On Tuesday, March 12, Phan Thị Kim Phúc gave a lecture at the Lacombe Memorial Centre. Phúc discussed her life experiences growing up with chronic pain after the napalm bomb in Vietnam in 1972 where she was famously photographed as a little girl crying, naked and burned after the bomb.
The photograph of Phúc with her brothers and cousins running from flame and fumes is one that arguably ended the war and changed her life completely.
“When I saw my picture, I was so embarrassed. I just wondered why did you take that picture, I was naked, my face is crying, ugly and hopeless and that is the worst moment in my life,” said Phúc commenting on her first perceptions of the photograph.
“When I was growing up I learned that my picture took a big impact to people around the world, but to me, not yet. I know that picture is famous but it did not touch my heart. When I became a mother when I held my baby Thomas, I looked at him, and I looked at my picture and that moment hit my heart. I realized how much I love my baby and that I would never let my baby suffer like that little girl but not only my baby, but children around the world. They do not deserve to suffer that way they deserve to be loved, to have a good education, and enjoy their childhood.”
These days Kim manages the Kim Phúc Foundation International that helps child victims of war around the world by providing medical and psychological treatment, as well as provide them an education. She does not live in resentment, but in forgiveness and with optimism and encourages others to do the same with their own personal adversities.
“I have an opportunity to let people know how horrible the world is but how beautiful world can be if everybody can learn to live with peace hope and forgiveness. If we can learn that, absolutely, we don’t need war at all.”
Despite her long list of adversities, Phúc is proud of where she is now and is very grateful to live freely as a Canadian in Toronto.
“I was under control and I was suffering so much from everything that happened in my life before and now I have freedom. I want to treasure that. I value freedom I count every single moment of my life in Canada. I am so thankful to be Canadian, and I am so proud,” said Phúc.
“As a UNESCO goodwill ambassador I work for peace and that is fulfilling my dream. I am so, so, so thankful to be alive. No longer living with hatred, bitterness, and sorrow and wondering ‘why me?’ and now I am not a victim anymore. I am a survivor, working for peace and that is how my life is different.”
Kim Phúc felt lucky to be Lacombe for the warmer weather and was very loving and receptive to the public after her lecture where she signed copies of her book, Fire Road, and posed for photographs with a number of people.