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Wednesday, 17 March 2010
On only her second visit to the UK, Bolton School was privileged
to host Kim Phuc, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for peace and
founder of the Kim Phuc Foundation. She is best known to the
world as the young Vietnamese girl photographed in 1972 fleeing
down the road naked, her clothes having been burnt off by a napalm
bomb, which was dropped over her village, Trang Bang. The
iconic Pullitzer Prize winning photograph has become synonymous
with the Vietnam War.
Two hundred and fifty Sixth Form students from across the North
West attended the event and were given a message of peace and
forgiveness. Kim reflected on her early life in Vietnam and
on the moment that the napalm attack unfolded. She had been a
happy girl, always laughing and playing with her friends and had
known nothing about war. Nothing that is until, aged 9, on 8
June 1972, her village was attacked. She recalled the
aeroplane being incredibly loud and incredibly close and then she
was running down the road with her skin on fire. In the photo
she was calling out "too hot, too hot".
The moment changed her life for ever. Kim underwent 17
operations, the last one in 1984. She had felt sure that
no-one would ever love her because of her burnt skin and kept
asking herself "why me?" She carried a lot of anger in her
heart but realised she had a choice, "either die of hatred or
change my heart!" Using Jesus' teaching of love your enemies,
she has worked, through the Kim Foundation, to look after children
that are victims of war.
In 1996 she attended the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial service in
Washington and met up with Rev. John Plummer, a Vietnam veteran,
who believed he took part in coordinating the air strike on Kim's
village with the South Vietnamese Air Force. He said his life
had been ruined by the event but she gave him her forgiveness
seeing that he too was a victim of war. They remain good
friends. Kim sees forgiveness as being a choice - a way
forward out of the circle of war and violence. Her parting
message was: "I came through the fire and I am blessed to be with
you today. We need to work together to extinguish the fires
of war, to ensure peaceful futures for our children. With
compassion we can heal the world. When you see the girl in
the photo, think of her as calling out for peace."
The photograph was taken by Nick Ut, who still works for the
Associated Press; Kim and Nick have become the best of friends and
talk on a weekly basis.
Head Girl at Bolton School, Lucy Nolan, summed up everyone's
thoughts when she said: "That was a truly inspirational talk and it
will make all of us look at our priorities in a different
light. I think we will all take away something special from
Mrs Richards, Headmistress of the Girls' Division, said: "It was
important that Kim spoke to young people during her first visit to
the North-West, as the future is in their hands. People in
the hall today are tomorrow's leaders and it is important they go
forward in life with the message of peace in their hearts and with
an ability to forgive."
The pupils were from Bolton School Girls' Division, Bolton
School Boys' Division, The Queen's School Chester, Withington
Girls' School, Canon Slade School and Thornleigh Salesian
College. Kim was visiting the North-West for a few days as a
guest of the Red Cross.
Kim brought along copies of her biography, "The Girl in the
Picture", which were kindly donated to the School.
View the iconic photograph and Bolton News story here.
Bolton FM are running a programme about the visit on Wednesday 24
March at 8.00pm with the Revd Brian Branche.
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