Minneapolis, MN, USA
I was seven years old when we left Vietnam in 1975. In the few weeks before we left, my father had received hints of what to expect of the war's outcome. So, with all of my parents' savings, a few family photographs, and literally the clothes on our backs, we left our home the night before the city fell.
My father had arranged flights for us out of Saigon that night. He would stay behind and meet up with us at a later date. But, as fate would have it, the events that unfolded when we reached the airport would force him to change his plans.
My father accompanied us on the shuttle out to our plane. Halfway to our destination, the bombs started falling. To this day, I can't sit through a show of fireworks without cringing a little. It was chaos, but kind of an arresting chaos, where things seemed to move in slow motion -- the explosions, the fire, the people scattering on the runway, searching for cover.
My father herded us off the shuttle and into a small bomb shelter where we spent the night, waiting out the bombs, praying that one wouldn't find our little shelter of scraggly sandbags.
The next morning I awoke to my father shouting at me to "move!" The bombing had stopped, and whatever planes left undamaged were taking off. And the people who were left undamaged were running after the planes. Our family's target was an army supply plane cruising at about 10 miles and hour down the runway, with its tail-end open -- I guess no one was worried about having a ticket as it was board-at-your-own-risk. All I can remember is running fast and jumping into the dark, cool opening of that camouflaged army supply plane.
My family was fortunate -- all of us made it out.
In 1996 I returned to Vietnam with my mom and two of my siblings: my sister and little brother. I found it more than a little ironic that we flew in to the very same airport where we almost lost our lives trying to get out.
My father doesn't like irony. He won't return. I don't think he ever wants to set foot onto those runways again. The weird thing is, that airport was much more arresting to me the night I was seven, and there were bombs, and explosions, and people running every which way. The day we touched down on our return visit a few years ago, it just looked sad.