The woman known around the globe as “Napalm Girl” has received her final round of treatment for the burns she received as a child when her village in Vietnam was hit by a napalm bomb.
Kim Phuc was just nine years old when South Vietnamese planes dropped the bomb on the village of Trảng Bàng in 1972 and she was photographed running naked from her home, covered in third-degree burns after her clothes caught on fire.
The iconic photo, taken by Vietnamese-American photographer Nick Ut before he rushed Ms Phuc to a hospital, won a Pulitzer Prize and became a symbol of the awful consequences of war.
Ms Phuc, who has since become a Canadian citizen, has lived with the pain and scars from the attack ever since.
On Tuesday, she underwent a 12-hour medical procedure in Miami, with local media reporting it was the final course of laser therapy for her scars.
Now 59, Ms Phuc also reunited with Mr Ut and recalled the distressing moment when they first met.
“I heard the noise, bup-bup bup-bup, and then suddenly there was fire everywhere around me and I saw the fire all over my arm,” Ms Phuc said of the moment the bomb landed, per NBC 6 South Florida.
“[Ut] told me after he took my pic that he saw me burned so severely, he put down his camera and he rushed me to [the] nearest hospital.”
Mr Ut also recalled how terribly injured Ms Phuc was.
“I saw her burning, her body burning so badly,” he said.
But when he took her to a local hospital, staff initially refused to treat her and told him to take her to another hospital two hours away.
“I get upset, I hold my media pass, I say, ‘I’m media, if she dies, my picture’s on the front page of every newspaper tomorrow’ … they took her right away inside,” he said.
During her decades-long recovery, Dr Jill Waibel has been helping her, using laser therapy to heal and remove scar tissue.
“It used to be that everyone with an injury like Kim’s would pass away and so we are blessed now that we can keep people alive but we really have to help them thrive and live,” Dr Waibel said.
Ms Phuc now lives in Toronto and is the founder of the Kim Foundation International, which provides aid to child victims of war.
On the 50th anniversary of the attack, Ms Phuc penned an essay for The New York Times, revealing she hated the photo for a long time as she struggled to heal amid the photo’s growing popularity.
“You don’t grow out of the scars, physically or mentally,” she wrote. “I am grateful now for the power of that photograph of me as a 9-year-old, as I am of the journey I have taken as a person.
“I’m proud that, in time, I have become a symbol of peace. It took me a long time to embrace that as a person. I can say, 50 years later, that I’m glad Nick captured that moment, even with all the difficulties that image created for me.
“That picture will always serve as a reminder of the unspeakable evil of which humanity is capable. Still, I believe that peace, love, hope and forgiveness will always be more powerful than any kind of weapon.”
Image: Nick Ut / Canapress
This article first appeared on OverSixty.