BY NHIEN NGUYEN
For my brother in Louisiana, Tan Nguyen, the invincible one in the family able to act quickly on his feet, Hurricane Katrina left him with many challenges and no easy solutions.
His story is not the typical one heard in the news.
Tan resides in Baton Rouge where he moved from Portland 14 years ago, the same year I left for college in the Midwest. We were shocked when he made the drastic decision to live with our relatives down in the Bayou, where he would later become manager of our uncle’s nail store and a fluent Vietnamese speaker with a Cajun twang.
I’ve got refugees in my house, my brother told me last week over the phone, with the cellular lines still crackling with static and interference.
I laughed at his endearing and ironic term for the family members that had been crashed on his floor since the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. He always knew how to make levity of a grave situation.
His wife, who grew up in New Orleans, had offered their house for relatives and friends. Her parents, thinking the original evacuation warning was a false alarm — past evacuations had yielded no hurricanes — left their New Orleans house with nothing but the shirts on their backs. They would be home in an hour, they mistakenly thought.
Like so many others in New Orleans, they were shocked and dismayed that the house they had called home would now be rotting from the mold that had grown from the floods of water. My brother wondered, how could he help them recover the value of a house that his in-laws had invested in since they arrived in America 30 years?
For Tan, the place he had called home, Baton Rouge, had changed overnight.
With the influx of thousands of people into Baton Rouge, our uncle was able to sell property in Baton Rouge for double its value. Though one may imagine his nail businesses would suffer, customers, with nothing to do, were occupying themselves getting manicures. Business is fluorishing.
But, no longer was Baton Rouge the sleepy small town in which my brother had chosen to raise his two young children. What used to be a quick trip to pick up his kids from school now takes over 45 minutes. Stores that used to be open 24 hours now close at 8 p.m. for safety reasons. Eggs that were available at grocery stores anytime are now snatched up by noon.
Baton Rouge, Tan says, is not the same town it used to be, and may never be again.
At a crossroads, Tan can’t make the brash decisions of picking up and leaving like he used to when he was a bachelor. He’s considering moving to Texas, where our mother is, and beginning a new life.
But that decision would mean finding the capital to start his own business and losing his 10 plus years of contacts in Baton Rouge. It would mean uprooting his kids from their friends and their school. It would mean living close to my mom, both a blessing and a challenge.
And what about the refugees in my house, he asked himself. What will he do with them?
For the first time, my older brother was asking me for advice, and though I have been ready with suggestions on his life, I was at a loss to tell him what to do.
I read your issue dated Sept. 21st with interest. Two articles particularly caught my attention:
What Immigrants need to know (page 4)
It appears that a distinction needs to be made between “immigrants” and “illegal aliens.” Immigrants should be considered to be those who have applied and been accepted as legal immigrants according to our laws. “Undocumented children” or “undocumented people” are here illegally. They are “illegal aliens.” They should be referred to as such and as such should be deported. Using nice sounding names like “undocumented” does not make them anymore legal. I can see a very clear distinction and cannot understand why children of illegal aliens should be allowed to attend our publicly financed schools. They and their parents should be returned to their country of origin immediately.
OCA solicits donations (page 5)
How does this not strike anyone as racist? Donations only for Asian Pacific American Huricane victims is based on race. What would happen if an organization began soliciting donations only for White victims? Think about it. Does race change the value of the victim?
William N. Turnbull