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Woman in Associated Press “napalm photo” to honor her saviors

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    RETRANSMISSION TO CORRECT PHOTOGRAPHERS NAME FROM ROBERT TO ROB - Associated Press photographer Nick Ut poses with Kim Phuc in Toronto on Friday, June 8, 2012. The girl who came to symbolize the horrors of the Vietnam War will honor those who saved her on the 40th anniversary of The Associated Press photo that made her famous. Kim Phuc was just 9 years old when on June 8, 1972, a single photo communicated the horrors of the fighting in a way words could never describe, helping to end one of the most divisive conflicts in American history. AP photographer Huynh Cong "Nick" Ut heard the little girl's screams and couldn't turn away. The 21-year-old Vietnamese photographer didn't know the power of the image he had just taken, but he knew what he had to do. He drove the badly burned child to a small hospital. There, he was told she was too far gone to help. But Nick flashed his American press badge, demanded that doctors treat the girl and left assured that she would not be forgotten. (AP Photo/Rob Gillies)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Associated Press staff photographer Nick Ut, right, Kim Phuc, center, and Dr. My Le, who treated Phuc two days after a napalm attack in Vietnam 40 years ago, sit together during a reunion in Buena Park, Calif., Saturday, June 2, 2012. Ut's iconic black-and-white image of Phuc after the napalm attack in 1972 communicated the horrors of the Vietnam War in a way words could never describe. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Kim Phuc, center, wipes her eyes as she introduces her sons Thomas, second from right, and Stephen Bui, right, to Dr. My Le, who treated Phuc in Vietnam two days after a napalm attack on her village on June 8, 1972, during a reunion in Buena Park, Calif., Saturday, June 2, 2012. It took only a second for Associated Press photographer Nick Ut to snap the iconic black-and-white photo of Phuc after the attack 40 years ago, an image that communicated the horrors of the Vietnam War in a way words could never describe. But beneath the photo lies a lesser-known story of a dying child brought together by chance with a young photographer. A moment captured in the chaos of war that would serve as both her savior and her curse on a journey to understand life's plan for her. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
  • THE CANADIAN PRESS
    Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, left, is pictured with Kim Phuc Phan Thi ahead of a tribute dinner in Toronto on Friday, June 8, 2012. Ut shot an iconic photo of Phan Thi in 1972 after the Vietnamese village Trang Bang suffered a napalm attack. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
  • THE CANADIAN PRESS
    David Burnett, left to right, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, Kim Phuc Phan Thi, Christopher Wain and Perry Kretz pose for a photo ahead of a tribute dinner in Toronto on Friday June 8, 2012. Ut shot an iconic photo of Phan Thi in 1972 after the Vietnamese village Trang Bang suffered a napalm attack. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    FILE - In this June 8, 1972 file photo, crying children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, run down Route 1 near Trang Bang, Vietnam after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places as South Vietnamese forces from the 25th Division walk behind them. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. From left, the children are Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim's cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

TORONTO >> It was a chilling photograph that came to symbolize the horrors of the Vietnam War and, ultimately, helped end it.

It also saved the life of Kim Phuc, who was just 9 years old when, on June 8, 1972, her village was attacked by south Vietnamese planes.

Phuc, who lives near Toronto with her family, honored those who saved her at a dinner Friday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the iconic photograph. They include AP photographer Huynh Cong “Nick” Ut, who snapped the shot, as well as other journalists, doctors and nurses who helped her get help and who treated her injuries.

Ut, who was 21 at the time, heard Phuc’s screams as she ran down the road to escape her burning village, and snapped the photo that became famous around the world.

The Vietnamese photographer then drove the badly burned child to a small hospital, where he was told she was too far gone to help. He flashed his American press badge, demanded that doctors treat the girl and left assured that she would not be forgotten.

“I’m so grateful he was there,” Phuc said. “He helped me and rushed me to the nearest hospital. He saved my life. He’s my hero. This opportunity tonight I want to honor all of my personal heroes.”

Ut said he cried when he saw her running. He said if he didn’t help and she died he would have killed himself. He knew right way this picture was different and said veteran photo editor, Horst Faas, deemed it the most the iconic photo of the Vietnam war.  

“It changed the war. I met so many American soldiers who said ‘Nicky because of your picture I’ll get to go home early,”’ he said.

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning image, children run screaming from a burning Vietnamese village. The little girl in the center of the frame, Phuc, is naked and crying, her clothes and layers of skin melted away by napalm.

A few of days after the image shocked the world, a number of British journalists including Christopher Wain, a correspondent for the British Independent Television Network who had given Phuc water from his canteen and drizzled it down her burning back at the scene, fought to have her transferred to the American-run hospital. It was the only facility in Saigon equipped to deal with her severe injuries.

“When we found in her in the British hospital it was in very un-sterile conditions,” Wain said Friday. “I asked one of the nurses how she was and the nurse looked at her and said, ‘Oh, she’ll die maybe tomorrow or maybe next day.’ It was obvious it was very urgent.”

Martha Arsenault, a nurse who cared for her at the American hospital, said when Phuc got to the American hospital nobody thought she’d make it.

“Everybody, the doctors, they all thought she wouldn’t because she was just so burnt,” she said.

Arsenault said the photo reminds her of how just awful war is.

Wain said he still feels slightly concerned for Phuc because she has had to relive the traumatic experience all her life. He said the picture is one of the most iconic war photos of all time.

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