When we started to run we left from the house. I was lucky. My husband went back to find some water for our son. That's why my husband and my son got killed. At that time the two groups of people, the Communists and the Republic of Vietnam, they were fighting together, and they started bombing. But my husband went back. If he had just followed me, he wouldn't have died, but he wanted to get some water for our son.
I ran to the forest to hide from the bombing. When I went into the forest I had only Loan. We had no water. I was two months in the forest just with Loan. A lot of people died in the forest because they didn't have enough water. We had the banana tree, so we could take the water from the banana. Also, there was one kind of snail in the forest. I took the snail and put it in the soldier's helmet. I used the rocks to make a fire pit, and of course in the forest you can find dry tree branches. So I cooked—I boiled the snail and water came out from the snail. I drank that water. That was one of the only ways to get water—and the banana—and also there was a special kind of leaf on a tree. That one has a sour taste. So, I took all kinds of these and just tried to eat them to take the water from the leaves. Water came out from the leaves.
At nighttime, I would sleep with the dead bodies. There was bombing. People just died on the road or everywhere, but nobody was digging the graves. No people were doing that.
When I came here my life was easier. So I am always thankful to America because my life changed. Life here is easier than in Vietnam—compare the money I make. If you go to work at the factory, or anywhere, you earn the same money like everyone. But in my country it's different; it's really different. If you find the firewood and you sell it, it's up to you, you are the street vendor. You do it by yourself and no one is saying, "This has to be this price." But here everything has a law and has a price. So everyone is making money—putting it down for the rent. Then we still have money left to save in the bank and also I can send some back to Vietnam to help my relatives.
The hardest thing about moving to Vermont was the language barrier. I don't know how to read and write. When I went to work, I didn't know anything and they spoke English with me. It was really hard. At first I worked at Lake Champlain Chocolates and then my second job was at Gordini. I worked at Lake Champlain Chocolates for three years and then Gordini for ten years. I can't work now because of my legs. I cannot walk sometimes. I can't get out from my bed. The doctor just recommend for me not to work, so I get SSI benefits. I became a U.S. citizen in July of 2007. I felt so happy, so proud. I did not sleep very well because I was worried. I didn't sleep well for two months before the interview.
Four of my children came with me to the United States and all of them are doing successfully. The son who helped me collect the wood is now the owner of a nail salon and they are doing a very good business. All that time I was in Vietnam and then the United States—I never thought to get married. I thought only of taking care of my family. Now that I am here living with my children and grand children, I think this is the greatest pleasure of my life.