Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the Vietnam War survivor captured in the iconic photograph “Napalm Girl,” received an award for peace work in Germany on Monday.
The 55-year-old was awarded the Dresden Peace Prize — an annual recognition given since 2010 — for supporting UNESCO and children wounded in war, as well as speaking out against hatred and violence.
The award includes a cash prize of €10,000 ($11,200).
“We live in times during which hate is generally at large. But it is repeatedly the victims of violence and war who renounce hate,” the prize committee said in a statement. “And in doing so they demonstrate human greatness, to the shame of the preachers of hate. Kim Phuc Phan Thi has shown just such greatness and so has become a worldwide exemplar.”
Phuc was only nine years old when a South Vietnamese plane dropped four bombs on her village on June 8, 1972.
“I was nine years old and had finished my grade three. The war came to our village, so my family hid in the temple for three days. We were just allowed to play nearby in the bomb shelter,” Phuc told Deutsche Welle.
Her family had just finished lunch when chaos erupted.
“I remember we had lunch, and after lunch, the soldiers just yelled for the children to run. I was one of the children who ran to the front of the temple. Then I saw the airplane. So loud! So close to me, and so fast!”
Nick Ut, a Vietnamese-American photographer for the Associated Press, captured young Phuc running away from the explosion, naked in tears with parts of her body severely burned.
The photo, titled “The Napalm Girl,” would win a Pulitzer Prize the following year.
“I can see the hopelessness, the pain, the terrible suffering of the children — me and my brothers crying. I can smell the fire, the smoke, the burning,” Phuc said about the photo, which has since reminded the world of the horror and devastation that comes with war.
She added, “But right now I’m so thankful I went through that. I [was] supposed to be dead. But I am so thankful that I am still alive, and that makes the picture still alive.”
Phuc sustained third-degree burns on 30% of her body, which left her hospitalized for 14 months. She underwent 16 operations.
In 2015 — 43 years after her ordeal — Phuc started receiving treatment for her scars. She traveled with her husband, Bui Huy Thoan, from her home in Ajax, Canada to a dermatology institute in Miami, Florida.
“So many years I thought I have no more scars, no more pain when I’m in heaven. But now — heaven on earth for me!” Phuc told the Associated Press, according to the Washington Post. Beside her during treatment was Ut, now 67, whom she affectionately calls “Uncle Ut.”
“He’s the beginning and the end. He took my picture and now he’ll be here with me with this new journey, new chapter,” she said.
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