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Forgiveness and… My Incredible Mother . . . Who Touched theWorld? L By Thomas Bui ife was good in the little Vietnamese village of Trang Bang. Here my family lived. Here my mother, Kim Phuc, began her her journey—a journey that would lead her through unbeliev- able pain and darkness and end in a glorious light and indescribable peace. Along the way she would touch nations and influence world events. Trang Bang Village was situated along a major highway. Many travel- ers from all over the country, traveling this road, passed through the village. Beside this highway was where my grandma, Ngoc Nu Phan, had start- ed a restaurant. She was not only a great cook but also a great restaurant manager. Because of its location and great food, this little restaurant had gained quite a reputation. Business was good. randma at that time would have said it was because her gods had given her good fortune and that her ancestors were helping her. In addition to running the restaurant, she was also the head nun in her Cao Dai convent. Both my grandparents were well- respected in their community and wealthy. My grandpa, Tung Phan, was a French teacher. They had 11 chil- dren. My mom was the sixth. She grew up in a safe environment with an abundance of food, friends, and fami- ly. My grandma intended for my mom, Kim, to eventually replace her in the Cao Dai worship. She began grooming her for that position at an early age. Life was great until the day North Vietnamese soldiers came pounding on the front door. They had begun their occupation of Trang Bang and G were forcefully entering the homes of the people. As a result, my family was moved into the village pagoda, where they thought they would be safe from any North Vietnamese attack. For three days, they hid with South Vietnam- A Misplaced Bomb . . . And a Breath of Hell. – Stars and Stripes, Pacific Edition, June 10, 1972 In 1996 Kim met the man who coordinated that airstrike in Trang Bang that injured her. She forgave him. ese soldiers in the pagoda while fight- ing continued around them. On the third day, June 8, 1972, a smoke gre- nade indicating an incoming airstrike was dropped in the courtyard of the pagoda. The South Vietnamese soldiers quickly rushed the villagers out of the pagoda, only to have the bombs dropped on them as they ran out. The children ran first, and so they received the brunt of the airstrike. My mom was the closest to the explosion and her clothes were burned off immediately. The napalm came into contact with her left arm as well as her whole back, but she continued to run. It was at this moment that Nick Ut, an AP photogra- pher, snapped that famous picture that would help change the course of the war. fter taking that shot, he laid down his camera and rushed her to the nearest hospital, where she would be given up on by the nurses and doctors. My grandparents had no idea where she was and were franticly searching for her. After three days of searching, my grandpa found her and used his con- nection with one of the head doctors to have her transferred to the Barsky Burn Clinic in Saigon, a hospital much better suited to treat her. It was here that she underwent 16 operations over the span of 14 months (she also had another serious surgery in Germany in 1984). Upon leaving the hospital, my mom went home to even more tragedy. A NATIONS • 9