On June 8, 1972, nine-year-old Kim Phuc, severely burned by napalm, ran from her blazing village in South Vietnam and into the eye of history. Her photograph – one of the most unforgettable images of the twentieth century – was seen around the world and helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam War.
When he first saw the picture in June of 1972, deep into the Vietnam War, composer Hannibal Lokumbe could not shake it from his mind.
A terrified, naked little girl, arms out like crippled wings, is running down a road with other children. Behind them, soldiers walk, rifles askew. And behind them is heavy, black smoke from Trảng Bàng village, burning and burning from a napalm strike.
It is one of the most horrific images of the Vietnam War, and the sheer pain and fear visibly gripping the little girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, all of 9 years old, came to symbolize the meaningless brutality of the war.
“I was just a little girl,” Phúc said this week by telephone from her home outside Toronto.