Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

TOP STORY >> Family must flee again

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

When the United States pulled out of Saigon in 1975, abandoning all of Vietnam to the North Vietnamese, Trung Vu brought his family to this country with the few possessions they could carry. A young man then, he started anew, settling in the New Orleans area and eventually working as a jeweler.
Now, 30 years later, his job, home and that new life have been washed away in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Vu is once again on the road, a refugee in his adopted country.
Vu and three generations of his family—20 people in all—crammed in three cars with a few changes of clothes and some personal items are headed east to Pennsylvania and the promise of help and shelter from his brother and sister.

Looking tired and re-signed, Vu folded his arms and watched as his wife and daughter packed the back of the mini-van Thursday morning after an evening at the Lonoke Days Inn.
Many of the vehicles parked in Lonoke’s cluster of motels had Louisiana plates, with a fair smattering of Mississippi and Alabama plates.

People lingered in the lobbies, eating complimentary breakfasts, of hunkered down outside for a forlorn smoke.
Vu’s father-in-law, a man in his the 80s, came out to pack his bag into the car. For now, Vu just wants to get his family, including his wife’s aging parents, to his brother’s home in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Tuesday Houston, Wednesday night Lonoke and maybe one more night before Lancaster.
“We’re from Gretna, over the bridge from New Orleans,” said Vu. As far as I know, our area, the whole New Orleans, my job, all gone.

“We are empty again,” said Vu. “It’s a total loss,” said Vu. “Nothing now. No job.”
Asked if he was going back, Vu asked, “Go back for what? No job. No electricity—how you pay for everything?” He said he might try to go back in a few months and see if anything of his old life, any possessions could be salvaged.

“I’m very sad, very lost inside,” said his daughter Kim, 12.
Hopefully there will be another opportunity, Vu said. “We lost what we had, but we’re still lucky,” he said. “There’s a thousand people dead, floating in the water.
“Life will never be the same.”