Northern Beaches Human Books – An Ngo Lang’s Refugee Story
Thursday, 23 May 2019
“Fear, most assuredly, has a smell,” she recounted many years later. “But no one spoke, cried or even whimpered.”
Gripping her daddy’s hand with an intensity and strength beyond her age, her heart racing, four-year-old An Ngo took a final glimpse of their beloved Saigon from the round window of a great, green, shuddering Chinook helicopter.
As the big machine lumbered and roared into the air, the tiny girl watched on as bright orange flashes punctuated the horizon, and rockets and mortars blasted Saigon’s outskirts.
“We were waiting; expecting that at any second the helicopter would be blown to pieces.”
“Large, black plumes of smoke, all around the city, from burning houses, cars, and buildings rose up into the night sky,” she recalls.
“Saigon, the beautiful city of my childhood, the place I believed to be peaceful and held all my earliest memories, had become total chaos; a place of panic, terror, confusion and war.”
More than 40 years later, An Ngo Lang would like to share with you her remarkable story – in person.
Not just the story of her family’s flight from the turmoil of Saigon in 1975, but of the long, dramatic journey that took her across the world, first to America, Europe, Asia - and finally Australia.
Northern Beaches Council’s ‘Human Library’ is back, commemorating Refugee Week 2019, featuring real people - like An Ngo Lang - going ‘on loan’ to the public for 20 minutes at a time to share compelling true stories about their experiences as refugees.
The ‘Stories of the Northern Beaches - Human Library’ event, featuring stories like An’s as well as those of people from Tibet, Serbia, Armenia and others, will be held from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday 22 June at Warringah Mall Library.
Visitors to our ‘Human Library’ - the ‘Readers’ - will have an opportunity to borrow fascinating ‘Human Books’ for 20 minutes and have a conversation with them about their stories as refugees, including the challenges of settling in a new country, overcoming stereotypes and starting a new life.
Interested readers should look on Council’s website to see what stories are available - and to book in as a ‘reader’.
“All our ‘Books’ are local residents with a refugee background, willing to share aspects of their life experience with you,” said Northern Beaches Mayor, Michael Regan.
“The ‘Human Library’ is a great way to connect people in our community and foster conversations that promote mutual understanding,”
“The event aims to challenge stereotypes and acknowledge the great contributions refugees make to our community.”
An, who is writing a book about her family’s experience, was quick to volunteer to be a ‘Human Book’ for the event.
“Having lived in seven countries in the last 20 years, I see, first hand, that Australia has a truly rich and diverse society,” said An. “It is a remarkable melting pot here.”
“Millions of people are currently displaced throughout the world for many reasons,” she said.
“At the heart of every person, whether refugee or not, is the longing for safety and comfort.”
“As citizens of the world, it is important to recognise the plight and struggle of those people, who through no fault of their own, have lost their homeland and desperately seek a place to begin anew.”
“I’m so excited I will have the chance to share my story at the Northern Beaches Council Human Library event,” said An.
“My goal is to provide a story that is true, that appeals to everyone – even other refugees - and that leaves an indelible mark in everyone’s mind on how chaos, terror, and loss can bring about great resilience, grit and hope for the future.”
To express your interest in becoming a ‘Human Book’ and sharing your story, fill in the online form at northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au or phone 9976 1562 to apply.