No More Victims Group Continues to Aid Iraqi Children
By Ashley Severance
t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor
Thursday 28 December 2006
Alaa’ left Florida a little over a year ago. I had full intentions of keeping a journal during her stay; however, when I found time to write, I would draw a blank. It wasn’t due to writer’s block, lack of time, or even apathy. It was because I had a mixture of emotions. It was too hard to define, too hard to narrow down, too hard to describe.
I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter. I’m a law student. I’m a Muslim. I’m an American. I could label myself all day. But, at the end of the day, I’m a human being. So was Alaa’. So were the many people who died. And, a year later, I feel that I have a responsibility to share with others what I gained from Alaa’s visit.
When I first met her, she had just gotten off the plane. The media surrounded us. It was the chance for that perfect shot, that memorable moment. But, I didn’t reach out to hug Alaa’ that night. Instead, I muttered, “Mashallah.” It was one of the few Arabic phrases I knew. It was appropriate. While the phrase means Praise God, it is typically used to verbalize a cause for happiness. Likewise, it can be used to describe a beautiful child. Alaa’ was beautiful.
The first few days consisted of housekeeping. Due to a significant language barrier, I called upon friends to help with translating. Alaa’ arrived a week before our final exams. For anyone unfamiliar with law school, you only get one exam per class. Needless to say, it was stressful, and I’m forever grateful for those who assisted. We helped Khalid (Alaa’s father) get settled, and we began the getting-to-know-you process.
Khalid was reserved at first. Who could blame him? He was in the very country that took the lives of his two sons and almost took the life of Alaa’. Yet, he was so grateful at the same time. He continuously thanked me for helping him. I felt ashamed. I asked him not to thank me. I was later asked by a news reporter why I was hesitant to accept his thanks. I explained, as best I could: “It’s like tying someone to a railroad track, pulling them off before the train runs them over, then expecting a thank you.” I’m not sure if anyone understood my explanation, but I meant every word. I felt like it was my country that put her in that situation and I didn’t want to be thanked for my meager attempt to remedy her plight.