Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Real Live Hero

One day in October, 1986, Liu Yuni was on leave, and I was at the family home in Chung-li for the weekend so we could go house-hunting. General Manager had been unsuccessful in his attempts to “find a path” to get me permanent resident status as the fiancĂ©e of a Taiwanese citizen, so we needed to get married while I still had time on my passport. Before we could get married, Mr. Liu felt that we needed to get a house for me as he had promised my father in August. At first, Liu Yuni and I looked on the outskirts of Taipei on Yangming Mountain, but his parents did not like the area because the people in the markets did not speak the Hakka dialect, and Mrs. Liu was not comfortable bartering in Mandarin. So we decided to look for a house in Chung-li. After a day of searching, we had gone back to the Liu’s rental home for dinner and were taking an after dinner stroll with Hsiu-Mei, the sister just under Liu Yuni.

We were about five blocks from their home when we saw a car hit a young girl on a bicycle. The girl lay crying by the side of the road and did not get up. The car began to back up like it was going to run her over, so we rushed over and blocked its way. Liu Yuni kept yelling at the driver to get out of the car and be sure his victim was all right. He wanted the driver to take the girl to the hospital.

Instead, the driver put the car into forward and tried to mow down Liu Yuni. Instead of jumping to the side and just letting the car get away, Liu Yuni jumped onto the hood of the car, with one hand in the passenger’s side window and the other holding the windshield wiper. The car began a series of emergency stops and starts trying to shake him off, but to no avail. As the car sped up toward the county highway, Liu Yuni yelled to me to take care of the girl and to his sister to run to the pay phone to call the police.

I went over to the girl. She was in shock, and her head was bleeding a little. I put my coat over her to keep her warm and used her book bag to keep her head off the gravel in the ground. Liu Hsiu-Mei found a pay phone in the next block and called the police. The two of us stayed with the girl, but Liu Yuni and the car did not return. We were a little bit worried. Liu Hsiu-Mei went to the intersection and looked up the street. The car was already about a quarter of a mile away. The driver was doing S-curves and emergency stops, but Liu Yuni was still riding on the hood.

Soon we heard the sound of sirens. We hoped that they would see Liu Yuni on the hood and stop the car. But no, the police and an ambulance came straight to the scene of the accident. The girl was able to give her name and phone number to the police. They called her parents and told them to meet the ambulance in the emergency room. The paramedics with the ambulance were just wheeling the gurney over to put it in the back when Liu Yuni came running up panting and yelling a license plate number. When he saw the police, he immediately gave them the number before he forgot it.

Then he gave his statement. He told the police that he had stayed on the hood of the car trying to talk the driver and passenger into taking responsibility for their actions, but when they had come close to the county highway and heard the sirens, the driver told the passenger that at his next emergency stop, the passenger should get out with a knife and stab Liu Yuni. At that point, the car slowed, and before the passenger could open his door, Liu Yuni jumped off and ran to the rear of the car. He memorized the license plate number as the car sped off onto the county highway. But then he had to run a third of a mile back to the scene of the accident. He chanted the license plate number as he ran so he wouldn’t forget it.

Since Liu Yuni had the most information, the police just took his name and information, including his contact information at the military base because his leave ended at noon the next day. They introduced him to the girl as her savior before they drove the ambulance to the hospital. Once the ambulance and police were gone, Liu Yuni began jumping around shouting: “I did a movie stunt!! I did a movie stunt!!” His sister and I thought he was crazy, but I guess he was still on an adrenaline rush. We all walked back to his home where he told the story several times, first to his parents and then to his siblings and then to the neighbors who had heard the sirens and the loud exclamations from the living room. Finally, just before it was time for bed, the enormity of what he had done hit him, and he started shaking. His mother gave him some medicinal liquor and sent him off to bed.

The next morning, the police called the Liu home to inform us that the car had been stolen and was later found abandoned several miles from the scene of the accident. Based on Liu Yuni’s description of the driver and passenger, the police were able to identify them as gang members. Mrs. Liu was even more upset.

About a week after Liu Yuni returned to the base, an old, retired military officer came to his unit looking for him. It was the father of the girl. She was a night-school student in high school, who was on her way home from class that night. The officer had made a banner for Liu Yuni and presented it to him formally in front of his unit commander and a number of the top brass at his base. He was given another weekend of leave, and there was a write-up in the base newspaper. Although we did not know it at the time, the army base also sent a press release to the Taipei newspaper, and the story appeared in the Sunday edition. One of Liu Yuni’s classmates clipped the paper and saved it. In 2007, when Liu Yuni went back to Taiwan for a family funeral, he met with several of his classmates, and he was given a copy of the article.

Since he had three days leave, we spent the time busily searching for houses. We found one that would work perfectly, but we were a little bit short of money. I arranged loans from my grandfathers and made my reservations to go to the US to pack up my things and ship them to Taiwan. We consulted with my parents and set the wedding date for the end of December. But we still had a huge obstacle: active duty military personnel needed Defense Department permission to get married. Would the Defense Department okay a soldier marrying a non-citizen during a time of emergency martial law? If they didn’t, it wouldn’t matter about the ceremonies because I would not be able to register legally and get my resident visa.


murat11 said...

Teresa: Obviously, kraits come in all shapes and sizes: some even drive. The courage and honor of your man are wondrous to behold. That stuff is deep and he's got it in spades.

Teresa said...

You are so very right, Murat. I like it that you called those thugs kraits; the title certainly befits them.

murat11 said...

A little bit of cognitive dissonance is called for here: I am, after all, a snake in Chinese astrology.

I love how banners and calligraphy and everyday art are so revered in Chinese culture.

Peace be with you.

Cloudia said...

Your husband is a hero! I salute your family, Friend.


Comfort Spiral

Teresa said...

Murat: I believe that you and Cloudia both belong to the order of zodiac snakes, but that is a very different matter from being a snake in the grass kind of low life. Some snakes are beneficial because they eat vermin; others...

Yes, the Chinese do like to make signs and banners to memorialize great accomplishments. Unfortunately, I don't think that little banner has survived the years. We used to have it hanging in our bedroom in Taiwan.

Cloudia: Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for your kind words about my black ox prince.