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September 11 Memorial: Remembering the victims who died at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania

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Khang Ngoc Nguyen

Age: 41

Hometown: Fairfax, Va., USA

Occupation: Navy contractor

Location: Ground, Pentagon

"This guitar was my husband's dearest friend. Playing it was his greatest passion. Growing up in one of the poorest countries, [Vietnam], he had to sacrifice all his meal allowances to buy his first guitar and played beautifully since he was a teenager. ... The sound of Khang's tunes flowed through our house and through my heart. When I was feeling down, his music lifted my spirit. He always hoped that he would teach our little son, An, to play the guitar. Now, just like his Dad, this guitar has become An's buddy. Sadly, Khang cannot be here for An's music lessons, but his songs and his music will live forever in our hearts." --Tu Nguyen, wife

Profile:

Khang Nguyen grew up familiar with war. In South Vietnam, he and his family heard the frequent boom of shells and gunfire. Once, a mortar shell fell on a house across the street from his home, killing their friends inside.

In 1975, when communists took over the country, he and his family fled to an airport in vans. His father and two of his siblings made it onto a flight to the United States, but the rest of the family got left behind amid the chaos.

Nguyen, his mother and other siblings lived in poverty, peddling rice on the streets. Meanwhile, his father, a former employee of the U.S. Information Services in Vietnam, used his contacts to find the family.

In 1981, the parents and nine children were reunited in Washington.

Family members said Nguyen relished his newly ordered, stable life. He earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland. For 13 years, he worked for the Defense Information Systems Agency at the Pentagon, and during the past six months was a systems administrator for a Navy contractor.

Nguyen, 41, loved working at the Pentagon and would buy hats and T-shirts with government logos. He devoured books on the military, particularly about the Vietnam War.

"This is our second native country. We have gotten so many opportunities," said his wife, Tu Nguyen, 38.

Tu Nguyen, her eyes dry after several days of crying, said she hasn't been able to tell their 4-year-old son, An, what happened to his father.

Wednesday afternoon, the Pentagon arranged for Khang Nguyen's car to be towed from the parking lot to a relative's driveway. Family members said that the little boy jumped up and down, pressing his face against the car windows, looking for his father.

"He was lucky; he was born here," Tu Nguyen said quietly. "He never suffered any pain from the war. But now he is 4 years old, and he has lost his father."

-- Phuong Ly

<style> #PentmemMemoryWrap { margin-left: 95px; width: 506px; background: #faf7ec; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; color: #2e2e2e; } #PentmemMemoryTop { padding: 14px; } #PentmemMemoryTop img { padding: 0px 0px 0px 10px; } #PentmemMemoryTop .headline { font-size: 12px; font-weight: bold; } #memAuthor { float: right; margin: 2px 20px 20px 0px; font-weight: bold; } .blurb { font-size: 11px; line-height: 16px; margin-left: -92px} </style> <div id="PentmemMemoryWrap"> <div id="PentmemMemoryTop"> <div class="blurb"><p><img src="http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/interactives/pentagonmemorial/images/1506.jpg" align="right" border="0">"My sister-in-law, Oanh-Nghia, told me this story:</p> <p> "He was a very protective and caring brother. In April, 1975, when the Communists took over Saigon, people fled to the airport. Dad and two siblings made it onto a flight heading toward the United States; eight of us got left behind amid the chaos.</p> <p> "Without brother Khang, our youngest sister would probably not even be alive, and neither would our older sister. The mob kept jumping on them. He used himself as a shield for other family members.</p> <p>"Then for several years, we wandered on the street under the burning sun every day to peddle rice for a living. Many times, some bad boys bullied me. Big brother Khang threatened to beat them up. Just 15 years old at that time, he was the only man, the head of the family. </p> <p> "In 1981 Dad sponsored all of us to Maryland...Khang was very close to me and remains forever close to me." </p> <p>As she told me this story, tears rolled down from her eyes. Seven years have passed. Each and every one of us still feels the pain of missing Khang."</p> <div id="memAuthor">-- Tu Nguyen, wife <!-- /end memAuthor --></div> <!-- /end blurb --></div> <br> </div> </div>

Source: The Washington Post, AP and washingtonpost.com

The profiles in this feature were written in the months following Sept. 11, 2001.

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A day after the 9/11 attacks a makeshift memorial was created on the Arlington Memorial Cemetery fence. Seven years later, the first 9/11 memorial is opening.

Related Coverage:

3-Dimensional Virtual Memorial

Victims Remembered in Maryland

One Family's Loss

Stepping Through the Ashes

Pentagon Under Attack

Five Year Anniversary Coverage


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