Janitor was moved by 9/11 attacks to give up gift
By Kara Mauerhan | Special Contributor
William Tran, a former HPISD janitor, is a man with a big heart and an even bigger sense of determination to realize his long-held dreams.
However, his dreams do not involve money, fame, or power; Tran dreams that, one day, his wife and all six of their children will be living in the U.S. together as a family.
In October 2001, Park Cities People reported that Tran was an immigrant who, after joining with the U.S. Special Forces in 1975 on assignment from the South Vietnamese Army, was captured and imprisoned for 11 years in North Vietnam. Tran escaped when he paid $3,000 in gold to sneak out of the country on a fishing boat.
Tran was featured in the paper because the Highland Park High School Student Council gave him $250 that had been collected for the Red Cross in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. After hearing about his desire to bring his family to the States, students presented the money to him during a raucous pep rally. Against the advice of others, however, Tran then turned around and donated the money to the Red Cross.
When asked this week via a translator what had compelled him to do so, Tran said “he wanted to help the people because the people were helping him.”
Given his lack of English, the story of Tran’s life is a bit fuzzy. One detail he revealed this week, which was not mentioned in the 2001 article, is that he was taken from Vietnam to Malaysia, where he lived in a sort of “half-way home” for four years that helped him deal with his past and get back on his feet.
Tran said upon completing his time there, he spent six months with his family before coming to the U.S., where he has been working ever since. Prior to the 2001 article, Tran said, he had seen his family only once for a visit in 1998.
Now 74 years old, Tran has at least partially realized his dream, as he has brought his three daughters to Dallas, he said; his wife and three sons are still in Vietnam. Tran himself also lives in Dallas with a roommate and enjoys the company of many friends, pointing out all the pictures of them displayed in his apartment near UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Tran retired from his job with HPISD in August 2004, due to complications from prostate cancer. But he hopes the rest of his dream will soon come true, with all of his loved ones residing in Dallas. The translator asked him how he felt to have at least part of his family in the U.S., and Tran said that he was “happy.”
Kara Mauerhan is an intern for People Newspapers.
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