Reunion offers answers to Vietnamese orphans

April 17, 2006

CTV Toronto

Sat. Apr. 15 2006 11:34 PM ET

The Vietnamese children were adopted by Canadian families.The Vietnamese children were adopted by Canadian families.

Children were carried by nurses or strapped into place with duct tape to keep them secure for the bumpy ride in a military cargo plane.Children were carried by nurses or strapped into place with duct tape to keep them secure for the bumpy ride in a military cargo plane.

“We were the last ones out of Saigon,” rescue mission organizer Victoria Leach said.  “There was a ring of fire around the city when we took off in that old Hercules aircraft.”“We were the last ones out of Saigon,” rescue mission organizer Victoria Leach said. “There was a ring of fire around the city when we took off in that old Hercules aircraft.”

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In the days before the fall of Saigon in April 1975, a group of orphans, most too young to know what was happening, were whisked away to new lives in Canada. On Saturday, the group reunited for the first time in Toronto.

On that April day, 57 orphans — mostly infants — were strapped into place with duct tape onboard a military Hercules cargo plane and flown away from a world of violence and destruction.

Their lives were saved mere days before the fall of Saigon and the departure of U.S. troops from Vietnam.

The children were adopted by Canadian families, changing everyone's lives.

"We wouldn't have wanted to miss him," William Campbell, who adopted her son Thanh, said. "He's been a great son."

More than 30 years have passed since the group was last together for only a few hours. But that trip left a lasting impression on all their lives, even if most cannot remember the flight.

Two of the rescued children worked to bring the children, their families and rescuers together for the first time.

They felt everyone should meet because, as adults, the rescued children struggle with questions about who they are and where they come from. Many do not even know some of the most basic personal information.

"There are days I think, 'How can you just not know … where you're from,'" Trent Kilner said. "How can you not know how old you are?"

Kilner helped organize the reunion. He said the rescue is part of their identities and the reunion provides them with some of the missing pieces in their lives.

The rescued children may not remember their flight from Vietnam, but their rescuers do. Their memories remain vivid three decades later.

"We were the last ones out of Saigon," rescue mission organizer Victoria Leach said. "There was a ring of fire around the city when we took off in that old Hercules aircraft."

The group hopes this weekend's reunion will build memories and forge lifelong relationships.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon

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2 Responses to “Reunion offers answers to Vietnamese orphans”

  1. Victoria Parhar Says:

    Hi. My mom brought 2 babies from Vancouver to Toronto. I was watching the news one night regarding this and saw video footage of my mom coming off the flight with the 2 babies in her arms. She told the story of taking care of the babies on the flight and said she always wondered what happened to them. If you are interested in talking with her please e-mail me.

    • Tuyet Pham Says:

      Hi there – My name is Tuyet. I was one of the orphans on the flight from Vietnam with Victoria Leach and Helen Allen – wondering if you would like to correspond with me to my e-mail address at: tpkermit@sympatico.ca. I would like to chat with you some more about your comment above.


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