Dave Hirschman

Amazing Grace . . .

December 11, 2008 by Dave Hirschman, Senior Editor

By now we’ve all seen the horrific images from San Diego of the F/A-18 Hornet that crashed in a residential neighborhood. What you might not have seen is the generous reaction from Don Yun Yoon, a man who lost everything in the accident. Yoon reached out to the Hornet pilot (see the news story below) in a way that makes Yoon, a struggling immigrant, a national treasure.

One day after an F/A-18D Hornet fighter jet fell from the sky and crashed into his two-story house in San Diego’s University City neighborhood, Dong Yun Yoon returned to a home and life in ruins.

Rescue workers sifting through the debris on Cather Avenue had found the bodies of his wife, two baby daughters and mother-in-law.

Yoon, 37, pressed a handkerchief to his face and seemed to stagger upon viewing what little remained: a charred garage wall, piles of blackened beams, the family’s Toyota Corolla — miraculously undamaged — parked on the street, and flowers placed nearby in memory of his family.

“I believe my wife and two babies and mother-in-law are in heaven with God,” Yoon said at a news conference afterward. “Nobody expected such a horrible thing to happen, especially right here, our house.”

Yoon said he bore no ill will toward the Marine Corps pilot who ejected safely before the jet plunged into the neighborhood two miles west of the runway at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “I pray for him not to suffer for this action,” Yoon said. “I know he’s one of our treasures for our country.”

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30 Responses to “Amazing Grace . . .”

  1. Steve Zaboji Says:

    I aplaud Mr Yoon’s sensitive perspective. I shutter to think how his lawyers will change all that.

  2. Paul Trettin Says:

    Rest assured your family is in heaven. Thank you for being a patriot !

  3. Jim Vroom Says:

    Yoon is a better and more logical human being that most Americans, despite his tragic loss.
    Take a lesson America.

  4. Jack Ley Says:

    Yoon, in his immediate sorrow over an unbeleivable loss showed his character and faith!
    During these difficult times, America is a better place on account of Yoon. May God bless him and all of us as Christmas approachs.

  5. Linda Honegger Says:

    What incredible grace and graciousness in the face of incredible loss.

    Don Yun Yoon, may our Father in heaven comfort you and hold you close during your lonely hours. You and your precious family won’t be forgotten.

  6. John Wright Says:

    What a remarkable example of a human being. I hate to say it but I suspect the typical American would be taking legal action against the military……This gentleman is not the typical American.

  7. Navy65 Says:

    With a heavy heart and tears in my eyes, I salute you Mr. Don Yun Yoon.
    You are what we Americans love about our country and its people.
    May God Bless and comfort you in this most terrible of times for you.
    We all send you our love and prayers.

  8. wknd pilot Says:

    I am sure any of you who lost a family and a home would review your legal options with an attorney. It is not incompatible to wish no harm or ill will to the pilot and also to consider your legal options. If Mr. Yoon was not insured, he has lost evrything – both intrinsic and monetary. Anyone thinking they would not call a lawyer in that scenario in not being honest with himself.

    As for Mr. Yoon, his views are more than refreshing and a wonderful comment on his strong faith and strength whether he calls a lawyer or not. My thoughts and prayers are with him.

  9. chips Says:

    Mr. Yoon exemplifies the American of generations ago, all but absent in the contemporary American of today. I am awed at the quality of your character.

  10. Jerry Anderson Says:

    Dear Mr. Yoon,

    I am sorry to hear of your loss. Please know that I, and countless others, will be praying for you, asking God to comfort you in your grief.

    Jerry Anderson

  11. Jim Says:

    It is encouraging to hear a story of grace during this Christmas season. That kind of grace can only come from one place…

    As far as legal action: True, most people would pursue legal action. Yes, he may have lost everything. But it sounds like Mr. Yoon recognizes that there are things more important than money. It sounds like Mr. Yoon realizes that people are people, that bad things happen, and that finding someone to blame for everything doesn’t make life any easier.

    If the Hornet pilot (or the marines) was in GROSS error, I could understand the need for a lawsuit…. but simply to recoup the losses of an extremely unfortunate circumstance? That is the primary reason why GA is so expensive today. People who feel the need to sue someone for an extremely unfortunate circumstance.

    Being from Iowa, I know many people who lost a lot due to flooding and tornadoes last spring…. who should they sue? God?

  12. David Montgomery Says:

    Mr. Yoon, may God bless you. You are more American than most of today’s “me first” Americans. The “Greater Generation” would be proud of you and salute you.

  13. Richard Burke Says:

    Mr. Yoon is a wonderful inspiration this Christmas — by his clear priorities, and kind-heartedness. He lost everything precious and irreplaceable in his loved ones — and his faith gives him the peace that comes only to the faithful.

    The value of the house and property destroyed is reimburseable under usual legal remedies — a Constitutional issue — I expect the Department of Defense to take care of that — but if they won’t, (good people often mistake their responsibilities) then Mr. Yoon should pursue the usual procedure to assure that they stand up for their property damage. After all, we reading this are the citizens of the country — it is us who will be paying — and we should want to pay for property damage that’s otherwise not going to be reimbursed.

    Mr. Yoon is right in not wanting to place blame on the pilot — when your last engine fails, a jet fighter pretty much flies like a brick — he was out of options and altitude at the same time — and averted a pointless death. My Yoon sums up both our views about that pilot: “He’s one of the treasures of our country” — there are too few willing to risk everything (as that pilot does) to defend our country nowadays.

  14. Anthony Says:

    Mr. Yoon, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Your reaction to this tragic incident is exemplary. You have shown us what true forgiveness is. I pray that GOD will ease your pain as you grieve your losses. Please know that you are a true hero and my prayers are with you!

  15. William Grant Says:

    Mr. Yoon, please know that the hearts of a great many of us in the flying community go out to you during this time of loss. Even in your grief, you have demonstrated tremendous goodwill and patriotism. I am proud to call you my fellow American.

    As for those worried about what the 40% contingency lawyers will do with this, the right approach, practically, ethically, politically, and probably legally, is for the Marine Corps to step up to the plate right now when help is needed the most. If they are smart, Mr. Yoon will be provided a place to stay, his family’s funeral expenses will be covered, he will get help reconstructing whatever personal and financial records were lost, and his leave from work (or, if self employed, someone to tend things in the interim so he doesn’t lose his business too) will be provided immediately and proactively. He should not have to ask, nor try and foot the bill and then endure a bureaucratic nightmare to get reimbursed. The cost of helping Mr. Yoon will pail in significance to even the Marine Corps’ internal cost of defending against a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

    Mr. Yoon is an honorable man with rare inner strength and is clearly not the kind of person who gets on the bus after the accident. He should be treated with the respect and empathy he deserves and not the typical legal adversarial response in which only the lawyers thrive. Let us all hope the Marine Corps does the right thing.

  16. Carl Wright Says:

    God bless you Mr. Yoon in your loss. I pray that our government will do the right thing for you.

  17. Phil Says:

    Mr Yoon, you have suffered the worst loss imaginable. You have reacted in a brave and noble way. Millions have been iinspired by your forgiveness. The US needs many more like you. My almighty God comfort you in the coming days and years. Someday I know you will rejoin your loved ones in heaven.

  18. Zack Says:

    Great. Everyone is briefly thinking of Yoon’s loss. Talk is cheap and so are your prayers.
    Send him money if you’re so sincere. DO something. Just stop making yourselves feel better with your trite words.
    Minimally, Yoon should receive instant citizenship. He deserves to be more than his immigrant status. His family came over here to make a life. That got snuffed out – his dreams shouldn’t.
    And the marine that crashed? He made a big mistake and is probably in anguish, suffering as he should. We all need that mechanism, to reflect on tragedies we cause, to learn and to heal. This young marine will carry this burden for the rest of his life. You think he’ll feel better now that you all foist the hero label on him?
    Shame on AOPA for the transparent use of this tragedy. And shame on you who feel that taking the time to type out a comment with prayers is enough. You’re such good Americans.
    Yoon is probably not an AOPA member, so I’m glad he isn’t subjected to all your pablum here.

  19. Mike Roebuck Says:

    zack needs to get a life.

  20. jerry Says:

    Zack has to be very miserable with life-May God help him and his family. May God be with Mr. Yoon

  21. John Says:

    Zack, may God forgive you. I hope that one day you discover the power of prayer and what true forgiveness is all about.
    That is all I will say about the Zack fellow.

    Mr. Yoon, I pray the our God be with you as I know from your own words that you know he is. I am very proud of you. You will be in me and my family’s thoughts and prayers.

  22. Nick Kapetan Says:

    Mr. Yoon, Believe me as I assure you that there are tens of thousands, probably millions of Americans, and others, who upon viewing your graciousness in such anguish were touched with heartfelt sympathy for you and probably wished as I had that somehow they could comfort you. Such God given grace as you exhibited that day transcends the petty differences that separate people and should make people everywhere recognize the spirit you had shown is one of the great human traits we truly do, or should, admire. You are a treasured example to all, Mr Yoon. I would proudly call you a fellow American and I believe anyone anywhere should be honored to embrace you as a fellow citizen. God comfort and bless you.
    If each of these responses are being read by someone at AOPA, I hope that someone there takes the initiative to see to it that they are compiled and somehow forwarded directly to Mr Yoon.
    Nick Kapetan, 66 AOPA #01215281

  23. Dave Hirschman Says:

    Great Idea, Nick Kapetan. I’ll see to it personally.

  24. Robert Baxter Says:

    Mr. Yoon, I pray for your lost loved ones. May God hold them in His tender mercy. You are truely an American patriot.
    Robert Baxter AOPA # 0769996

  25. Lance M Says:

    Zack and anyone else reading this.

    This stricken aircraft had a duel engine failure. In the F18 legacy there is NO manual reversion on the flight controls. The pilot had NO CHOICE but to eject. He had NO CONTROL of this aircraft.

    Let the crash investigation decide if there is any blame to be assigned. Stop speculating.

    By the way, this airplane landed about 100 yards from my parents home and the home I grew up in. Also the pilot is the son of someone I know well. I have perspective from both sides. Both Mr. Yoon and the Pilot are patriots, even if Mr. Yoon is not a citizen he should make other Americans proud to have him in our country and the pilot for defending our country.

  26. Jim Perry Says:

    Mr. Yoon,
    Your gracious words born of a loving and sincere heart will stand as a monument to your loved ones throughout eternity before God, as nothing else could ever have done.
    Who can know the depth of your pain and sorrow. Who can know the burden of pain and sorrow that you may have spared this pilot from? Surely America will be the greater for it, when you become a citizen.

  27. Billy J. Bauer Says:

    Thank you Mr. Yoon for demonstrating a forgiving heart in these most difficult of times for you.

    May God comfort you, bring you the peace that surpasses all understanding and may you experience Grace upon Grace in this time.

    With kind regards, and lots of prayer for you,

    Billy J. Bauer
    AOPA #05735611

  28. Jerry Smith Says:

    May Mr. Yoon be blessed for his attitude. May any lawyer be ashamed if they even try to dissuade Mr. Yoon from his laudable action.

  29. John Skoro AOPA 00222412 Says:

    May God’s Grace shine down on you Mr. Yoon. Your loss cannot be imagined. As for the brave Pilot, I say but for the Grace of God go I.

  30. Dan Says:

    Too bad this god character couldn’t protect the lives of a mother and her 2 children. My how she graces us all… I sure hope she doesn’t grace you in the way she graced Mr. Yoon.

    That has nothing to do with the amazing response from a father who lost everything he valued. He has all my sympathy.

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