Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • (gentle music)

  • - My name is Chris Norlund,

  • and I survived a plane crash as a baby.

  • I was born at the end of the Vietnam War,

  • I don't have a birthday,

  • so I don't really know exactly when I was born.

  • Americans know that there were 56,000 G.I deaths in the war,

  • But what the Americans don't talked about

  • is there are as many

  • as 3 million Vietnamese killed in the war.

  • As a result of that, there was as many as a million orphans,

  • and I was one of them.

  • The only paperwork that I had

  • was a little three by five card

  • that said the name of my orphanage,

  • so I always knew it was Sancta Maria Orphanage in Saigon,

  • and there were three names on the card.

  • However, because I don't speak Vietnamese,

  • I never really knew what the names meant.

  • Later in life, I was able to,

  • contact one of the nuns in my orphanage,

  • she told me that 90% of the children died in my orphanage,

  • so I'm really lucky to be alive.

  • Because it was at the end of the war,

  • there wasn't enough food, water

  • and in fact, we didn't even have enough diapers,

  • so they put us in buckets for most of the day.

  • The one thing that the nurse told me

  • was that every orphan was loved in the orphanage

  • and it's something I always remember that she told me.

  • After President Nixon resigned,

  • the North Vietnamese decided to attack

  • and take over the entire country,

  • and the Americans weren't gonna fight anymore,

  • essentially, the war was over

  • from the Americans perspective.

  • It was now President Ford,

  • and he asked the American Congress

  • to get money for what's called Operation Babylift.

  • Operation Babylift was a series of airlifts in April 1975.

  • It brought 3300 Vietnamese orphaned children

  • to countries like the USA, Australia, Canada and France,

  • although the official Number says 3300 children,

  • no one knows for sure exactly

  • how many children were evacuated.

  • This was an evacuation at the end of the war

  • so it was very chaotic,

  • for whatever reason I was put on the first plane out

  • it was a C-5A Galaxy, which at the time,

  • it was the largest airplane in the world,

  • the really big cargo planes, the one you see in the movies,

  • the one you can drive a Jeep on into

  • because I was a baby, they put me in a shoe box

  • and they put that on the airplane passenger seat,

  • and seat belted us in.

  • Our plane took off from Tan Son Nhut Airport,

  • there were over 300 people on the plane,

  • about 280 passengers and 30 crew members.

  • After a few minutes in the air,

  • there was a malfunction on the plane

  • and the rear cargo doors blew

  • and all the people in the lower half of the plane

  • just fell to their deaths.

  • Because I was young I was in the upper half of the plane

  • and therefore I survived.

  • After we lost power, the pilots tried to regain control,

  • and so they ended up speeding up the plane

  • and they turned around and crashed into a rice field.

  • The plane skidded for about quarter of a mile

  • and skipped up back in the air and then crashed into a dike.

  • We were full of fuel and the plane exploded into four parts

  • and everything caught on fire.

  • The plane was about a mile from the road,

  • so when the Americans sent in the rescue Jeeps,

  • they had to walk really far across the rice field,

  • and the helicopters arrived, but they couldn't land,

  • and so they would hover above us,

  • there was just smoke and fire everywhere,

  • they would lower one rescue worker at a time,

  • rescue one person and bring them back up in the basket.

  • But because the rescue operation was slow,

  • some people actually survived the crash

  • but either burn to death or drown in the mud.

  • About 176 people survived the crash,

  • and about 138 children and crew members were lost.

  • Those of us that survived the crash

  • were flown to United States.

  • This crash was the largest loss of life

  • in Defense Intelligence Agency history, until 9/11.

  • When I arrived in the USA,

  • even though I was here, I still didn't have a country,

  • South Vietnam didn't exist anymore,

  • and Americans didn't make me a citizen.

  • I didn't have any paperwork,

  • so it was actually really difficult to prove that I existed.

  • All I had was my little three by five card

  • that said I was from Sancta Maria Orphanage.

  • After living seven years in the USA,

  • and I actually don't even know how old I am,

  • so I don't have a birthday.

  • I was eligible though, to apply for US citizenship.

  • So I went down to the courthouse

  • and I swore to be an American like all the other immigrants

  • and I had to miss a day of school.

  • The next day at school, my teacher said,

  • "What did you do?"

  • And I said, "I became an American,"

  • and I remember really clearly this little girl walks

  • to the front of the room

  • and reads me a welcome to America speech,

  • and every kid in my grade made me

  • welcome to America cards in crayon,

  • you know, Statue of Liberty and immigrants on boats.

  • This is what America is to me.

  • After the events of 9/11,

  • I joined the United States Navy to be a pilot.

  • Growing up in the USA,

  • people would always tell me that I was lucky to be here

  • and lucky to be alive

  • and in my head the way they make you feel is that,

  • America is the best place in the world

  • and all the other countries are not any good.

  • So I always felt like I was from a bad place

  • and I felt like I was from a place

  • where Americans got killed.

  • Vietnam was never a place that was a good place,

  • when I was in the military,

  • and I would meet Vietnam veterans,

  • they were actually my flight surgeon,

  • and they would look at my charts,

  • and they would see that I was from Saigon,

  • and they'd always asked me about that,

  • and I always felt shame

  • because I didn't know much about my country.

  • The thing that they always tell me is that,

  • Vietnam is a really beautiful country.

  • You know, for years, everyone would always ask me

  • if I ever wanna go back and things like that,

  • and it just always seem so far away,

  • seemed like another world.

  • Like many people, I was lucky enough

  • to find someone to get married to.

  • My wife was a Korean national,

  • and so I actually flew back to Korea to meet the family,

  • and while I was in Korea,

  • we were actually close enough to go to Vietnam,

  • so my, you know, then fiance, but now my wife,

  • we went to Vietnam for the very first time

  • and I fell in love.

  • It was a beautiful, people looked like me,

  • which I'd never seen before.

  • When I arrived at the Saigon Airport,

  • it was Tan Son Nhut, which was the same airport

  • that my plane back in 1975 had left from,

  • emotion was really overwhelming, and the humidity.

  • I knew I had to return home.

  • One of the things about being in Vietnam

  • and being in Saigon, that's different than being in USA is,

  • everybody knows about the plane crash,

  • and everyone knows about people like me,

  • and one of the things I wanted to do

  • is see if I could find my orphanage,

  • and so I did some Googling and things

  • cause I knew the name of the orphanage,

  • and I found the address,

  • and as it turns out,

  • my orphanage was in the same neighborhood

  • that I chose my apartment.

  • It was different than what I had imagined,

  • the places just felt like there was love there,

  • and I understand now when the nun said,

  • that they loved every one of us,

  • and I felt that when I was there.

  • You know, people always ask me if I wanna find my parents

  • or find my family,

  • and I've come to accept that I don't have anyone.

  • When I discovered the location to my orphanage,

  • there was a little bit of hope

  • that maybe I could find my parents or something.

  • And, you know, I'd read stories and things where,

  • you know, sometimes these places have like a book,

  • where they have all the records,

  • and, you know, we get to the orphanage

  • and we found out the orphanage was closed

  • and there was no office anymore,

  • and there's no book and I just to kind of accept that,

  • you know, maybe I'll never know.

  • Emotionally in 2019 was a really high for me,

  • 2020 though comes and my wife as a Korean national

  • and the immigration office was closed last year.

  • So I returned to the USA

  • to try to facilitate my wife's green card,

  • I haven't seen my wife since December 2019.

  • This year in 2020,

  • I just do everything I can to spread positivity,

  • I started a podcast called "Bluer Sky,"

  • and the idea is that

  • not only is tomorrow going to be

  • a blue sky day something positive, it's gonna be bluer

  • than you could ever imagine.

  • Because of where I came from,

  • and because of the way I grew up,

  • I never to look down on anyone,

  • and I never make fun of anyone

  • because I know that a lot of the good people in the world

  • can come from any background.

  • Because I don't have any family,

  • I find myself reaching out to people all the time

  • to develop relationships

  • and share as many positive messages as I can

  • because I feel that we can rely on each other

  • and support each other through these tough times.

  • (gentle music)

(gentle music)

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

A2 orphanage plane vietnam saigon survived vietnamese

I Survived A Plane Crash As A Baby

  • 0 0
    林宜悉 posted on 2020/10/29
Video vocabulary