Continuing yesterday’s installment on the description of Easter mass in Saigon in 1975:
Monsignor Sullivan turned to the people and said, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace.”
The guitars struck up a joyous beat resonating with irrepressible good humor, and the group sang a rousing recessional ending with the refrain, “Oh, how great it is to be alive!” After the Monsignor and altar boys had passed down the aisle, Chuck got to his feet and milled with the rest of the crowd out of the chapel. He made his way to the rear courtyard, where he had visited Philippe. The Monsignor was already there, talking to the parishioners gathered about him. Molly stumbled in, went to Monsignor Sullivan, and blubbered apologies for breaking down during Mass. Ike came in and went to her. She leaned on him.
Chuck put his hand on her arm. “That’s no way to celebrate Easter.”
She threw her arms around him. “It’s my last Mass. I’m leaving Friday, flying out with the first contingent of orphans.”
“She decided last night,” Ike said. “She’ll take care of them en route to Travis Air Force base, south of San Francisco. President Ford’s supposed to meet the plane. But keep it under your hat. No public announcement.”
Another woman, an American, was talking to Monsignor Sullivan. She, too, was in tears.
“What’s going on?” Chuck said.
“They’re moving out American families, starting tomorrow,” Ike whispered. “On the sly, quiet-like, so’s not to stampede the Viets. And the Ambassador’s not calling it an evacuation. If anybody asks, it’s a redeployment to save dollars for aid to the Vietnamese military.”
End of quote. The plane that Molly took was the first of the Operation BABYLIFT flights. It crashed immediately after takeoff killing 138. Among them were 78 children and 35 folks from the building we worked in. Each of us knew somebody who died in the crash.