* * *
After our house was burned from the bomb we go from Phu Lan to Phu Tho, another town next to our town, and we were hiding in the bomb shelter.
If you can get your way down the shelter there you be. They don’t try to throw you out because you don’t look familiar or not from that area.
Everybody try to hide from the bomb or flying bullet, napalm, or the rocket was shooting. If you can get yourself down there, then you can hide with other people.
My family and whole bunch other family from my neighbor run in group. People run with their food, their ID card, because that important to have. Whatever you can take. Whatever you need to survive. Whole bunch of people running down the street with their good and their kid.
All these face. You looking into the eye. Young, old, man, woman, children, boys, girls, all had mixture between the horrify and fear. They empty. Nothing there.
We were hiding in this tunnel. I was fourteen and my cousin were five-years-old. I call him “cousin.” We neighbor. We don’t related by blood. His mother and my mother call each other “sister.”
People wounded. Some dying and the body still down there. Sound of crying over the one just die. Because of their wound, because of their pain.
The smell terrible. It wake me up in the middle of the night.
My cousin said he thirsty. Wanted to go up to the ground level find some water. I say, “No, it’s not safe” He say, “I’m really thirsty.”
He five-years-old. He say, “No, I’m gonna go because I’m gonna die if I don’t have some water.”
Of course he gonna go. He get up and I follow him. He walk a little way, trip over something. It’s chaotic up on the ground level; building go down; fall down wood, fall down structure.
He trip over something, then it make noise. All of sudden guns going off. There go my cousin. Part of me want to scream out loud, but part of me say if I make any sound it will be me.
Looking where the gun come I see American soldier, remember his eye when he realized just a little boy. It horrify look.
His reaction during ambush was instant: he turned around at the noise. I don’t think he intentionally gun down my cousin. I don’t know him, but I saw his eye.
What if I say to my cousin, “You stay here. I go find you some water.” I’m older, more careful. I don’t think it would happen.
Little boy, five-years-old, he gonna go find water.
I feel guilty for Thanh death.
I came over here and became American mother. I have three son. I get to know Vietnam veteran story; guilt and burden they carry all these year. And looking at my son at the same age as this soldier, I feel responsible for what happen that day in 1968.
When I knew someone Vietnam vet I always look to see if I could find that eye. I need to tell him the true. I saw his eye. I knew he didn’t mean it.