Tell us the story again?”
I remember those warm summer nights, lying next to my aunties. Some of us would be on a mattress on the floor; the others, the lucky ones, got the bed. There wasn’t enough room for three aunties and four nieces in the attic room with the sloped ceiling. But I was warm and comfortable, sleepy and secure lying beside them.
“Again?” one auntie would say. “But you already know it.”
My sisters and I would plead. “Please? We want to hear it one more time.”
And one of them would give in.
“It was a warm night, like this one. . . .”
My mother, her siblings, and her parents were in their home. It was April 30, 1975, a warm evening in Saigon, South Vietnam. This night would become known as the Fall of Saigon and the end of the 20-year-long war for Vietnam. My mother’s family had just finished dinner when a loud explosion blew out the windows at the back of the house.
My grandmother had worked for 20 years as a translator and administrative assistant at a branch of the US Department of Defense. Her office coordinated intelligence shared between the US Army and the South Vietnamese military. She was recognized as a hard and loyal worker. Her boss, an American, had assured her over a period of weeks that when the time was right, he would send word about where to go with her whole family. “Don’t worry, Rebecca. We won’t leave without you. We’ll make sure you are taken care of.”
But she had not heard from him in days. She did not know that he had already left the country, leaving her and her family behind without so much as a telephone call.
Now, with her family sprawled across the floor, their ears ...1