Dear whomever this may interest:
My name is Khoi Quach and I am 19 years old. I have spent more than 2 years incarcerated and charged with aiding and abetting an attempted murder. Seeing how I have developed from issues with stress and anxiety, my sister suggested that I should write away to relieve tension. As a result of my writing, I started to catalog my experiences in hope of sharing with others. It may help me somehow and if not, then hopefully it can still be helpful to other teens who may find themselves in a similar situation as mine.
Every story has a beginning and ending. Mine began on November 24, 1991. I was born in a small hospital in HoChiMinh City, Vietnam. My family loved me and my older sister would take care of me as my parents struggled to provide for us. My mom worked everyday at a little clothing shop in a swap meet a mile away from our house. Looking back at it, I now realized that for most of my life, I saw her for only two hours a day. Everyday after work, she would always smiled and tried to shower me with hugs and kisses, but being a kid, I didn’t know how much my affection meant to her after a long day of labor. Sitting her thinking about my mom, I can finally grasp how much she devotes her life and energy for us. In 2001, my parents finally received a confirmation that the United States government had approved my family’s immigration petition to America. Ten years had passed since my birth and now my parents were to face with a difficult situation: Should they leave the way of life they had known for so long in exchange for a better future for my sister and me? My parents loved us too much so it was no surprise that they didn’t hesitate to proceed with the sponsorship. They sold everything and exchanged tearful goodbye with their friends and relatives. Then off we went to the promise land.
We arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in August 2002 with a few boxes of belongings and family photos. For my sister and me, it was a whole new world. The freeways, the cars, the people, and the culture were frightening but exciting. For my parents, it was just downright scary. They had left everything they had worked so hard for on the other side of the Pacific and entered a land where they had to start over without any knowledge of the language and culture. We moved around a few places in Orange County for a couple of years before finally deciding to get a mortgage for a condo located in Santa Ana.
Furthermore, the cultural shock was wearing off and we settled into a normal life. My dad found a job working as a denture technician for a company in Irvine. My mom learned the skills required foe a nail artist, got licensed, and found a job in Chino Hills. My sister buried herself with work and classes until she finally got accepted into USC, where she is currently earning a degree in pharmacology. As for me, I adapted fast. I quickly learned English through television and school. My dad decided to let me join a Boy Scout troop as a way to help me socially and academically. It was awkward at first but I got used to it. Soon, I started to earn my Boy Scout ranks and merit badges. And little did I know back then my first love was sitting right on the other side of the park where my troop would meet every Sunday. Her name is K. and she was a Girl Scout with the Girl Scout section of my troop.
During my time at Irvine Intermediate School in Westminster, I met three guys named X, Y, and Z and became close friends with them. We did all the things normal teenagers would do and we did it together. Then during our senior year in high school, we started drifting towards different paths. I got accepted into advanced choir at La Quinta High school and I was also working to earn my Eagle Scout award. I was averaging a 3.8 GPA and got accepted to be an aerospace engineering major at Cal State Poly Pomona. And after 5 years since we’ve met, I finally realized that I liked K. and worked up the courage to ask her out. It was, in short, a busy period in my life. I took me a while to see how I was drifting away from my three close friends. When I did, I discovered that one of them had become a gang member and another one was on the road to become one. I could see that our little group’s days were numbered. So this was when I decided to make a very foolish decision. I believed that if I was to join the gang, my friends were in, then maybe it would be enough to still be close with them. Naive and idiotic. But it sounded good in my head at the time and that was exactly what I did. I enlist in a way of life in which I knew nothing about. I thought that if I simply relax and do nothing illegal, then I can still be with my friends and go forward with my life. That assumption proved to be false on a Friday night in February of 2009. I attended a birthday party where an altercation occurred between two groups. Things escalated and one of the members of the party got shot. I had no prior knowledge of what would take place and I did not participate in the incident. However, the detectives learned of my gang membership and thought I was associated with the shooting. On April 2, 2009, I was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting to the shooting. I was seventeen and one month away from my high school graduation.
The first few weeks in my cell were spent nonchalantly because I knew I am innocent. I remember thinking to myself, “It’d be alright. Things will be sorted out and I’ll be our of here in no time.” Reality struck during a meeting with my initial public defender. He told me I am facing a life sentence. My parents emptied their savings and borrowed some loans to hire a criminal attorney for me. Not only has this nightmare put my future in jeopardy, it also turned my parents’ world upside down in the process. I can still remember the first time they came to visit me in jail. The looks on their faces were a mixture of sadness, disappointment, and shock. It’s incredibly painful to see them like that and I don’t want to go through that ever again.
“Good things can be salvaged from a bad situation. You must have to look for them.” I found that through a gentleman I had the pleasure of meeting in this facility. He explained to me a lot of things regarding life and family. He also introduced me to the world of business and investing. I got books on the subject and read them everyday. As I got more into it, I discovered that I enjoy it immensely. Suddenly I found myself excited to read the business section in the newspaper each day to find out what’s going on with the economy. I finally knew for certain what I want to do in life: I want to be a financial advisor. In my cell, I often find myself reflecting on my life and thinking about my future. I began to understand certain things I have never thought about before. I realized that even though I am not a horrible son, my mom deserves much more of my affection and I should have spent more time with her. I also saw why I wanted to become a financial advisor so much. The profession combines my interest for business with financial stability while allowing me to have a flexible work schedule so I can spend more time with my loved ones. I want to repay my family for the pain and suffering they had to endure because of me. I want to have my own kids someday and get a chance to be a loving parent. It took some time, but I slowly extracted the positive lessons from this tribulation. Another significant thing I have learned is that being a gang member puts one in a life fraught with danger and imprisonment. I have met numerous gang members in jail who were offered a chance for freedom to change their lives. Many of them failed to utilize the opportunity and came back to jail with more severe charges. It’s depressing to see them throwing away their second chances while I am deprived of one. Joining a gang was the worst mistake I have made in my life and I have renounced my membership long ago.
Living in jail for a long period of time does take a toll on me. Things gradually accumulate in a way that attacks my spirit and erodes my morale. Around March of this year, I had a moment when I sat down and literally felt the weight of this whole thing on my shoulders, the gravity of it all. I was still in a relationship with K. up until that point. She is a wonderful person. To me, she is the nicest, smartest, and prettiest girl in the whole world. I was surprised that she wanted to wait for me and that’s what made me fall in love with her more. Here was a girl so amazing that she could be with any guy she wanted but she chose to be with me. But I finally realized that I can’t have her waiting for me like that because I myself have no clues when I will be free. I saw that it’s selfish of me to do that to her and that is when I decided to put an end to our relationship. It was no doubt the hardest thing I have done because this was the first time I ever fell in love and it had to end that way. It is bittersweet but I hope I’ll have a chance to be with her again someday. Yes, jail can be a maddening place. The jail politics, the uncertainty of my future and everything in between can add up to a massive headache at times. Without the love and support of everyone in my life, I’m not sure if I would have made it this far.
At the moment, I am still fighting for my freedom. My attorney believes in my innocence and he is doing his best to attain my release. I pray each day for this nightmare to end. It has been a tremendous relief for me to put all my private thoughts and experiences on these pages to share them with others. I’m simply tired of keeping everything bottled up inside me. The ending to my story is still undecided. I am terrified and there is not a simple day that goes by when I don’t think about how this will end. All I know is that I want to go home. Home sweet home, where my loved ones await.