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In Remembrance of the Babylift Airplane Crash

By Susan Winterbottom

Dear Parents or Waiting Parents,

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.  

Copyright 2000 Susan Winterbottom

Susan Winterbottom would like to express her appreciation for Cherie Clerk of IMH, who at that time was the director of FCVN located in Denver and helped to airlift the babies and children in the Baby Lift flights. Susan Winterbottom may be reached at
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