Seven-year-old Rusul Jalal happily snapped pictures of the crowd that turned out to greet her Thursday at Greenville Spartanburg Airport, going through a disposable camera in minutes.
The Iraqi girl is in Greenville for treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children, the same place her cousin Salee Allawe was treated last year.
Raised as Salee's sister, Rusul suffered muscle and bone damage to her right leg in the same 2006 missile strike that cost Salee her legs. Salee spent three months in Greenville before returning to Iraq. And at the airport, it was clear that she'd let Rusul know what she could expect.
"She told me, 'You will be very lucky,' " Rusul said through interpreter Haifa Abdulhadi. "She said, don't be worried. They are very good in medicine and they are going to fix your legs."
Rusul and Salee's father, Hussen Feras Allawe, left the town of Haswa, near Fallujah, about two months ago and traveled by car to Jordan.
"That's a very scary part of the process because the roads are not safe," said Lisa Hall, a member of No More Victims Greenville, the group that brought both girls to the Upstate. "You can get caught in crossfire or stopped and robbed."
On Tuesday, once the visas were in order, they flew to New York. And today, Rusul will have her first visit with doctors at Shriners.
"After tomorrow we'll know exactly what she needs ó if she has to have an amputation and a prosthesis, or if they'll be able to save her leg," said Ann Cothran, national community coordinator for No More Victims, founded by Cole Miller to link war-injured children with medical care in the United States.
A pixie of a girl with large dark eyes and a beaming smile, Rusul was amazed as gifts of flowers, dolls, and stuffed animals ó too many for her to hold ó were placed in her arms. And in a tiny voice, she told the crowd "Thank you."
"She's been singing some of the same songs Salee was singing here, and practicing her 'How are yous?' and 'I love yous,' and 'I miss yous,' Cothran said, explaining her English.
"She's very excited to be here," said Abdulhadi. "She wants to thank everyone for the flowers and everything. She can't believe how lovely you are, how wonderful."
Salee, who attracted the admiration of Upstate residents who followed her story as she underwent surgery before getting two prosthetic legs, tossed aside her crutches six weeks after returning to Iraq, her father said. She's back at school and even playing hop scotch on her prosthetic legs.
For him, "Coming back to Greenville is as if I'm going to my hometown," he told Abdulhadi. "It gives him hope."