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27April 2000

I (Bonnie) asked Matt:

Thank you for your sensitive and insightful essay. As I was reading it, I was trying to visualize you doing and watching the things you described. I am wondering about several of the things you mentioned, that seem hard to reconcile. You described "the panic stricken city " the night before the fall of Hanoi, and then a few sentences later said that "...thousands of Saigonaise crowded the park in front of the former presidential palace....the city was calm, festive and curious". I have seen pictures of panicky Vietnamese trying to get onto helicopters. Did the population really change toward the NVA that much? Also, you mentioned "They came to Peter Arnett's house as he was packing. " But you didn't say what happened to him. Now I am worried about him!

Matt responded:

Bonnie: Some answers for you. Apr 28/29 the city was wild and panic stricken with looters and drunk disgruntled soldiers everywhere. Dawn was quiet apr. 30. It was as if everyone knew the end was near. By 8 - 10 am some people were on the street. Markets were closed, most people were indoors except for old lady street sweepers wielding their long wicker-like brooms in graceful arcs never blinking as NVA tanks drove by. Saigon surrendered about 11 am give or take some. I saw the first VC about 10 while I was riding a jeep around town. They had guns. I did the wise thing - flashed a thumbs up and a stupid white mans smile. They lowered the rifles. Shortly after the NVA tanks took the palace and other trucks and NVA infantry poured into a park in front of the palace the city took on a festive air and thousands came out to meet the victors. The tone of the city changed in a matter of hours. Nothing happened to Arnett when the NVA confiscators came through. If I go west I'll call. thanks for your comments.

Matt

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