Thursday, 20. October 2011 2:47
There are some moments in life that change a person, like getting asked to prom, or passing the license test, or…meeting an Iraqi girl with one leg. Her name is Rusul and she is the bravest girl I know. At five years old, she lost one of her legs when an American bomb landed in her backyard. She had been playing outside with her brother and sister, just playing, when the bomb appeared out of nowhere and caught them by surprise. Rusul was the lucky one; her sister Salee lost both legs and her brother Akram did not make it out alive. Not long after the injury, Rusul and her father came to the United States so that she could get the prosthetics she needed. Salee had come the year before for double prostheses as both her legs were blown off above the knee. Since my mother’s friend was working with the group No More Victims to help arrange for Rusul’s medical treatment, my family and I went all the way to South Carolina so that we could meet her.
We were at a children’s hospital. Her dark brown eyes focused on my face as I
stepped into the dimly lit room. I smiled at her, knowing she must be worried
about the surgery that was soon to come, and she smiled back shyly. She stood
close to her father, half-hidden behind him, using her crutches to support
herself. She seemed frightened, unsure of what to expect. It was a strange
feeling; no one had ever been scared of me before. I remember wondering what it
would be like to be in her shoes, going for help to the very country that hurt
her in the first place. It was the kind of thing I had read about in history
books or seen on television, not something that happened in real life. Or at
least, not something that should happen in real life.
When a woman who worked at the hospital suggested that Rusul show me to her toy
room, Rusul’s face lit up almost instantly and a sudden spark of confidence
emerged. Before I knew it, we were heading down a long, narrow hallway. As we
entered the room, Rusul immediately began showing me her toys, which I later
learned had been gifts from Americans around the country. She was proud of them
all, holding each one up for me to see.
Rusul seemed especially fond of a game that showed pictures of animals and read off
the English version of the name with the press of a button. She pointed eagerly
to a picture of a chubby, pink pig and looked at me. “Cow?” she asked. “No, no
that’s a pig,” I said, smiling. “Cow,” she said certainly, laughing, knowing it
was really a pig but trying to convince me otherwise. I laughed with her. It
amazed me that she was able to laugh so easily after all she had been through,
losing not only her leg, but her brother as well. It didn’t seem fair, that
this innocent girl had been hurt for no reason.
Meeting Rusul made me realize that we truly can change lives. No More Victims had been able to give Salee new legs, allowing her to be able to walk again, and now Rusul had a new foot. These miracles made me recognize that I could make a difference in other people’s lives, too.
From that point on, I realized that the things I’d cared about most had been so
trivial, like going to prom or getting my driver’s license. I knew that, like
my mom’s friend, I wanted to be able to help other people. For that reason, I joined
Key Club my junior year of high school and have done a great deal of community
service since then.
One of the most memorable community service events I took part in was a unified
sports game at my school. During this event, I taught elementary school
children, both with and without disabilities, how to bowl. It made me happy to
know that the kids really seemed to enjoy learning and that I had made a difference
in their lives by teaching them how to work together and help each other.
Some other community service experiences I’ve had include watching children on hay
rides while their parents were away, making masks and costumes for kids for
Halloween, working concession stands, and cleaning up after events. Ever since
I met Rusul, I realized how important it is to reach out to others and hope to
continue to do that in the future. There were so many things in my life that I had been taking for granted; meeting Rusul proved that. Maybe I had been wrong; maybe it truly was a cow in the picture.
Guest author, Lindsay White, is a senior at Glastonbury High School in Connecticut. Lindsay met Rusul in 2008 when Rusul came from Iraq to the United States for amputation and prosthetic care. Rusul is back home in a town outside of Fallujah, living with her parents and siblings, including sister Salee, who lost both legs in the airstrike that injured Rusul.
I’m grateful to Lindsay for this beautiful addition to my blog. To learn more about Rusul, please click here.