StoryCorps, PBS and WGBH were in residence at Viet-AID's center on Charles Street in Dorchester earlier in March. Their purpose was to interview and record Vietnamese-American refugees and US veterans telling their stories following the war. The interviews are a part of the "First Days Story Project." The project invites members of the Vietnamese-American community, and Vietnam veterans, with strong ties to the post war diaspora and evacuation to have a conversation with a loved one or friend, in order to document the Vietnamese-American refugee experience through the voices of those who lived it.
"This project is amazing in that until now, there has not been a large scale effort to collect the many stories, the many voices of Vietnamese-Americans and their exodus," says Van Paul Le, a Boston attorney and interim executive director of the Vietnamese-American Initiative for Development, Inc., who is also one of the participants of this project.
The participants’ experiences were very poignant, and it was truly meaningful for them to remember and share their stories. "I remember my own family's journey in April of 1975," Van shared. "We fled by boat at dusk, with gunfire aimed at us as we fled to the open ocean. We had no destination but were hoping to be rescued by the US Navy. After many days, we were finally picked up by a ship bearing the American flag, and ultimately resettled in America." Participants also brought in their photos and memorabilia, bringing their stories even more to life. Many participants expressed their gratitude for this opportunity to share their stories, not just with the public, but with their family as well, as they felt it brought them closer together.
"I think you will find that the stories are filled with simple, inspiring acts of heroism, charity and hope, reminding us of the sacrifices that were made so that we can enjoy the freedom and opportunities we have today," Van said. Viet-AID is thrilled and honored to be a part of this inspirational project.
Copies of the interviews will be posted on the First Days Story Project website and permanently archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.