While my brother was having the bigger boat built, he used the little boat to navigate in the river and to check out all the checkpoints. He studied the checkpoints and saw how many guards,who was the easiest one and who is the most difficult. They kept a log and found that at one checkpoint there is one guard, kind of heavyset, that is really easy. When you came in, he didn’t look at anything, he just signed off and let you go. It takes them 18 months for them to get prepared for us to leave. During this time, we almost gave up hope because it kept dragging on. One day, my number three brother shows up at my mom’s house and he said,
“Today is the day that we go. Tonight.”
In Vietnam we have a curfew from ten o’clock at night till five or seven in the morning. Curfew means that nobody is allowed on the streets during that time. So, he said that he would come right before curfew to pick my mother up. I just remember that day, Amy and I, we were getting ready and I had no fear. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t even nervous. I thought it was a trip for me! Amy and I were really excited and were ironing our clothes. We both had on a white blouse and platform shoes! My mother was really, really nervous. At that time, we had four dogs in the house and my mother had to cook for the dogs because we were going to leave them. She cooked a lot of food for the dogs. Amy and I packed two suitcases of clothes and went to the shipyard. We walked on a little plank onto our boat and my number four brother [Dat Thach] was in the boat. He said, “What do you think you are doing?” He took our suitcases and threw them over the boat and into the river.
Christine and Amy remember being very unaware of what was happening up until this moment of their escape. As they sat in the cabin with their brother across from them, they realized how serious it was.
A passerby saw Christine and Amy dressed in white blouses and high heels on the boat. He came over to warn their brother that he needed to let them off the boat. If Christine and Amy had been found on the boat, all of them would have been arrested and the boat would have been confiscated. However, if they were caught alone and off the boat only Christine and Amy would be arrested. So, to protect the future of their family, Christine and Amy went and hid for several hours in the shipyard. Gradually, the rest of those that were going to be on the boat arrived to the shipyard and scattered to hide until it was time to leave.
The plan was that we were going to get out in the middle of the night but my number five [Hien Thach] was missing. My number three was the one who called all the shots. He was the leader and he said we were not going to leave anyone behind. We waited all night long. When we heard the public transportation start in the morning my brother came with three more people than we expected. One of them was a tiny little baby. We didn’t want too many people in the boat because it would look suspicious but then it was too late. Around six or seven o’clock that morning, my brother started to load us one by one onto the boat.
I passed out soon after that. When I woke up, I saw a little sunlight coming through the lid of the cabin. The boat was not moving. We were just sitting in the water. I got up and saw that everyone was passed out. I tried to push that lid open to get up there and see what was going on. When I first came up, I saw all my brothers laid out on the deck. I thought they had died. Their faces looked purple from the vomiting and dehydration. I woke my number three up because we were still in Vietnamese waters.