Napalm Girl: Spreading Forgiveness 50 Years Later

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This is the image that came to represent the horrors of war.

A young, naked girl, arms outstretched, screaming in pain, runs away from unseen horrors straight towards the camera.

Kim Phuc Phan Thi was only nine years old when her village in Vietnam was attacked with napalm.

Third degree burns covered half of her body. She was not expected to survive. Two of her cousins ​​are not.

Listen to Niall’s full interview with Kim Phuc Phan Thi on the Sky News Daily podcast

After fifty years, he still bears the scars – physical and mental.

However, the message he wants to spread is not anger or revenge, but forgiveness and peace. Kind of timely given the events in Ukraine.

“I saw the plane,” she told the Sky News Daily podcast. “It was very loud, very fast. And I was standing there.

“I saw four canisters. Black. Falling from the plane. And I heard a terrible noise that haunts me to this day.

“Then all of a sudden there was fire all around me.”

Kim is expected to spend the next two years in hospitals and clinics; during this time, a photo taken by Nick Ut of the Associated Press became one of the most iconic images from the conflict.

Image:
Kim was only nine years old when her village in Vietnam was hit by napalm

The Vietnamese government did not lose its power and image shame – Kim became a useful propaganda tool.

“And then it hit me so hard. Many times my thoughts went to suicide.

“It’s been so hard to deal with. The physical pain and now the emotional pain.

“It made me think about suicide. But I couldn’t do it.”

Her newfound Christian faith saved her.

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Kim eventually left Vietnam to study in Cuba, where she met and married her husband. Two managed to escape to the West when the plane bringing them home refueled in Newfoundland.

They made a new life in Canada and in 1996 she was invited to speak about her experiences to thousands of Vietnam veterans in Washington DC.

Kim Phuc Phan Thi is now using her Christian faith to spread a message of forgiveness - her charity gives funds to groups that provide free medical care to children who are victims of war and terrorism.
Image:
Kim Phuc Phan Thi is now using her Christian faith to spread a message of forgiveness – her charity gives funds to groups that provide free medical care to children who are victims of war and terrorism.

There she met an American pilot who coordinated the attack on her village.

“He was crying like a child … he couldn’t stop. And he asked me, do you forgive me? Do you forgive me?

“And I say, ‘yes, I do. That’s why I’m here.’

“And he said to me ‘please can you look into my eyes? You see the sadness I’ve been carrying for 24 years’.

“And of course I gave him a big hug.”

It is a message of forgiveness that he is now taking to the world through the work of the Kim Foundation International, which provides funds to groups that provide free medical care to children who are victims of war and terrorism.

This desperate, scared girl turned her pain into love – and made the world just a little bit better.

Niall Paterson presents the Sky News Daily podcast – taking a deeper look at the big stories with Sky News correspondents and expert guests.

Producer: Soila Apparicio

Editor: Philly Beaumont

Interviews Producer: Alys Bowen

Promotions Podcast Producer: David Chipakupaku

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