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Tu Trinh Tran

She has been in the U.S. for three years with her parents and three brothers.

 When I was five years old and the Vietnam war was going on, I remember watching cartoons on TV which showed the Viet Cong as devils or cruel monkeys. It made me scared of them even though I was too young to understand political events. Even as I grew up I wasn't interested in the events that happened around me, but I heard and felt my parents pain when the Viet Cong captured some small towns in the western and eastern parts of South Vietnam. They were moving towards the rich city of Saigon which is where my family lived.

 On April 28, 1975, I was playing with my brother in the garden. Suddenly we heard the sounds of helicopters and gunfire everywhere. We were scared and ran back to the house. My parents made a decision to leave our homeland by boat, plane, or anything to escape Communism.

 They prepared luggage to go to the Saigon River. Noisy sights and confusion at the port made us very frightful. Everybody shouted, cried out, pushed, and even killed each other to take a seat on the boat. So my parents decided to go to the airport the next day. At the airport we had to wait for a long time. Our names were not called and my parents were very tired and disappointed so we went back home. In the afternoon, my brother and I went up to the roof and we saw people were standing in line to get into a helicopter on top of a big building in the distance. We were sad that we weren't there.

 When the Viet Cong had taken over Saigon, we always lived in fear because we didn't know how they would treat us. I realized that they weren't devils like I'd seen in the cartoons on TV. They were human like me, but we were living in different worlds.