Saturday, September 03, 2005

The evacuation of Little Saigon

I have heard though a second hand forum posting that rescue has come for several hundred Vietnamese-Americans trapped in the Versailles area in the easternmost reaches of the city.

It reported that around 300 people were rescued from the Vietnamese Market, but I don't know if these were the same group of people--reported to be as many as 500--at Mary Queen of Vietnam Parish. I have reply posts out trying to find out if all have been rescued.

It does not surprise me that these might be among the last rescued.

The Vietnamese immigrants of New Orleans East have always been the lowest caste in the city's stratified society. Many black New Orleanians would casually refer to the as the "Cong" when I was working the in communities of New Orleans East in the early 1980s.

These people have known tremendous adversity. Rejected by their native country at the end of the conflict there, they fled to a new home which took them in, but did not make them welcome.

They lived apart the most most easterly reaches of the city, in small homes with large backyard truck gardens, working at the lowest of jobs. I was welcomed into their community several times when I was working as a reporter in eastern New Orleans. I still have a news clipping of a story I did on their Vietnamese New Years celebration.

I am glad I did not see their rescue on TV, to see them lifted once again by helicopter to an unknown future. It would be too painful to bear.

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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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