She Could Have Been Our Sister, Aunt, Friend … A Shortened Life

Tuyet A. N. Tran 2001

September 11, 2001 affected the Viettouch team in that our eastern connection lies within walking distance to the former World Trade Center complex.

In the days that followed 9/11, there has been a persistently negative hum about Viet Nam that came up among all chatters from a diverse political spectrum, on and off the media circuits. Although Viettouch has not changed its primary advocacy in educating the public about our culture, we believe that it is necessary to dispel potentially dangerous verisimilitudes. Within this generalized context, Viet Nam should only be referenced in a historical context, under a vastly different set of events, circumstances and geographic locations where Vietnamese people were unwitting victims of a bloodied multi-decades long war. It is a grave mistake to liken the unique culture, people, and geography of Viet Nam to another uniquely different nation by virtue of convenient references to coincidental US military activities. What immediately came to mind are different timeline, distinctive history, geography, circumstances, reasons, people and complex events that need to be recognized by those who may be inclined to bandy the Vietnamese war and people about for their nebulous logic and agenda.

Perhaps it might be wiser to regard Vietnamese-Americans with some considerations that our heritage, war survivors and their descendents recognize only too well the painful tolls that exacted on innocent victims in war and the attainment of peace. Many Vietnamese people came to America since 1975 for refuge in a broad sense, not unlike other immigrants and Americans. Whether or not, we collectively concur with whatever prevailing social and popular moods or politics du jour; we have chosen the US to be our home, albeit away from the country of our origin that rained blood. It is within this narrow context that first generation Americans of Vietnamese descent are acutely aware of the subtle and overt consequence of war and peace, drawn from the wells of personal familial experiences. That said, we do not all speak the same voice or even share the same experiential references about Viet Nam let alone, the September 11 tragedy and subsequent events.

I, for one am the most average of any Vietnamese-American whose ideals, aspirations, hope and yearning are not unlike every American whose ancestries hailed from other nations. Perhaps the only difference lies in the fact that my background is inextricably linked to another war of long ago, in Viet Nam. This fact alone has shaped me in a myriad of ways over the years of growing up in California and New York.

In this regard, I am compelled to write about a poignantly tragic end to Mrs. Kathy T. Nguyen in New York. I do not know this lady at all until I heard the news announcement. My interest and curiosity were further piqued thanks to the announcers' cavalierly bizarre mangling of her surname [N-Goyem], as I was trying to figure out her origin. Over the course of the day, I did find out her actual name and was saddened for the loss of Mrs. Nguyen's life. From a plethora of accounts, Mrs. Nguyen had survived a tragic war in its final closing chapter, came to America for refuge and a life in peace. She boarded one of the last planes departing Saigon, Viet Nam in 1975.

It is a sad irony that Mrs. Nguyen had chosen to leave her country of birth for a country that promised peace and freedom, where she lost her son and now her own life, under the most unfair circumstance by any reasonable standard. On 10/31/01 Mrs. Kathy T. Nguyen died alone without her loved ones standing vigil. I am not comfortable with the callous perspective that she is just one case lost in a big city landscape that is busy tending to the much greater needs. Several Vietnamese friends of mine from other parts of the country expressed a common emotion of inexplicable sadness for the sudden end to her peacefully quiet life, though none of us knew her in any capacity. In a loosely connected way, she was one of us and therefore, important.

Mrs. Nguyen's life, work and church activities might have gone on longer had she been frightened by ongoing news alert, sought help sooner then she might have had a chance to prolong her life. Under normal circumstance, Mrs. Nguyen's perseverance and resilience would have served her well as she continued to work in spite of physical discomfort. Therein lies the injustice dealt to Mrs. Kathy T. Nguyen. She no longer have any living relatives to claim and care for her final rest on a land thousands of miles away from her birth country. Where is her parish priest? I wonder who will tend to the final disposition of her personal effects that spoke of her struggles and joy in life. Who would remember her survival against all odds from another war in her first homeland only to be killed by some lethal powder in her second homeland? There are more questions than answers and returned phone calls that yielded nothing about the final status of Mrs. Nguyen's remains.

Mrs. Kathy Nguyen will be remembered as a quietly innocent life loss among a diverse and large community of Vietnamese-Americans, even as we may not have known her in life. My prayer is that her spirit will reunite with all of her loved ones from yesteryears. She was alone and now, she is no longer.

Farewell and peace be with you, Mrs. Kathy T. Nguyen.


2001 New York City, New York, USA All Rights Reserved
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