Remembrance of the Babylift Airlift Crash
By Susan Winterbottom
An adoptive parent remembers the tragic airlift crash during Operation Babylift.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Baby-Lift plane leaving Saigon to bring the babies and children to homes to several countries, including the United States. Twenty five years ago, I was single and had not received my referral yet. I woke up about to hear the news on the radio. I was in shock. I cried buckets of tears. Of course I thought my child was on that plane because events were moving so quickly to the down fall of South Vietnam. Perhaps I would get my referal within a few days and then find that child was on that plane. I could not believe that what started as a gesture to get these children to safety could end in such a horrible disaster. Yes, I cried for my still unknown child, but I cried for every soul who persished that day. I questioned why God could allow such a terrible to happen.
Then I received a phone-call from one of the adoptive parents, to come to my social worker's house A.S.A.P. Now I was a complete basket case. I was sure my child was on that plane. She told me that my social worker had just received my referal that very day. I could not drive to her house about ten miles away. My body broke out in a rash and I was a mess. My mom drove me to my social worker's house. When I arrived, she took me into her office and spoke to me privately. My child was a male newborn!
My social worker explained that my baby was not on that plane. My home study was approved for a new born to age 5 - either sex. If my baby should die (so many were in poor health near the end) I would probably still get a child because I was high up on the waiting list. I was somewhat relieved, but still grieved for the others.
My infant finally arrived home ten days later on April 14,1975 at a nearly deserted airport in Newark. I named him Andrew.
Andrew had a rocky start. We nearly lost him; he spent 23 days in intensive care at a local hospital. But he pulled through and today is a healthy adult. He just celebrated his 25th birthday on March 1st. After graduating from high school he joined the U.S. Marines. At first I didn't approve because I tried hard to bring him up in a land of peace and now he put himself in harm's way. He served his 4 years. He was in Somila to help the last peace-keeper to evacute. When snipers shot at the Marines, he pulled his buddy out of the way and saved his life. He received a commendation for that act. He is going to Rice University part-time now.
I am filled with pride. Every April 4th, I read the book "Turn My Eyes Away" and try to reflect on that tragic day. I keep each soul in my prayers. It didn't matter what agency they were sponsored by, they were innocents souls and I still grieve for them and the adults who were on that plane to help them get to a safe place. I grieve for the families who waited in vain for them. There is no such thing as closure. I hate that overused word. All I can hope for is that they are in a far better place and at peace. April 4,1975 will always stay in my memory, On that bitter-sweet day the worst tragedy occured and I received the best news in my life. Life is full of ironies. Please love your precious ones and remember the lives lost on that day.