Loan Shillinger, Excerpt from the book, “Silence Broken”
Birth of Operation Baby Lift
by Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson
It was about 15 minutes after take off with the first planeload of children in what became known as Operation Baby Lift. The C-5A transport plane out of Vietnam, in early April 1975, was about 40 miles away from the Tan Son Nhut airport in Saigon.
It would be called one of the worst aircraft disasters in history. Almost everyone in the bottom of the transport—the majority of which were children two years and younger—were killed. Many of the 170 or so survivors were injured.Three year old Tran Thi Kim Loan was one of the survivors of that fatal crash. She was born in a small fishing village north of Saigon called Quang Tri to a mother who was Vietnamese, and a father who was an African-American soldier from the U.S. When she was only around eight months old, her mother took her to the Sacred Heart Orphanage operated and funded by International Orphans, Inc. (I.O.I.), the forerunner of Childhelp.
Loan remained in the care of the staff at the orphanage until the joint efforts of several organizations, including I.O.I. created by Sara and Yvonne, banded together with U.S. military and civilian supporters to orchestrate an evacuation and adoption of the abandoned children in their care. This would be the birth of Operation Baby Lift.
Loan was brought to the U.S and adopted. Growing up in the safe and secure environment surrounded by a mother, father, and two older brothers—their biological sons—she was blessed to have the opportunity to build a wonderful life in California, USA.
In 1995, the agency that had orchestrated the adoptions of all the children brought out of Vietnam decided to hold a 20-year reunion of the adoptees.
Loan visited the orphanage where she had been taken. This is what Loan had to say about that experience: “It gave me a warm feeling in my heart to see that it still stood as a monument of love and care for abandoned children. Now I think, how blessed I was to have been taken there. How blessed we all were that these two women, Sara and Yvonne, had cared to create this haven for the outcast and discarded. I know that if it weren’t for these two women and the unselfish love, devotion, and commitment they give to children, many of us would not be here today. They took a chance many years ago to step out, speak up, and do something about abandoned and abused children. I don’t know where I would be today if they hadn’t been guided by some divine force to do that.” Children just like Loan have been given a second chance. With your help and generosity you can also be on of those who have had an impact on the lives of these hurting children. You too can be one who cares enough to do something—to break the silence of their plight.