Do you know what happened to the little naked girl running for her life in the iconic Pulitzer prize winning photo* from the Vietnam War? Dr. Peter Saunders does. He had the privilege of meeting her recently, and recounts her story:
8 June 1972, a plane bombed the village of Trang Bang, near Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in South Vietnam after the South Vietnamese pilot mistook a group of civilians leaving the temple for enemy troops.
The bombs contained napalm, a highly flammable fuel, which killed and badly burned the people on the ground.
The iconic black-and-white image taken of children fleeing the scene won the Pulitzer Prize and was chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year in 1972.
It communicated the horrors of the Vietnam War in a way words never could, helping to end one of the most divisive wars in American history and later becoming a symbol of the cruelty of all wars for children and civilian victims.
In the centre of the photo was a nine year old girl, who ran naked down the highway after stripping off her burning clothes.
Kim Phuc Phan Thi was with her family at the pagoda attending a religious celebration when the plane struck and lost several relatives in the attack. The children running with her were her own brothers and sisters. …
Kim remained hospitalized for 14 months, and underwent 17 surgical procedures, until she recovered from the burns.
Grateful for the care she had received she later decided to study medicine but struggled to come to terms with her deep physical and psychological scars.
‘My heart was exactly like a black coffee cup,’ she said. ‘I wished I died in that attack with my cousin. I wish I died at that time so I won’t suffer like that anymore … it was so hard for me to carry all that burden with that hatred, with that anger and bitterness.’
But it was as a second year medical student in Saigon that she discovered a New Testament in the university library, committed her life to following Jesus Christ, and realised that God had a plan for her life.
Kim later defected and now lives in Canada. Her biography, THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE, written by Denise Chong was published in 1999.
*Click the link to source above to view the original photo.
"Forgiveness made me free from hatred," Kim told Saunders. "I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful."
If that little girl in the picture cold find the power to overcome the scars left by napalm, then what prevents you from forgiving those who have harmed you?
"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses" (Proverbs 10:12).