The Star Bulletin writes how a wooden boat which brought Vietnamese refugees to a beach in the Philippines more than 26 years ago is coming to Hawaii as part of an exhibition.
“The vessel, which has traveled to 48 states, will be displayed at Kewalo Basin Park this weekend as part of a “Freedom Boat” exhibition. It will celebrate the journeys of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who fled their country’s communist rule by venturing into the Pacific Ocean on unsafe boats in the wake of the Vietnam War. Not all who tried to escape from Vietnam were as fortunate, and it is estimated that as many as half a million people drowned or were killed by pirates in the South China Sea, according to Madalenna Lai, a Vietnamese who spent four days in 1975 in a vessel at sea with her four children before they were found by an American ship and taken to Guam.”
A Vietnamese priest who visits at the local parish described in a sermon how he literally took his last steps into one of those boats in an act of faith as a child. As he tells it, the boat in which he was to escape was waiting some yards offshore when he heard shouts indicating the pursuit had arrived behind them. The boat was bobbing in water above his head and he didn’t know how to swim but he kept walking. He kept going somehow until someone pulled him into the boat. They spent the next few days dodging pirates until they found safety. You could hear a pin drop after he told the story. The Star Bulletin’s story continues:
“We saw one boat with 42 people out there,” Solywoda said. “How many boats do I fathom were out there that were never seen?”
There is a boat adrift in the ocean of memory which has not yet come home to port. It is the story of those whose who wished, not for Washington’s reasons, but for their own, not to live under Communism. Vietnam is more than Chicago and the Caucasus more than Denver.