– Alex, Montreal

Picture yourself at 16 years old. What do you remember?

I was just an awkward teenage boy living a typical boring suburban life. I was studying a lot, watching TV, playing sports. A relatively boring and safe life, but a ridiculously lucky life, although at that time I had no idea.

At 16 years old, my mom fled Vietnam. Fleeing from a war-ridden country isn’t something you can easily prepare for. The war had just ended, but chaos and violence were still present, and everyone was scrambling to escape the communist take-over. One day, the opportunity for her to flee arose. She was separated from her family and hidden away in the storage space of a tiny fishing boat with about 30 other people.

They ended up surviving the patrolling coast guard, sea pirates (actually), and starvation, only to find themselves in the middle of the ocean on a damaged, sinking boat. At this point my mom expected death. Falling asleep, she even thought she saw death, but that blinding white light turned out to be a rescue vessel that brought her to Malaysia, from where she ultimately found her way to Montreal to join the rest of her family. The full story is quite impressive – it’s a crazy story about luck, but mostly, it’s a story about toughness and resilience.

Today you might find my mom taking a walk in a park in Longueuil. You’d never guess it, but even though she is half your size she’s twice as bad ass.

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