The story of the little girl in the picture

Many people, who do not recognise the name Phan Thi Kim Phuc, remember the photograph of her taken in 1972 when, as a 9-year-old little girl, she ran from her village in Vietnam after a napalm attack. Kim Phuc is now 52 years old and lives in Toronto. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. Phuc has established a charity that helps children suffering from war. She says that the terrified little girl in the picture is “not running any more, she’s flying!”

In 1972 Phuc was living in the village of Trang Bang, north of Saigon. She and family were sheltering in a temple when they heard planes overhead. They ran outside to find safety, just as bombs detonated containing napalm, a flammable liquid that clings to skin, causing horrific burns. Phuc remembers the intense heat and excruciating pain. She pulled burning clothes from her body. Then she ran and, as she ran, Nick Ut, a 21-year-old photographer, took a photograph that became a symbol of the horrors of that war.

Phuc spent more than a year in hospital. Her family were afraid she wouldn’t survive. After many skin grafts, and other operations, she recovered from her physical injuries. Yet she could not find peace. She wanted to disappear, and even to die. She thought if she died she wouldn’t have to suffer mentally, physically and emotionally. She began seeking answers and, when she was 19 years old, she a trusted Jesus Christ as her Saviour and found new life and peace. She says, “When I became Christian, I had a wonderful connection – the relationship between me, and Jesus, and God.” Phuc asked God for help to move on and says, “From that point I learned to forgive.”

Today Phuc radiates an unmistakeable poise and peace when she tells her story. She sees that famous picture as just one of many blessings. She says, “I really want to thank God that he spared my life when I was a little girl. Whatever happened to me, I have another opportunity to be alive, to be healthy, to be a blessing and to help honour other people. I still have the pain, I still have the scars, and I still have the memories, but my heart is healed. My message to people when they see that picture today is try not to see her as crying out in pain and fear, try not to see her as a symbol of war, but try to see her as a symbol of peace.”

2 responses to “The story of the little girl in the picture”

  1. Peter

    Thank you so much for this. I have a weekly column in our local paper with around 350 words as the guide-line.

    I hope you don’t mind but I have borrowed heavily from your piece on the young South Vietnamese girl, now a radiant believer in Canada. I did this once before a couple of years ago in relation to Kalashnikov and contacted you then. There have been other times when I have had a look at Deeside website and used an article as a kind of springboard for something on which I took a slightly different tack and where the charge of plagiarism could not be legitimately levelled.

    In the meanwhile every blessing in the work.

    Yours in Him


    • Dear Paul

      Thank you for your email. It is good to hear from you again. I remember you getting in touch about Kalashnikov.

      It’s great to know that you have a weekly column in your local paper. Thank you for letting me know about the article you have written on the South Vietnamese girl. It is wonderful that she came to know the Lord and to see her now.

      I am happy for you to draw on any of my articles as much or as little as you need to, if they are helpful. I don’t regard it as “plagiarism”! There are others who do so in connection with articles they write or, in one case, short radio broadcasts.

      I trust you are knowing encouragements in your ministry.

      Warmly yours


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