Few persons living during the Vietnam War have not seen the memorable Pulitzer Prize winning photo of the little girl running to unsuccessfully escape the flames of napalm on Route 1 on June 8, 1972. Many who did not know her name referred to her as “the napalm girl”, but she did have a name. Many stories have been written about Kim Phuc Phan Thi (“the napalm girl”), but the new release, Fire Road, written by Kim is the powerful story of her journey through the horrors of war to faith in Jesus Christ, forgiveness, and peace.
Prior to that horrific day in 1972, Kim had known the daily rhythm of family life in Trang Bang, Vietnam, as the sixth of eight children enjoying a two acre plot of land that included a variety of pigs, chickens, ducks, swans, dogs, and cats. She also enjoyed coconut, durian, grapefruit, and guava trees. Kim loved to climb into the guava trees and enjoy the sweet fruit as well as a special perch where she loved to read tucked among the tree’s leafy canopy. Her mother (“ma”) was known for her delicious soup that became a prosperous business and helped support the family.
Kim knew that at night Viet Cong in black pajamas would creep about in the jungle and arrive on the doorsteps of villagers demanding food and supplies, but much of the time she was shielded from exposure to them. As the war had intensified and the Viet Cong dug tunnels under her family’s home, her family sought safety in the CaoDai temple along with other villagers.
South Vietnamese soldiers were seeking to guard the temple, but on that fateful June day a South Vietnamese pilot made a color mark within the temple grounds to mark the spot for the napalm bombing run. The soldiers screamed to everyone that they must run as fast as they could to escape when they discovered the mark.
Everyone on the property of the temple ran toward the adjacent road, Route 1, running as fast as they could. Within seconds, Kim caught sight of the plane that was closing in on her as she ran. The bombs that were dropped floated to the ground and then the cans of napalm burst open and she saw other children and soldiers disappear. The flames chased Kim from behind as she ran. As the fire caught up with her, it consumed her clothing and the gel-like napalm clung to her neck, back, and left arm. She continued running, now naked, yelling,“Too hot! Too hot!”
Fire Road will take you on the journey to the first hospital where she was left in the morgue for three days with no expectation she would live to her parents’ discovery of her there. You will walk with her through the excruciating burn treatments, the erosion of her CaoDai faith, and beyond to her introduction to Jesus Christ. Jesus will give her the first taste of peace to sustain her through the life of a disfigured shunned outcast with no evidence of opportunities. She was used by the government as a propaganda tool, denied the opportunity of the education she longed for, and lived clinging to her new-found faith from one moment to the next.
Her story will take you from Vietnam, to Cuba, to Russia, and ultimately to Canada where she courageously defects.
Page by page you will watch Kim’s faith grow under the most difficult of circumstances along with ongoing physical and emotional pain. You will also learn of the ways the Lord begins to use her to speak of her faith, peace, and love not only to people around the world, but also to the family she leaves behind as she leads each to the Lord.
This was an especially poignant story to read, but it is one I would encourage you to add to your reading list. The testimony of God’s pursuing love and miraculous provision will buoy your faith and give you hope.
To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.