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`I`ve Forgiven the Pilot...I Pray for Him`

Posted December. 11, 2008 03:05,   


Yoon Dong-yun is a 37-year-old ethnic Korean who sought the American dream when he immigrated to the United States.

In one moment yesterday, however, his entire family perished after a U.S. military jet crashed into his house.

“My wife and my older daughter hugged me and told me they loved me when I left home for work. That was the last time I saw them,” Yoon said.

Standing outside the charred remains of what used to be his family’s lovely home in San Diego, he was unable to hold back tears at a news conference.

“Right now, I don’t know how I should feel. Please tell me what to do,” he said.

Yoon explained how he heard the tragic news to U.S. media, including the San Jose Mercury News and a Korean-language newspaper.

A store manager in the Southern California city, Yoon heard about the crash around noon Monday.

His Japanese neighbor called to tell him that a military jet had crashed into his house and that his home was on fire. Yoon was unable to reach his wife on her cell phone. When he arrived in his neighborhood around 12:40 p.m., firefighters stopped him from going near his house. After hours of waiting at the police station, he heard his entire family died at 7 p.m.

Initially at a loss for words due to grief, he said, “I will think about what my wife would’ve wanted if she were alive, and live a life following her wishes.”

Perhaps influenced by his devout Christian wife, he said he forgave the pilot. “I don’t want him to suffer from the accident. My prayers are with him. I know he’s one of our country’s treasures, and I don’t blame him. I know he did everything he could,” Yoon said.

He also thanked members of his church, police and firefighters for helping him regardless of his grief. When the story broke, many posted condolatory messages.

With his house razed to the ground, Yoon has nothing left except for a couple of family photos in his digital camera.

The U.S. Defense Department said it will organize a disaster compensation committee to conduct an investigation that will determine the amount of damages. If it fails to reach an agreement with the bereaved family, the case will then be taken to court.

Since the cause of the crash was most likely an equipment malfunction or pilot misjudgment, Yoon is unlikely to face difficulty in receiving compensation.