A helicopter hovering above the U.S. embassy roof top…
A crowd of hundreds jostling desperately for a seat onboard…
Buildings burning with smoke-filled sky in the background…
Despair and confusion on the faces of people in the midst of the chaos…
These are the images of Black April, a stark reminder of the fall of Sài Gòn, and the end of a free Viet Nam. These images also marked the beginning of the oppressive era imposed by the communist regime where “re-education” is a euphemism for torture and suffering.
April 30, 1975 is the start of the mass exodus where millions of Vietnamese abruptly abandoned the lives they once knew in search of freedom and a new beginning. Only those who have lived through that experience would know what it was like to leave everything behind – family, friends, work, home – while not knowing where they were heading or where they would end up. Even during this COVID-19 pandemic, people are still able to remain in their homes, surrounded by their family and freely communicate with other family members and friends. That was not the case for the millions of Vietnamese refugees after the Vietnam War.
For the fortunate ones who survived the dangerous journey, they eventually settled in different free countries throughout the world with little or no money in their pockets while learning to speak a foreign language and adapting to a new culture. Despite risking everything and facing the overwhelming odds, the Vietnamese refugees persevered, assimilated, and even succeeded in their new home countries.
We see this resiliency, courage, and strength in our history. Despite a thousand of years of Chinese occupation, we still have our Vietnamese culture, traditions, language, and land. The resiliency and courage of our ancestors to resist Chinese domination gave us Tết instead of Chinese New Year, áo dài instead of qipao, and Vietnam instead of being a province or territory of China. Our ability to adapt is our strength.
Although this current pandemic causes significant disruptions in our daily lives, we are adapting new ways to forge ahead. For example, our children are doing distant learning instead of going to school; we maintain physical distancing by waving from a distant in order to avoid hugs and handshakes; and scouts discover virtual meetings via “Zoom” as an alternative to meetings at the park.
Over time, these changes may become the “new normal.” And, if we don’t look back and share with them the events of today, our children and grandchildren will forget that scouts once shook with their left hands and had weekly meetings at the park, some 45 years later.
The painful memories of “30 Tháng Tư” stir up feelings of profound sadness for those who lived through it, lost loved ones because of it, and persevere in spite of it. However, for those who were born outside of their ancestral homeland or too young to remember, they may not share the same sentiment.
That is why it is difficult to ask the younger generation to remember a time period in which they never lived through. Rather, we should share with them as to why we salute Cờ Vàng Ba Sọc Đỏ and sing Quốc Ca Việt Nam during our weekly chào cờ ceremony. Some may see these acts merely as a weekly routine that they have to do. However, as they get older, these youths may appreciate the sentiment and meaning of these simple, yet purposeful, acts.
As we approach the 45th Anniversary of Black April, let us remember those who sacrificed everything and paid the ultimate price for our freedom. And let us never forget the oppressive regime that caused millions of Vietnamese to flee their homeland in search for freedom.
Báo Cam Đảm – Hân Nguyễn
Rùa Thông Thái – Charles Nguyễn