Growing up as a child of eight, I was too busy having fun and being a bully to my older sister. One night in November turned my world upside down. My mom was pouring gasoline into a bottle so she could pour that bottle into our family motorcycle. I walked by with my two sisters holding a kerosene lamp. The night was dark and our Vietnamese town had no electricity. I thought my mother needed help so I tried to offer her my lamp and I accidentally slipped. At that age, I never knew that gasoline and the lamp flame could turn into something so vicious as the great fire itself. The moment I dropped the lamp, I somehow knew my life would never be the same.
My house burst into flames and my parents, my two sisters, and I were trapped in the flames. My dad managed to escape so he could wrap a blanket around himself in order to jump back into the fire and save us. He was able to save my sisters and me, but the flames were eating him up. He wasn’t able to go back in for my mom. My poor mother somehow escaped afterward. My family was rushed to the local hospital. I saw the face of my loving mother in that hospital for the last time of my life. I remembered clearly that in the bed right next to her, I looked at her in pain and wanted so badly to tell her I was sorry that I did this to our family. I was ashamed of myself so I looked away, never realizing I would be able to see her dear face again. My mother passed away two months later in the hospital while my sisters and I were getting treatments in another hospital.
My father tried to protect my sisters and me so he lied about her death. When we got discharged from the hospital, we found her picture on the altar at home. I felt like something inside of me was gone forever. A year later, my family had our paperwork done to leave for the States. My sisters and I were severely burned so we had to get medical treatment in America. Life in America was embarrassing. All the staring, teasing, and questions made me feel so trapped. I started to have low self-esteem.
I blamed myself for what happened to my family even though they didn’t blame me. Their love makes me not want to regret my life later. I went through so much that I learned to leave the past behind and to focus on the present. Now instead of saying I was burned, I say that I am a burn survivor. If I wasn’t burned, I would not be who I am today. The experience taught me to have respect for myself and others, to give back to the community, and to value my education. I am a burn survivor will not be held back.
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