Wednesday, April 30, 2008


My evening and weekend schedule has been occupied with hockey games since the Stanley Cup playoffs began on April 9th. My husband's brother and his wife came for a visit the second weekend. The list of items that I need to do is getting longer. I decided to take a day off today and did not realize that the date was April 30th, 33 years ago when Saigon, South Viet Nam fell to the Northern Vietnamese Communists. How ironic that I could overlook the most important date in the history of my birth country, the day when my life was dramatic changed and so were millions of Vietnamese people and also politically impacted the rest of the world.
I found these photos, probably between 1981-1984, taken in the early years in America. Back then, I was full of youthful energy, ambitions and naive with my dream of going back to Viet Nam, joined forces with Vietnamese freedom fighters to take our country back from the Communists. I was among the demonstrators, holding the South Vietnamese flag, singing Quoc Ca (Vietnamese national anthem) and shouting slogans such as "Down with the Vietnamese Communists" or "We shall return to a Free Viet Nam". There were about 100 people, some people came from nearby states such as Philadelphia and New Jersey, including photographers and local television reporters. The demonstration started at the corner of 1st and 49th street, after a few speeches and more shouting, we marched along 1st Avenue, confined to the other side of the streets in front of the United Stations and then shouting, singing some more at the corner of 42nd street. After that, everyone went home or to Chinatown to do shopping, eating and each in our own struggle to survive in the new land awaiting until the next demonstration.
I don't remember much of what I saw or knew on April 30, 1975. If I think real hard and dig deep into my memory, I probably find something. I don't think my experience was so horrible that my mind tried to erase what happened. Actually, it was uneventful as we left Saigon and went to Cai Tau Ha, the village where my maternal grandparents lived. The village was far from Saigon and my grandparents felt that we would be protected under their social and political connections. We left Saigon because there was widespread news that it would be a blood bath when the Communists took over. We saw the image of tanks rolling into the Presidential Palace, pushed down the iron gates of U.S. Embassy, shown on television, as part of the celebration broadcasted by the new government of its victory.
33 years later, here I am living a comfortable life in the Midwest, unable to remember the details what happened 33 years ago. My brother mentioned about in memorial of an uncle, Doung Pha, and how he was killed on April 30th. There are many versions of his death, whether he was foolish to be the last brave soldier to fight or he just took the wrong coat of a captain and was shot down, mistaken for someone who was important.
For a selfish reason, my husband commented that he was glad that my family came to America. If the Communists never took over Saigon on April 30, 1975, my family would never leave Viet Nam in 1979, never came to America in 1980 and my husband would never meet me at United Nations in 1987. However, if we left Viet Nam but did not survive the boat journey, either captured and killed by the pirates in the open sea or was sponsored by relatives in Seattle, Washington, instead of New York, what then? Life is a mystery and a lot of what ifs.

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