A Minnesota PBS Initiative

A Sleeping Child

 The passage below is an excerpt from ALL KINDS OF HEROES by Jerry A. Rose with Lucy Rose Fischer. Jerry Rose was a writer, artist, war correspondent, photographer, and political consultant in Vietnam in the early 1960s. Jerry died in a plane crash in September 1965. His sister, Lucy Rose Fischer, a Minnesota artist and writer, is working on this book, drawn from her brother’s journals and other writings. Jerry’s wife, Kay Peterson Rose, was originally from Dundee, MN.

The event described here occurred in June 1965. It was shortly after his wife (Kay) and daughter (Thorina) had come to visit him in Saigon and then returned to their home in Hong Kong. During the visit, they had had dinner at the My Canh Floating Restaurant.

Today is hot with heavy rain storms in the afternoon and then a deluge of sun, and then another rain storm. By the time I get home in the evening, I feel begrimed with sweat, and slightly claustrophobic from the low-cloud sky and enclosing heat. I shower immediately and the cold water helps; and the cool tiles on my bare feet helps; and drying myself in the wind of the ceiling fan helps… 

Then I hear the first explosion, like an angry uplifting and falling of a stack of lumber. I begin to dress rapidly.

Then comes a second explosion. Exactly one minute later. In another minute I’m dressed and on my way out. The people on the streets are rushing toward the river front.

I stop an American, walking in the opposite direction, and ask “Where was the explosion?” "I think it's the My Canh Floating Restaurant,” he says. Something inside me gasps. God, Kay and Thorina were there just a few days ago. 

I hurry on.

The fresh blood glistens in the headlights of the ambulances. People are gathered around this pile of torn flesh, wondering what they can do.

Sirens begin to lift their voices like mourners' wails. A hysteria of sirens. I reach the general vicinity of the explosion. 

Police and soldiers are already in cordon formation and a swelling crowd butts against them like water against a dam. I push my way through and come to the My Canh. I’m on the opposite side of the street.

Across the street, at the end of the gangplank, which goes into the My Canh restaurant, human bodies, wet red pulp, are stacked. The fresh blood glistens in the headlights of the ambulances. 

People are gathered around this pile of torn flesh, wondering what they can do. But nothing can be done. A few victims are carried, one by one, into ambulances. I recognize a waiter from the restaurant. 

Horst Faas is taking pictures. His strobe light flashes, flashes, adding to the panic of the scene. 

On the side of the street where I’m standing, a tall Caucasian man lies on his back, badly blooded on the left side of his body. One leg is drawn up and he keeps moving it back and forth like a rhythmic groan. 

And then there’s the child. 

Jerry Rose

She’s in the shadows, almost on the pavement. She’s about ten years old. She wears black silky pants and a flowered blouse. She lies face down. Her right arm is neatly by her side. Her left arm is extended outward, palm up. 

She is a sleeping child. She looks like she’s sleeping, and except for the already-coagulated streak of blood that has trickled out of her mouth she seems untouched by the ravage of the explosion. 

Perhaps she's unconscious, I think, and squat and lift her left arm. Lifeless. I try her pulse. There is none. I put her arm back into the same position, palm up. I stand up. 

Another journalist is near me. He says… "I had just put the final line on my story, saying that it was a quiet week." 

In the meantime, the young girl continues to sleep at our feet. Ah, the poor child is so tired, and her sleep is a peaceful one. 

But somehow it is lonely and sad, maybe the most lonely and sad thing I've ever seen, her sleeping here in the street. Dead here in the street. Light, laughter cut short; all the child's glee gone. 

She lies dead in the street. … And the picture continues to burn and hurt. I think she will always remain with me, a sleeping child somewhere within me.

Biographical Details

Primary Location During Vietnam: Saigon, Vietnam Vietnam location marker

Story Subject: Civilian

Story Themes: Civilian, Death and Loss, Family, Jerry Rose Fischer, Lucy Rose Fischer, News Coverage, Read, Saigon, Saint Louis Park, St Louis Park

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