Back in the early ’70s, an American soldier met a South Vietnamese woman at the height of the Vietnam War.
The pair conceived two daughters: Berni Slowey and her younger sister, Rose.
Saigon was falling in April 1975, when Berni was 4 and Rose was 2. Their lives, along with their mother’s life, were at great risk; there were rumors that the North Vietnamese would harm and torture anyone with a connection to the US military.
Before the North Vietnamese infiltrated and took over Saigon, Berni, Rose, and their parents learned they were eligible to be airlifted out of the country, along with many other desperate citizens.
But just as the plane prepared to depart, sheer chaos broke out among the crowds of panicked people and screaming families attempting to run for their lives.
Rose, just 2 years old, somehow got lost and separated from her family in the confusion and shuffle. Despite a frantic search, the toddler was nowhere to be found — and the plane was about to take off.
As gut-wrenching as the decision was, their mother chose to flee with Berni, rather than miss the flight and face whatever horrors the North Vietnamese had planned.
The US evacuated Berni and her parents just as Saigon fell. They wound up in the States and built a life there.
For many years, Berni’s mother wouldn’t talk about Rose. It was too painful, and she never got over the guilt of leaving her younger daughter behind.
Berni went on to become a wife, mother of two, and successful businesswoman in Denver, Colorado. She, too, grew up haunted by what happened to Rose and her unknown whereabouts. Berni traveled to Vietnam to look for answers. She publicly spoke about her sister and what happened on that faithful day in 1975, but received no helpful answers.
In 2012, Berni’s mother died from what Berni believes was broken-heart syndrome over the disappearance of her youngest daughter.
Berni spent four decades thinking Rose was lost and gone forever. “I thought we’d never find my sister,” she told CBS.
Then, in May 2018, a mother of three named Vannessa saw a commercial on TV advertising a home DNA kit. She decided to buy one — a purchase that would ultimately unlock a 43-year mystery.
Vannessa’s birth name, you see, is Rose.
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