The day in June 1972 when Vietnam airforce pilots dropped four napalm bombs on the village of Trang Bang, Vietnam, nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc became an unwitting celebrity. A Pulitzer prize- winning Associated Press photograph of her running naked and screaming from her village altered the way the world viewed the war.
Now a radiant Christian and a Canadian citizen, 35-year-old Kim Phuc lives in Toronto with her husband, Bui Huy Toan, and two young sons. But she still recalls that moment in 1972 as if it happened yesterday. "I remember tearing my burning clothes from my body and running with the other children," she says.
How she went from being a child victim of war to a goodwill ambassador on behalf of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization is a story of many miracles, says Phuc, who is busy finishing her autobiography. The Girl in the Picture: The Kim Phuc Story will be published by Penguin Books this summer.
The first miracle was survival. For the first 14 months and 17 operations, Phuc hung between life and death. The Vietnamese government later paraded her around for propaganda purposes. "I became miserable all over again," she says.
She began searching for answers to her unhappiness, reading many religious books. "When I began to read through the New Testament I found how different the teachings of Jesus were to what I had been taught." She became a Christian in 1982.
Phuc met her husband in Cuba, where the government sent her to study pharmacology. Returning from a Moscow honeymoon in 1992, they defected in Newfoundland.
"We had nothing: no friends, no family, no money, no clothes, no knowledge of this country," Phuc says. Her husband became a Christian after they moved to Canada. He is studying at an independent Baptist Bible college. The pair hope to become missionaries.
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