Those of us who grew up during the Vietnam War era will undoubtedly remember this iconic image of a naked little girl running from her bombed village, her body burned.
The year was 1972, and nine-year-old Kim Phuc was photographed fleeing her village after a South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped flaming napalm on its own troops and civilians. Vietnam-born Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, who captured the event, recalled hearing Kim screaming in Vietnamese “Too hot! Too hot!” He placed her in the AP van and took her to a hospital as the skin peeled from her body. The little girl sobbed, “I think I’m dying, too hot, too hot, I’m dying.”
Miraculously, Kim Phuc survived her burns, and survived the war. She married, and in the 1990’s defected to Canada with her husband, Bui Huy Toan. Now 52, she has maintained a close friendship with the now 65-year-old Nick Ut, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his harrowing photo.
Yet the physical scars have remained. Kim Phuc carries burn scars which are almost four times as thick as normal skin. She cannot extend her left arm past her right arm. Merely carrying a shoulder bag on her left shoulder is impossible. Scarred nerve endings often misfire, particularly when the seasons change in Toronto, where she now lives with her husband and two sons.