I’d just arrived at Noi Bai International Airport after a long flight from Ho Chi Minh City. It took longer than usual due to never-before-seen cyber-attacks on Vietnam’s two largest airports.
I left for Tan Son Nhat Airport at 5 p.m. The streets around the airport were crowded, and inside scores of people were stuck after their flights had been delayed.
I stood in an endless line of people waiting until 7 p.m. to check-in, although by that time I should have already been on my flight.
The computer systems had been hacked so staff had to handle everything manually. The order of flights and boarding gates were constantly changing. All the announcements were done via loudspeakers as the sound system had also been hijacked.
However, a surprising order stood out of what one would expect to have been a total chaos. Everybody lined up to wait for their turn. Nobody complained. Passengers just expressed sympathy for their peers and the carriers as well.
In the waiting room, several people shared a chair. I could see that business travelers, those usually most in a hurry, and other travelers remained calm and gentle. A woman said to a flight attendant: “Please remind me when the boarding time comes. That’s it. I don’t mean to rush you.”
There was no hurry, no anger. People sat together and shared information about the attack. They all knew that they were victims, so they tried to unite and support each other.
This is the second time I have witnessed such a scene that could have been a complete mess, but ended up being the embodiment of sharing and unity.
In October 2010, I visited Minh Hoa District in the central province of Quang Binh, where a flood had just swept through the community.
While I was sitting in my car, I imagined a scenario in which local people would be rushing out and scrambling for relief aid, but the reality was quite different. Even though exhausted after the flood, people still lined up in an orderly fasion. There weren’t enough items to go round, so some standing at the end of the line received nothing. However, they were pragmatic about it and left with no complaints.
Every day we hear stories about the attitudes and behavior of Vietnamese people. They jostle to buy tickets at airports and train stations. They talk loudly public spaces. They complain about flight delays.
But yesterday, I only saw the image of a united nation. The attack aimed at creating chaos in fact made people stick together.
The hackers turned off electronic screens but turned on true Vietnamese spirit.
In the end, it was a failed attack.