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On June 16th, the Many Shades blog will be closed.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Someone Else's Family

By A. J. Llewellyn

On Monday morning, Don Yun Yoon, a Korean immigrant to the United States, left his home in San Diego to go to work. Inside his house were his beautiful wife Young Mi, his 15-month-old daughter Grace, his two-month-old daughter Rachel and his visiting mother in law Suk Im Kim.
Three hours later, inexplicable horror occurred.
A marine corps fighter plane from a nearby base, returned from an off-shore training mission. The pilot lost control of the plane clipping the trees above the family home before plunging right into it, killing everyone inside.
In a matter of seconds, Don Yun Yoon lost three generations of his family and has no clue how to go on.
As devastating as his loss is, I was impressed and frankly amazed when he stood in tears outside the wreckage of what was once his American Dream and stated that he doesn't blame the pilot, who survived the catastrophe.
My first thoughts were - forgive me for this - he can't be American, he has to be an immigrant. if he was American he'd be lawyered up with some high-profile celeb lawyer who'd already be on the Today Show hollering for Ju$tice.
Don Yun Yoon stood on the street where he lived and spread out his hands. "I don't have any hard feelings. He [the pilot] did everything he could." His bewildered gaze traversed the wreckage of his crushed life. He said he didn't know how he could cope with the loss of his family.
"Please tell me how to do it." His voice cracked. "I don't know what to do."
My heart went out to him and in that moment, I remembered a tragic incident in my family. My Uncle Peter was married to one of the sweetest most wonderful women I ever met.
Her name was Helen and when my own mother died when I was six, she fluttered around me and my brothers, always making sure we were included at family functions. They had a beautiful 10-year-old daughter Theoni, who I remember as being both angelic and tough to beat at Vigaro (the Australian street version of cricket).
Helen and Theoni were sitting at a bus stop bench one morning waiting for the bus when a drunken driver did the unthinkable. He veered off the road and slammed straight into my aunt and my cousin, killing them.
I did not see much of my uncle after that. He was not a broken man. He was a wraith.
A few years ago, when I was back in Australia for a vacation, I looked him up. He'd long ago given up the family home, given up on life and he was a thin, unhappy soul just waiting to die. He wasn't particularly interested in talking to me, but there is, among those who have experienced deep tragedy, a kind of connectedness. It's a belonging to a club you have no wish to be a member of, but fate's decided you belong to.
After almost giving up on having any type of decent conversation with my Uncle Peter, he suddenly asked me if I think about my mother.
"Every day," I said. "I miss her every day."
He nodded. He understood. "What happened to me," he said, looking traumatized as he revisited the past, "Is something so horrendous you couldn't wish it on someone else's family."
These two remarkable men have been dealt vicious blows by life, blows that will forever mar them. I have no doubt Don Yun Yoon feels the same way as my Uncle Pete, but as I watched Mr. Yoon on TV surrounded by his sister, brother and family pastor, I felt certain his future is less hollow, that he will be able to talk about his feelings. These are different times and I hope the people close to him will encourage him to talk, to help him keep the faith and give him strength.
I don't wish this had happened to someone else's family. I wish it hadn't happened at all. I'd like these cruel mysteries of life to be explained, but until that day happens, I can only hope and pray that there is some good, valid reason God makes these decisions.
I do believe in the Rainbow Bridge, where our loved ones are waiting for us. I know my Uncle Pete believes in it too.
In the meantime, the inexplicable has occurred. As one of Mr. Yoon's tearful neighbors told reporters, "I can't get over that a family has perished. A young, beautiful family."

Aloha oe,



Nix Winter said...

That's a powerful postie! Made me cry.

Jambrea said...

Oh AJ, my heart is just breaking. Thank you for sharing this story.

Jesse Fox said...

I saw this story on the news and I have to admit that I thought something similar to what you did about this forgiving man who lost so much in one blow. In this day and age people are always seeking someone to blame for tragedies like this one. Believing somehow that a lawsuit will fix something that there is no easy fix for. His ability to forgive is a refreshing and beautiful thing that inspires.

Tragedy is a part of all our lives as your own story and your uncle's prove. We either rise above the loss,grow from the pain we suffer, or we spend the rest of our lives wondering why. I believe there is hope to be found even in the most heartbreaking of tragedies if we just allow ourselves to grieve.

Thank you for sharing your family's story with us.

Adrianne Brennan said...

What a powerful post. Thanks for making it.

AJ Llewellyn said...

Thank you for your comments everyone. It means so much to me.


AP Miller said...


I can sympathize with you and the other families...I lost my youngest infant son who was only 5 months old two days before Thanksgiving in 1981, my sister in law right before Easter at age 36 in 1994 to cancer, my Dad to cancer in 1995 ten days before Christmas at age 63. My mother at age 73 before Halloween in 2003, and my first husband at age 49 two weeks before our 24th wedding anniversary in a fatal car accident in I know what that man and everyone else is suffering. You never forget the ones you love because they are always in our hearts. My prayers are sent.

Lynn Crain said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing this emotional story. Makes me thankful for what I have.


Stephani Hecht said...

AJ, you truly have a gift with words. This post was powerful and it brought me to tears. Thank you so much for sharing.

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