Sunday, September 11, 2005

The "Girl in the picture" is named to the Order of Ontario

You have probably seen this heart-wrenching photograph before. It has been described as a photo that changed the world:

The year was 1972. The nine-year-old girl in the center of the frame is Phan Thi Kim Phuc. The place was Vietnam, and the black smoke in the background was the aftermath of a napalm bombing.

Napalm was an American weapon, but this particular bombing was an accident. A South Vietnamese aircraft accidentally dropped its payload on one of its own villages (Trang Bang). The South Vietnamese soldiers in the photo look indifferent to the children's misery, but presumably it was not so.

The photo was taken by Nick Ut, an Associated Press photographer. After taking the photo, Mr. Ut hurried Kim to the hospital. (Contrary to the popular image of press photographers as people who don't lift a finger to help the subjects of their photos.)

The photograph made Kim an international figure who symbolized everything that was wrong with war in general, and the Vietnam war in particular.

Where is Kim now? She lives in Ajax (near Toronto). The Globe and Mail reports that Kim has just been named to the Order of Ontario:
The Ontario government says she became a famous symbol of the Vietnam war by accident, but has since become a symbol of peace "by choice, determination and hard work."
Kim was very badly burned:  she spent fourteen months recovering in a hospital in Saigon. She continued to live in Vietnam, where a German photojournalist tracked her down ten years after the famous photo was taken.

The Vietnamese government saw this as a golden opportunity for a propaganda campaign. In 1984-85 they took Kim on a highly-orchestrated, whirlwind tour of Hanoi, Germany, and the Soviet Union. Occasional publicity appearances continued thereafter until Kim defected to Canada in 1992. (Source:  Far Eastern Economic Review)

Today, Kim is married with two children. She is a Christian who lives out the principles of her faith:
In a commemorative ceremony to the Vietnam War she publicly pardoned the person who had launched the napalm bombing in her village in Vietman. Ever since, she has dedicated her life to promoting peace, and to this end she founded the "Kim Phuc Phan Thi Foundation" ( This foundation helps children who are victims of war everywhere by providing medical and psychological help to surmount their traumatic experiences.
(Source for the above text and the two photos:


At 11:48 PM, September 11, 2005, Blogger Prince Remus said...

Thanks for that inspiring update. What an example she has set for man and womankind. Would that we all could reach beyond our own tragedies, and help those in need.


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