Cua Thi Huynh still lives in the mobile home that FEMA provided after Hurricane Katrina, the kitchen opening to a room furnished with a couple of couches, a table and a recliner.
She offered guests a seat, apologized for the condition of the place, and sat on the floor, nudged playfully by her two dogs.
Neither she nor her daughter, Hoang Huynh, have worked in a month. The oil spill forced Coast Seafood to send them home. To make ends meet, she collected aluminum cans, sold eggs and then sold the chickens that produced them.
Ironically, she said she feels sorry for BP PLC.
“She hopes that they will find a quick solution so that the suffering will end,” said David Pham, who translated for Huynh.
Huynh, 72, lives just outside Bayou La Batre in an area known as “Little Vietnam.” It’s populated by immigrants who, like Huynh, mostly worked in local seafood processing plants or in commercial fishing, a skill that many possessed when they arrived from southeast Asia.
When the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, Huynh and her 40-year-old daughter both had jobs shucking oysters.
They have since filed claims with BP and have each received two payments of $1,000 each.
But bills made short work of the money, Cua Huynh said.
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Cua Thi Huynh, a Vietnamese immigrant in Bayou La Batre, who speaks only Vietnamese and worked at one of the seafood processing plans in Bayou La Batre. Huynh has struggled to make ends meet since the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and sells cans, eggs and chickens to make ends meet.
So Huynh, with her aching knees, soon turned to aluminum cans, walking along roadways to hunt for them, and even plucking them from the dumpsters at the seafood processing plants.
In an extra room built onto the mobile home, a nearly 2-foot pile of crushed aluminum cans waits to be sold. A friend takes them to a recycler in Tillman’s Corner.
Huynh arrived in the United States in 1997, part of the program to help southeast Asian women and their children who were fathered by U.S. military men.
She was seven months pregnant when the Army sergeant named Tommy died, she said. She’s not sure whether he died on the way home to the States or in battle.
“She said her hair is turning gray and she’s still chasing him,” Pham said, as Huynh wiped tears from her eyes.
Because she was the mother of a mixed child, she was forced from her village into the countryside, where the only work she could find was chopping down trees. Her daughter was barred from school, so Hoang Huynh does not read or write.
“She would walk by the school and the children would spit on her and throw rocks at her,” her mother said, adding that her daughter kept her hair covered because it was slightly curly, not straight.
Before the oil spill, Cua Huynh started work at 6:30 a.m., as many days a week as her health permitted. She suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, and takes medication, and two hospital stays produced bills as high as $15,000.
She once had about 40 chickens. Now, she’s down to a handful, as well as some of their chicks.
She rations her meals, she explained, eating green beans and mushrooms covered with sauce for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The U.S. Navy MZ-3A Airship is enroute to Gulf Coast and expected to arrive after July 5 at Jack Edwards National Airport in Gulf Shores, Ala. The airship was requested by the U.S. Coast Guard to support Deepwater Horizon Response operations of the Unified Area Command. The airship will be used to detect oil, direct skimming vessels, and look for wildlife that may be threatened by oil.
It’s important that we do all we can to save our beaches and businesses along the Gulf shores. Please don’t avoid our beautiful vacation spots during our clean up.Let’s support our local vendors and suppliers all we can and work with our locals to save our Gulf.
Delicate patterns in the sea breaking on Orange Beach, Alabama, more than 90 miles from the BP oil spill, cannot distract from the mess four to six inches deep on parts of the shore