no one was in the building. Bob commented on the fact that they were probably the only people interested in equipment.
A search of the building located electric generators that could be adapted to the steam engine. After loading two onto their truck, they also loaded pulleys, belts and other numerous items that might come in handy.
The team going for construction supplies also encountered little competition for their items. One of the team referred to the people already in the building as looters. Team members looked at each other and laughed. The fellow who had used the term “looter” nodding his head commented, “I didn’t think about it, but I guess that means us too.” It appeared that almost no one was bothering to build anything. In truth, it would have been folly to attempt to build normal shelter to withstand the degree of cold that could be expected.
The team going for food was not so lucky. As they approached a shopping area, they were glad to see police on the roadside. At the shops and stores it was apparent the police were no longer trying to stop the looting. Even so, their presence seemed to deter violence and this protection was welcomed.
People were scattered around the shopping area. The team made their way by several groups engaged in heated discussions. People were also grouped around preachers on boxes imploring them to repent their sins, as doomsday was near.
The grocery store had been badly looted, but people were still inside bagging items. As the team scoured through the debris, several fights broke out in the store over who saw a particular item first. The team did find some flour, but that was about all.
At the next grocery store, a man had a shotgun and was keeping a crowd from entering and looting the store. When the team realized what was happening, they withdrew and were preparing to leave the area when a shot rang out. The man protecting the store clutched his chest and fell. Without hesitation the crowd poured into the store. The team got out of there fast.
Several fruitless store searches later, as the team about to leave a large grocery store, a member asked if anyone had checked the store’s storeroom. They returned and found the storage area containing several cases of the less exotic foods such as beans, peas, etc. They quietly drove around to the back of the store and loaded it all on the truck.
After that they stopped at every grocery store and checked their storerooms. They finally almost filled their truck. Even so, it was clearly apparent that they did not have nearly sufficient food stocks.
When the food team returned to the mine, Bob and several others had already returned. After discussion, all agreed that a great deal more food was required.
Someone suggested that they check a large grocery chain’s warehouse. Since it was located on the edge of the city in an industrial park, perhaps it had not been looted to the extent the suburban stores had been. All agreed it was worth a try.
They left the mine area in four trucks and several cards. It was a sizeable caravan.
When they reached the warehouse, several groups of people were already there loading cars. Inside they were delighted to find there was still and abundance of food.
They loaded the trucks and cars to the point of overflowing. By the time they got back to the mine, it was late in the day and getting very cold.
That evening Bo and Mable worked up some planning figures. It was clear, they needed a lot more food if they had to live in the mine for an extended period.
Exhausted they called it a day. Only God knows what tomorrow will bring. Even an optimist’s picture was bleak, but there was hope. They would fight the elements to survive.
FRIDAY – DAY 6
The “dawn” arrived even colder than the day before. Winter clothes were now in order. The members arrived at the Mitchell’s early and anxious to get to work. Survival was at stake.
Bob explained that the good calculations showed that they needed a great deal more food. Accordingly, all of the members but Bob, Mike the miners and the horticulturalist left in trucks to go to the food warehouse.
The horticulturalist went to a small mushroom facility. He planned to establish a mushroom farm in the mine. The previous day he had rounded up numerous seeds, fertilizer and bags of rich potting soil. One or more rooms in the mine were planned for growing food using artificial light.
The miners went into the mine and began to enlarge the spaces. This was necessary if the construction crew was to have a place to start building living quarters. Judging from the falling temperatures, they would soon be needed.
Bob and Mike went to work on the steam electric generator. After cleaning up the old steam engine, they decided it was in surprisingly good condition. Next, they connected to the generator to steam engine using industrial V belts and pulleys. They started a fire in the boiler, built-up pressure and turned the generator.
At this point, it became apparent the services of an engineer with the knowledge of electric power plants and transmission was needed. Without this generator functioning well, the rest of the plan would ultimately fail.
It was late in the day, but Bob couldn't wait until the next day. He was driving toward the local electric power company generating plant, as the food team was returning after completing their fifth successful run of the day.
When Bob arrived at the power plant, he saw it lighted like a beacon in a very dark night. Bob was stopped at the gate by a security guard. After a phone call to the plant engineer, Bob was admitted.
The plant engineer was a pleasant young man in his 30s. After listening to the survival plan, he eagerly became a member of the community. He would be at the mine tomorrow morning and start working out the details of electric power. However, afterward he had to return to the electric company's plant. His duty was to the public relying on the power company for light during this trying time. He would report to the mine full-time when he could no longer be of service to the public. His wife and son would move to this mine as soon as facilities were constructed. Bob respected his dedication to duty and agreed.
It was late when Bob got home, but maple had kept his supper hot. After eating they reviewed the day's efforts.
They now had a good stock of provisions and supplies scattered all around the house and mine. It was time to work in earnest to make the mine habitable and capable of storing materials.
SATURDAY - DAY 7
Once again the mine community assembled at the Mitchell's. This day they were all crowded into the house. Outside the temperature was constantly below freezing.
That morning, one of the miners had brought his son asking for membership in the new community. Bob knew the young man. Before going away to college, he had worked in the mine during summer holidays while in high school. He was now a computer analyst programmer. Bob recognized that his abilities could be well used and welcome him aboard.
Today almost all of the men would work on enlarging the mine. The minors would loosen the cool and rock. The other man would move it out of the mine.
Early in the morning, Bob in the power plant engineer worked on the steam generator. The engineer was impressed with the unusual but satisfactory rig, makeshift as it was. The engineer left for work and to obtain a power control board needed to put the generator on line. In the meantime, they would continue to use power company electricity.
The lady stayed inside and play in food service for the mine community. While they were at it, they also fixed lunch.
As the women planned, they realize the Mitchell's kitchen equipment would never be adequate. A couple of the men in several ladies went into the city for food service equipment.
The new computer specialist went along. He was looking for a computer and accessories to establish an information center in the mine.
Upon entering the city, they noticed a distinct change had occurred. They were almost no people on the streets. Apparently they were remaining in their homes for shelter.
Most of the people they didn't counter where armed. The team began to wish they had brought their guns.
The team went straight to a well-known cafeteria. The police have been stripped of food, but the restaurant equipment was untouched.
The men set to disconnecting equipment and loading it on the truck. The women loaded the small items such as silverware, dishes, trays, mixers, pans, etc. they equipment quickly filled up the truck, so they prepared the rest for another trip.
On the way home they stopped at a computer store and picked up a computer, equipment and supplies.
While they were in the city, work in the mine was progressing very well. All working together they would creating a fairly large open space every three hours. It was hard and tiring work, but every time the man went outside the dark, cold landscape reinforced their incentive and resolve.
They did not have a real plan for laying out the interior of the mine. That would come later. Right then they needed shelter for themselves and the supplies.
As the minors begin work on the third space, The construction crew began making the first room. They laid out and insulated the floor. Next they constructed the walls. The walls were made with 2 x 4 wood studs, then insulation was applied. The ceiling was placed on top and insulated. No roofing or exterior siding was needed.
The electrician begin wiring the room as soon as the wood framing was in place. When the carpenters and electricians had completed their work, the plasters completed the room.
At the end of the day, the miners had opened four spaces. The other crews had almost completed two rooms.
THE 2nd AND 3rd WEEKS
Work in the mine progressed very well, but they remained a lot to do. Supplies we moved into the mine in living spaces created.
The Caverness opening in the side of the hill, the mine entrance, had been converted to the main utilities area. The steam electric generator in the main fresh air blowers we're located in this entrance chamber. To make it habitable, except for a large garage door opening, the opening had been closed and insulated.
Two large rooms have been finished as barracks style bedrooms, one for women and the other for men. It was now it's so cold outside that all of the community had moved into the mine. It was planned that eventually separate living quarters would be created for each family unit, but that would have to wait until other essential facilities were in place.
Using the math that had been in the mine office, the computer analyst had a program to show the hill and where the mine was laid out within it. It was a standard commercial design program that allowed the planners to view the mine layout from all angles.
After considerable discussion the community adopted an overall plan for the mine. The significant feature was the size. It was as large as the miners could safely dig it. The central high domed chamber was massive. The community management, support and living quarters would be located on the corridors.
During this two-week period numerous forays were made into the city. It seemed that each day identified additional items that we needed or would improve living conditions.
The members were beginning to function as a community. All could not work in their particular field. Digging new spaces in constructing quarters occupied most from time to time, an individual would have to break away and perform work in their specialty. The doctor was the best example of this.
To sustain a high-level of drive to create family living areas it was decided that all would continue to live in barracks until all could move into family quarters simultaneously.
At the appropriate time everyone was around television sets to see the impact of thousands of nuclear missiles strike the sun. Observatories on the side of the earth facing the sun at that time of impact and recorded it all.
It started with a scattering of sparkles of light appearing in the center of the sun. After half a minute, it was a constant glow of lights emitting from the impact area. The missiles head hit their target. Everyone held their breath in motionless silence. Hope was there, but after a minute or so the impact area once again became a subdued orange like the rest of the sun. Several people tried to make uplifting comments which were ignored. Most people left for their assigned areas. It was a low time. The world effort to avoid disaster had failed.
The mine community knew they were in for a hard time. They also knew that probably all of those on the face of the earth would die, along with the world as they had known it.
The 4th, 5th AND 6th WEEKS
Since the community's gas supply was low, routine trips into the city or Kurt tailed. It was just as well, things in the city had gone from bad to worse.
It was A dark and gloomy place. The streetlights will be getting to burn out they had been on constantly four weeks. Fortunately, electric power was available until almost the last of the sixth week.
One by one, the TV and radio stations signed off for the last time. When the local stations went off, even the emergency broadcast system failed. Before going off the stairs were advised to tune in to shortwave radio for more information.
No one can fix a time that government ceased to exist. Here and there individuals, acting out of patriotism or habit, reported for duty and were a help to the citizens until they often died on the job. What little law there was disappeared. Armed bands of hoodlums roamed the streets robbing, terrorizing or even killing anyone they met.
During the sixth week the electric company's Power generating plant shutdown. The plant engineer reported to the mind for full-time duty. His wife and son were already in the mine.
Up until this time and mine community had been in formally led by Bob Mitchell. As life in the mine developed a routine, it was time to democratically elected a governing board. Bob was elected chairman of the board.
This period saw significant improvements inside the mine and deterioration of the environment outside.
THE NEXT SIX MONTHS
Early in this. It became apparent that their electric power requirements we're going to exceed the steam generator's capability. The power plant engineer had an idea to solve the problem.
Hey small-town about 60 miles away had established in electric cooperative. The cooperative's power plant contained a small steam driven turbine electric generator. He proposed a foray to this power plant, to retrieve its generator and if possible it's steam boiler.
Early one bitter cold morning, a caravan of three trucks left the mine area and headed down the highway. Each truck contained three email. All were armed and dressed with their warmest winter clothing. A few of the community braved the cold to see them drive off in the dim orange sunlight.
The power plant engineer was familiar with the road and location of the cooperative plant. The caravan drove straight to the plant without incident.
The plant was well-kept and abandon. The doors were open but no one was around. The team was glad to see that all of the equipment was intact.
Half of the team started disconnecting the steam turbine generator. The other members worked on the steam boiler. In less than two hours the generator was ready to be lifted onto a truck. Fortunately, a chain lift ran down the center of the power plant explicitly for working on the equipment. An hour later The generator was on a truck and secured.
The steam boiler was harder to disconnect, but it was also loaded onto a truck. The team also loaded spare steam pipe and electrical paraphernalia necessary to set up the units at the mine.
It was 4 o'clock when the caravan started home. As they left the small town, several motorcycle gang hoodlum types, who are ransacking a home stopped what they were doing and followed the caravan.
As they drove along, the motorcycles pulled alongside and checked out the trucks. The team saw that they were armed with several guns and knives. Team members let the cyclists see their weapons. After a bit, the cyclists dropped a half mile behind and follow the caravan.
It was dark in late when the caravan arrived back at the mine. As they parked the trucks, they saw the motorcycle lights turn and head back down the road.
The next morning, they moved the boiler and generator inside the utilities area at the mine entrance chamber.
As members were breaking for lunch, the rubble of approaching motorcycle engines was heard. A team member that had been parking the trucks ran into the cave with the alarm, a motorcycle gang was coming.
Word spread rapidly through the mine. Bob was in the information center, when he heard the word. He mustered as many men as he could and after arming themselves they headed to the mine entrance.
Above, the few men working in the mine opening had only three guns nearby. As the gang approached the mine entrance, there was confusion about what to do. One of the men walk to boldly out after telling the others, "I'll talk to them. Somebody has got to hold them until help arrives." Acting as casual as possible under the circumstances, he walked out to meet the gang.
When the gang saw the unarmed member walk out of the mine into their path, they slowed then stopped.
The members inside of them mine entrance quickly placed several bags of materials in the doorway for protection. They had behind a barricade with their guns trained on the gang. They could see the gang was becoming angry and gesturing towards the mine. The member was shaking his head "no".
As the member continued the delaying discussion on the outside, Bob in the other arm to members arrived in the entrance chamber. Just as Bob was about to go outside in support of the member come over one of the gang shot and the member fell.
Almost before he touched the ground, the gangs engines roared and they started toward the mine entrance. Bob and the others started firing. Three of the gang were immediately knocked off their cycles. Their machines continued forward before falling with one running into the mine entrance. The others of the gang fan doubt taking cover around the entrance, and began firing.
After a bit, the shooting died down to a barrage of obscenities and threats. The initial gunfire had hit three of the gang that appeared dead. One miner was hit in the head and was not expected to live.
Just before it became completely dark the gang once again rushed the mine. They had an advantage in the darkness. They knew exactly where the mine entrance and it's defenders were located. The defenders could not see the location of the attackers who were coming from a wide arc.
At first, it appeared the gang would force their way into the mine. Then one of the defenders threw out a road flare that gave just enough light to beat back the gang. Three of the defenders were slightly wounded, but all were pretty well shaken up. The attackers at may have not been hit.
The battle settled down into siege for the night. Bob in the governing board use the time to discuss their options. If they did nothing sooner or later the gang would use explosives or fire bombs to over on the entrance and defenders. Attacking the gang from the entrance might overwhelm them, but would surely be costly. There was another option. The defenders could leave the mine through a large airshaft that had just been completed to the other side of the hill.
Early before dawn every member, not needed at the entrance, crawled out of the airshaft. They divided into two groups and circled left and right around the hill coming up on the sides of the gang. Surprise was their goal. With luck, they could shock in route the gang.
The members spent cold hours in place waiting for daylight. There was not a sufficient amount of the orange glow to illuminate the landscape until 10 AM. Bob had a flare gun to signal when they would attack.
Before there was enough light to clearly see the gang members, Bob and the other members had to sit and wait while the gang began to attack the mine entrance. The members in the mine were fighting back but it was evident the gang was getting closer to the entrance. When Bob saw several of the gang light rags in bottles of gasoline, he fired his flare pistol.
The members were ready. The gang was confused and scared when a volley of shots rang out all around them. Several gang people were killed, others lay on the ground screaming and cursing. After a few minutes of gunfire, the gang either ran down the hill or through their arms up in the air to surrender.
Several mine members wanted to kill the gang, but Bob would have none of it. He ordered the remaining gang to get off the property and take their wounded with them. This surprise I take in the fight out of the game. When they reach their motorcycles they hopped on and rode away. The mine members weary and cold return to the mine where they were received as heroes and enjoyed a hot meal.
LIFE GOES ON
As the months passed, facilities in the mine were completed. More importantly, the people begin to adopt to their new life.
Every effort was made to maintain a day and night cycle. During the day hours, all of the public spaces or brightly lit, simulating sunlight. At night, lights were dim and to moonlight intensity.
The central high domed chamber had been finished as a park area. It was a place of small trees, bushes, grass, a fountain with a fish pool and had benches for sitting.
The doctor and dentist office is where almost like those the members were used to visiting on the surface. Except for emergencies appointments were usually required. The doctor also had several patient beds for those needing close attention.
The food service prepared food for all. It was served cafeteria style and could be eating in the dining area, or taken back to the individual family living quarters. Mabel Mitchell and the ladies, assisted by several men prepare delicious meals that became the highlights of the day.
Each family had been allocated a living room and one, two or three bedrooms depending on need. Individual families had furnished their own quarters. Most had returned to their surface homes and brought many heirloom pieces of furniture and other items of sentimental value.
The connecting corridors were also well lit. In decorating, the predominant color was green with sky blue as the ceiling color. The corridors were lined with potted plants producing all types of vegetables and flowers.
The horticulturalist was assigned a series of rooms. He was growing fresh food in several. In these rooms the bright light was maintained 24 hours a day. He also had a room where he produced significant quantities of fresh mushrooms in a dim light. One room was used to compost food garbage into organic fertilizer.
The horticulturalist was also responsible for storage and preservation of a wide variety of seeds that would be needed when human kind returned to the surface.
The idea that human kind would someday return to the surface, was a sustaining philosophy of the community. As remote as this event seemed, it was necessary to give meaning to their existence. The religious members likened themselves to Noah's family and their mine their ark.
A logical progression of this philosophy called for preservation of knowledge and technical skills. Several spaces where classrooms in a library. Members taught night classes in the various areas of expertise. Subjects were wide ranging including topics such as diagnosing disease to needlework. Participation in these classes was strictly voluntary, but since there was almost no other night life in the mine, attendance was very high. During the day the classrooms became the "school" where children were taught a basic education.
Community also included a petting zoo. Effort was made to save as many animals and birds as practical. Several well-trained dogs and cats were kept as family pets. Chickens ate some of the table scraps and provided fresh eggs. Animals such as the pigs were almost pets, overpopulation never became a problem.
Not every member could cope with life underground. To help those with mental problems, the chaplain provided individual and group therapy counseling. Discussing their problems in groups with others that were also undergoing similar stress seem to provide the reassurance most needed.
One of the last spaces construct it was a swimming pool in athletic area near the bottom of the mine. This area also contained a tanning room so those that desired could retain their suntans.
Management, utilities and storage areas completed the mine complex.
From time to time, a surface expedition would be accomplished. Usually they would go after particular items or materials.
These expeditions were accomplished as swiftly as possible. A truck that had been winterized to the extreme was kept in the cavernous entrance area. The truck would be running and hot, then The large garage door at the entrance would be opened. With a roar, the truck would move out into a strange world.
The only illumination was the dim orange sunlight they had grown used to. Now months of cold had killed or frozen all life. Looking up, they became aware that there were no clouds in the sky. All moisture was now frozen.
As they drove into the city their route crossed a river that normally flowed so swiftly it never froze. The river is now solid. The team wondered about the oceans.
With the earth uniformly bitter cold, windy is no longer created by solar heating. The earth was still in deafeningly quiet.
As the mine community settled down to their new environment, a ray of hope emerged. As a hobby club, several of the members had established a shortwave radio station. Using the same frequency as the last government information broadcasts, the members sent out a broadcast at noon each day. After a while it became a social gathering.
One day this changed. After making their usual broadcast they cut the receiver on and begin to socialize. They're talking was suddenly interrupted when a voice was heard on the radio.
"Hello, hello mine community. This is Surry Nuclear Power Plant in Virginia. Come in please."
The mine radio club was stunned into immobile silence. After staring at the radio speaker for a long pause, all broke for the microphone at once.
Joyous news, another Group of people were alive! It turned out that a group of people were living in buildings at a nuclear power plant. They too had an adequate source of power to overcome the cold.
A regular communication time table was set up with the Surry people. The exchange of ideas that followed were a source of inspiration to both parties. If this group was alive, there was a good bet there were others.
Early one morning a wildly excited announcement came over the radio from the Surry plant. "Have you looked outside today?"
The Surry people believed something had happened to the sun. It was not yet sunrise, but this guy was already brighter than it usually was at midday.
Everyone in the mine community begin to dress to go out, and see for themselves if something had happened to the sun. Excitement was high. Some of the children had not been outside since their families moved into the mine.
When the mine entrance door was opened, the cold rolled into the mine. The members did not pay any attention to the cold as they rushed outside.
By now the sun was up. Yes something had changed, it was still orange but definitely brighter. The landscaper was already more visible than it had been for a long time.
As members were gazing at the now unfamiliar land and jabbering about it all, a dozen people exclaimed, "Look! Look!"
As they watched in silence a spot of white light appeared in the center of the sun. Then, like ripples from a stone dropped into water, the bright light slowly expanded across the face of the sun until once again it was a ball of white light in the sky.
The members were suddenly bathed in intense bright sunlight. Many exclamations were heard, but the one most prevalent was, "My God - thank you, thank you."