Nightmares filled with explosiions, flames and dying children recede for the vast majority of Vietnamese refugees in America after a few months.
But for Nguyen Thanah Hoang, a refugee who lives in Arlington and publishes a Vietnamese language magazine, the nightmares have not faded. The violence of Southeast Asia has followed him to the Washington suburbs.
Last January, as Hoang and his 7-year-old daughter slept in their home on Highland Street, firebombs exploded around the house. Hoang and his daughter had to jump through a side window to escape the flames. h
"I see myself awakened by bright flashes," said Hoang, interviewed in a friend's Falls Church apartment, his fourth temporary home since receiving two threatening letters after the firebombing. "There are fires at the front, rear and side doors, just like that night. But in the dreams, we don't get out in time."
Hoang, a staunchly anticommunist journalist in Vietnam for more than 25 years, claims "communists" are trying to kill him. He's received letters, written in flawless Vietnamese, saying he will "be punished severely if you do not stop your anticommunist policies."
Arlington police, however, say it is difficult to pinpoint who Hoang's enemies might be because he also has written vitriolic editorials denouncing Western religions and Arlington social service workers that Hoang claims "exploit" refugees.
For whatever reason, Hoang, 59, a distinguished-looking man with thick gray hair, has become the target of the first serious outbreak of violence among the 16,000 Indochinese refugees in suburban Washington.
Violence among the refugees across the country is almost unknown, according to Dan Baker, a program specialist at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare office of refugee settlement.
"Visible acts of violence where the essential root of the conflict comes from Vietnam, and not America, are very rare," Baker said.
While Arlington County fire marshals, homicide detectives and Treasury Department investigators have yet to come up with a suspect in the firebombing, Hoang says he is puzzled and angry that violence should follow him to the United States.
"After 30 years watching the French, the Vietnamese and the Americans at war, I saw myself fleeing to American, to a 'safe' country," said Hoang. "One must ask when it all will stop."
Yet, surveying the rubble of his former Highland Street home recently, Hoang said the threatening letters and the firebombs have not stopped him from publishing his magazine -- "Tien Phong" -- on time.
"You can't please everybody," he said, adding that he could see no reason to quit now. His bimonthly magazine has a circulation of 10,000.
Since he was an anticommunist journalist in Hanoi in 1948, Hoang has been viewed as controversial by many of his readers.
Hoang said he was forced to flee Hanoi in 1951 to the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. There, he began publishing the daily newspaper "Gio Mua." The paper folded after two years as did two small newspapers that Hoang later published in Saigon, because of lack of funds and few readers.
Between 1955 and 1963, Hoang published a government-subsidized anti-communist newspaper in Saigon for the regime of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. That paper, which fought an ideological war with North Vietnam every day, folded with Diem's assassination.
Throughout his publishing career, during which he has attempted to reach people disrupted by war or struggling to relocate in a strange land, Hoang said his editorial warnings about the dangers of Communism often have been ignored.
"Most people are too busy working overtime, trying to get established, make new lives," Hoang said. "Most are too busy to care."
But on a Thursday night in January, someone apparently cared enough about Hoang's publishing to try to kill him.
Firebombs were exploded simultaneously in front of Hoang's front, rear and side doors and on his car. When the bombs exploded, Hoang remembers sitting up and saying aloud, "Who turned on the lights?" Wearing pajamas, he fled the house, with his daughter.
An obscure Vietnamese group calling itself the "Action Squad" has sent two letters to Hoang, claiming responsibility for the bombings. Rumors and threats have passed throughout the closely knit "Little Saigon" area of Arlington.
Hoang, who was interviewed for this story through an interpreter, Le Triet Dang, said the continuing threats have made him question whether the United States is really a sanctuary for Vietnamese who oppose communism.