For much of the past 25 years she’s called Canada home, Kim Phuc has become accustomed to being stopped by strangers on the street. “They recognize me everywhere,” she said with a shy laugh. “When they say, ‘your story touched my life,’ that’s OK.”

The 53-year-old mother of two is, understandably, a reluctant celebrity, but one at peace with her unique sort of fame and the opportunities it provides. “The picture is a powerful gift for me,” she said, “to work for peace.”

The picture she refers to is the antithesis of peace. On June 8, 1972, Associate Press news photographer Huynh Cong “Nick” Ut snapped a photograph of a then nine-year-old naked Phuc running from her village just after a napalm bomb attack, which evaporated her clothing and burned 30 per cent of her body.

Ut’s photograph won him a Pulitzer Prize and became an enduring symbol of the horrors of war, especially the suffering of innocents caught in its crossfire.

On Monday, Phuc was in town as the keynote speaker for the closing event of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society’s 35th anniversary celebrations. For Fariborz Birjandian, having Phuc as the organization’s invited guest has its own symbolism.

“The agency started 35 years ago because of the influx of Vietnamese refugees,” says Birjandian, the CEO of CCIS, which to date has sponsored more than 6,500 refugees arriving in Calgary.

Birjandian, who came to Canada as an Iranian refugee more than 35 years ago, said he has another deeply personal reason for being thrilled to host Phuc’s visit.

“Kim has been an inspiration to all of us,” he said. “She is one of my heroes.”

Kim Phuc, the woman who was the naked girl covered in napalm seen running in Nick Ut’s famous photo from 1972, is embraced by Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of the Calgary Catholic …read more

Source:: Calgary Herald

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