I go to school.
I complain about homework.
I have a desk job.
I get overtime, stat pay and holidays.
I have AC in the summer.
I have heat in the winter.
I complain when gas is too high.
I complain when the music isn't high enough.
I get to splurge on a hot new dress.
I complain about wearing high heels.
I'm annoyed when there are too many commercials during Grey's Anatomy.
I roll my eyes when my parents tell me to eat that last grain of rice.
I get to sleep in on weekends.
I hate taking out the garbage.
I get frustrated when I get stuck in traffic for more than half an hour.

My mother dropped out of school when she was 11 because she had to help sustain her family.
She couldn't afford books, pencils or paper.
My father squatted by the side of the road.
He was lucky to bring home anything at the end of the day.
My parents waded through monsoons in the summer.
They didn't have blankets at night.
My parents shared a bike between all of their siblings.
My father got beaten by his parents for wanting to learn music.
My mother patched patches on her rags, over and over again when it got threadbare.
My parents were lucky if they even had sandals at all.
You think they had luxuries like PS3s, iPods and cell phones?
My father would make a cup of rice last a week. For his entire family.
My mother would wake up at 3 am to pick herbs to sell in the market.
My mother would salvage, wash and rinse plastic bags to sell by the pound.
My parents spent weeks at sea for freedom.

I have the privileges, the luxuries, the rights and the freedoms today... only because my parents decided to leave behind everything that they had to step foot on a rickety, cramped and unstable 20 foot boat to sail aimlessly for weeks across an ocean towards...hope, for that is all that they had left.

Some people ask me why I fight for a "lost cause," why I don't just "forget the past," or what could I possibly do to "make a difference?"

To me, April 30th is a commemoration, a remembrance, a dark day in my culture's, and thus, my family's history. I will never get to meet my grandfather, only hear the stories my father retells proudly. It is not a lost cause. 34 years later, and there are still stateless Vietnamese stranded in Cambodia. Are they "lost causes" too?

I cannot forget the past, for it has defined who I am. Of course, I can move forward. But I only hold my head high because of the sacrifices of those who have come before me who have allowed me to have the privileges that I have today. Am I to turn my back on them and "forget the past?"

The torch has been passed to me. With each passing generation, it grows dimmer. I refuse to allow the flame to die. Its fuel, its sustenance lies within us. The flame does not diminish the more we share it. I believe that within each of us is the capacity to do great things. Together, we can light a new path, a bold path, but we cannot do it alone. Together, we can educate others about the stateless Vietnamese. We can educate others about the ecological impacts of Bauxite mining in Vietnam. We can raise awareness of child labourers, political prisoners and activists, freedom of speech, human rights...there are so many things we CAN do to "make a difference." We simply need to step up and try.

So today, I take a moment to remember. Cause if I don't, how will the next generation?

I shall not forget.
April 30, 1975.
Nguyen Hoang Tuyet Nhi
April 29, 2009
Please join the Toronto Vietnamese community in commemorating the Fall of Saigon - April 30th, 1975.
Sunday May 3, 2009 @ Nathan Phillips Square
(Northwest corner of Queen and Bay Street)
[10:00-12:00] Concert showcasing the Vietnamese heritage including musical performances, dances, and plays
[12:00-1:00] Official Commemoration Ceremony
[1:00-1:30] Parade on downtown streets
[1:30-2:00] Wreath Laying Ceremony at Cenotaph (In front of Old City hall)