The watershed day of
the fall of Sài Gòn nears, and people are sharing what they think.
Of their escapes from their country. Of their longing for their
homeland. Of the long journey they took to a new life. And of their
struggles to adapt to this life.
Nguoi Viet 2 today brings you their remembrances, some emotional tales
they told us while hanging out in the Little Saigon business district in
- chú Alex, 66, Rialto, Calif.
“In 1960, I went to the U.S. to study flying because I was a member of
the Air Force. Then in 1974, I came back to Việt Nam. I was still in Sài
Gòn in ’75 and can remember that day, June 26. Because I am a French
citizen, I went to the French Consulate to get permission and papers to
leave. That was the year my family and I fled to France... Then we went
to America and our family grew. I strongly believe in preserving our
Vietnamese heritage. I tell my beautiful children, who are grown up and
extremely successful, ‘You can never deny the fact that you are
Vietnamese. It doesn’t matter what you think about the war, government
or politics; if you eat nước mắm, you are Vietnamese.’ I teach them to
be proud of themselves.”
- Tài Lê, 16, student, Garden Grove, Calif.
“I came over a year ago. I like it so far, although at home, we got
April 30th off of school... Kids here are a lot different; they’re very
spoiled and act arrogant. They’re not too friendly.”
- Khoa Đồng, 16, student, Westminster, Calif.
“I’ve been living here for three years. I think life in Việt Nam was
better. It’s so boring here, and it gets kind of lonely. In Việt Nam, I
saw all my friends everyday. Here, we basically only see each other in
school. High school is so easy, and we don’t have to wear uniforms.”
- Đình Nguyễn, 16, student, Westminster, Calif.
“I’ve been here for four years. It’s kind of hard making friends with
the Vietnamese American kids. They don’t want to talk to us, and they
have their noses in the air.”
- Hầu Phan, 50,
“I left for Sài Gòn in 1975. I fled without my husband. He was in the sĩ
quan, military. That trip to Sài Gòn with my sister was the worst. Here
I was, a newlywed 19 year-old, driving a motorcycle with a tire so flat
my knees grazed the road. My áo dài was completely black from the dirt
and smoke, and my long hair was burnt at the tips. I don’t even know how
I got to Sài Gòn alive. My sister and I almost got killed so many times.
I was so scared to the point that I didn’t even know my own name. Then I
came here in 1994, with Humanitarian Operation 16, because I was the
wife of a former prisoner of war without legal counsel. I came with
absolutely nothing, so I learned how to sew and then I cried and I cried
everyday. My husband ended up in a re-education camp for eight years.
Five years after he came here, he passed away. He had stress — stress of
the mind. The memories and experiences of the war just killed him. I
don’t mind telling my children about the war. I always tell them the
stories of how I couldn’t sleep because there were so many bombs going
off in the air.”
- Cường Trần, 22,
“Việt Nam is more fun than the U.S. It was more relaxing there, more
freedom. I’m going to have to wait one year for my legal residency
before I can start going to school, but I’ve been taking ESL classes for
two months. Back at home, we were taught in class that America is
dominant, in a bad way, like imperialistic. I can see that the
American-born [Vietnamese] kids here are more materialistic. I really
can’t tell how life here is now because it’s always hard for newcomers
in the beginning.
- Kim Đỗ, 50s,
“My family and I came here 12 years ago. My husband had been in
(re-education camps) for 11 years. I’m so thankful we got the kids over
here in time to start college. They’re in their 30s now and both are
getting their master’s degrees in engineering. We had so much luck. When
we were applying to come here for the kids’ education, they got
rejected. But then almost right away we were able to go with
Humanitarian Operation 18. It was a miracle.”
- Tuấn Nguyễn with his two daughters, 35, Seattle,Washington
“I don’t really remember much. I was about 10 years old, so everything
is blurred. My family left Sài Gòn for Nha Trang after Sài Gòn was
occupied in 1975. My family and I came here to the states in 1985. The
first group in my family came in 1980. We don’t really talk about it.
It’s not that my parents are reluctant to talk, but we just never happen
to bring it up.”
- Tố An Nguyễn, 32, Westminster, Calif.
“I came to the U.S. in ’83, when I was 10. I have absolutely no memories
of Việt Nam, nor do I have any interest of going back. I’ve been here
too long; I’m too Americanized. This is my home. Maybe one day in the
future I’ll go back just to see how it is. We still have some extended
family over there. Since my days in California in 1986, I have seen
business here grow a lot, especially phôû restaurants and cafes. There’s
more competition for our family-run phở restaurant.”