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Photo Comes To Life

The world did not know her name, but it could never forget her face.

Kim Phuc Phan Thi was the little girl, her arms outstretched, running naked and screaming,  down a dirt road, in Vietnam, in 1972, fire and the war raging behind her. The picture by AP photographer Nick Ut shocked the world, and helped turn the tide of public opinion in the U.S. against the Vietnam war.

Last week, Kim Phuc was at Friends Academy, in Locust Valley, talking about her experiences, her life, and the message of hope and peace she carries around the world as a a goodwill ambassador for UNESCO, a position she took in 1996.

Using a poster she created, Kim Phuc told the story of her journey from a terrified nine year old to a gentle and charismatic woman who is working to make the world a safer place. The bottom half of the poster contains the iconic photograph by Ut, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his picture.  

“I saw the airplanes when I ran out of the temple where we had sought shelter,” she told the audience. “I saw four bombs and suddenly there was fire everywhere around me.”

Sixty-five percent of her body was burned by the napalm.

Ut took her to a hospital and eventually she was sent to another hospital where she spent 14 months in rehabilitation. Based on that experience, she decided to study to be a doctor and ten years later she was a student at a university in  what is now Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. But it was not to be. The Vietnamese government, finding out she was alive, used her for propaganda and cut short her education. She says that the emotional pain of not being able to realize her dream was worse than the physical pain.

In 1992 she sought asylum in Canada and today is a Canadian citizen, married and with two sons, Thomas, 18, and Steven 15.

The top half of the poster is a photo of Kim Phuc whispering into baby Thomas’ ear. “I have to let him know what happened,” she said, noting that as he is listening, he is looking forward to the future. The scaring on her shoulders from the fire is visible; she still suffers a great deal of pain.  

She says her goal is to let people know the horrors of war and also to bring her vision of the beautiful world that could happen if we lived with love.

Kim Phuc does more than talk. She is the founder of The Kim Foundation International, a non-profit that seeks to heal the wounds suffered by children during war and to restore hope and happiness by providing medical and psychological assistance. The foundation supports projects such as a refugee camp in Tajikistan and a hospital for mothers and children in northern Uganda.

“We can’t change the past,” she said, “but with love, we can heal the future.”

News

Vastra boutique finds a niche

in hand-embroidered dresses

Who says a bride has to wear white on her wedding day? For South Asian brides, no color is off limits including brilliant reds, blues and golds. For the past 17 years, Vastra in Hicksville has been helping brides from New York and across the country find the perfect dress for their special day.

There’s no lack of Indian sari boutiques in Hicksville but according to Marketing Director Prachi Jain, what sets Vastra apart from the others is its emphasis on one of a kind, hand-embroidered Indian dresses.

Many would consider it rude to play with your food. That is unless, you’re participating in the Long Island Potato Festival. The event, which was held in Cutchogue, NY, included a mashed potato sculpting contest which was dominated by Hicksville’s Sarah Tsang, who won first place in the youth division.

Contestants were allowed to use any tools and materials to help bring their creation to life. Sculptures were left on display throughout the day and voted on by festival goers.


Sports

Somehow LSA, the Levittown Swimming Association, has always been a part of our Hicksville summers. My family’s introduction to the organization in 1975 began when our two older daughters tried out for the Parkway Swim Team, one of the nine teams that competed through July and most of August.

It was no small task for the younger girl, swimming her first full lap in the deep end of the pool to qualify at age six, but both girls made the team and donned the coveted gray tee shirts as the trees cast their shadows over the pool water at the end of practice.

I’m convinced that the soul and the center of Hicksville is Cantiague Park. And why not? Every weekend it’s a beehive of activity ranging from tennis matches, hand ball games, basketball and baseball games, swimming, hockey and of course ‘the beautiful game’ called soccer. Cantiague has two professional soccer fields that are perfectly manicured and begging to be played on. And they were. This weekend was the finals of the East Meadow Soccer Tournament which is one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the nation, sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. There were 18 boys and girls teams in the finals and a large staff of referees.

Two of the refs were Steven Orozco and Randy Vogt who told me how soccer had been growing and has now become the second most popular participation sport in America with 25 million of us watching this year’s World Cup.  I also met and interviewed Joe Codispoti who along with Tim Bradbury is the head coach of Rockville Centre United, a U16 boys club.  This U16 team has a group of standout players led by  Jack Graziano, AJ Codispoti and Pat Basile who have been playing together for six years.


Calendar

Close Encounters with Benevolent ETs and Ascended Masters

August 29

Adventures in Genealogy

September 4

Greek Festival

September 5-7



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com