Brooke Luu’s Stormy Journey Home
She faced pirates, storms and armed guards at sea, but one child of Vietnam confronts her true test only upon escaping to America.
Illustrations by Matt Huynh
Five-year-old Brooke Luu shivered as she kept her eyes on her mother. There were forty bodies crammed in that fishing boat, each trying to remain silent in the hope that the guards armed with AK-47s would allow them to pass into the night and leave the shores of Vietnam forever.
She watched intently as her mother repeatedly tried to slip a sleeping pill into her infant brother’s mouth so he wouldn’t cry and alert the border patrol. If caught, the women would be sent home, maybe to jail. A worse fate would likely await the men.
Brooke’s mother mishandled the cup of water as she forced the medicine down the child’s throat and the water splashed on him. He wailed as the rest of the passengers grew restless. All she could do was cup her hand over the child’s mouth to muffle the shrieks.
“There was no way around the guards. We would've had to go straight through them,” Brooke recalls, three and a half decades later. “All we could do was pray that they would let us k…