Eight months after an American bomb blew off her legs, 9-year-old Salee Allawy came to Greenville, S.C., for surgery, therapy and prosthetic legs.
She came with her father, Hussein Allawy, sponsored by the nonprofit, No More Victims, which works to obtain medical scholarships for war-injured Iraqi children, and to forge ties between American and Iraqi communities.
“I wasn’t expecting the kindness,” Allawy said through an interpreter. “In Iraq, we see the bad side of America. Here we see the good side.”
The Allawys were in Asheville on Wednesday for a potluck supper at First Congregational Church, followed by a peace vigil in Pritchard Park. More than 50 people joined them at the church for the dinner and a brief program about the work of No More Victims.
Anne Craig, of Asheville, first heard of Salee through the Peace Coalition of Western North Carolina.
“I came here thinking I would be angry and upset about the horrible thing that has happened to this child,” Craig said. “I’m so ashamed of what our country has done there. But seeing her smile and her strength gives me hope.”
The Shriners Hospital in Greenville has committed to care for Salee until she turns 18, said Cole Miller, director of No More Victims. She will return home in October, then come back to Greenville every 12 to 18 months.
Salee, now 10, her brother, her best friend and several other children were playing hopscotch in their village on Nov. 7 when they saw a black object coming toward them. In a video on No More Victims’ Web site, Salee and her father describe the day.
“It fell right in the middle of us,” Salee said. “It made a circle in the street.”
Salee’s brother and her best friend were blown apart by the bomb. She landed 40 feet away, her legs gone from the knees down.
“I can’t describe what it’s like, looking at your daughter, carrying her in your arms, covered in blood, and her legs are not there,” Allawy said.
Since she arrived here in July, Salee has picked up a few words of English and made dozens of friends.
“I spend a lot of time with her, playing with her, holding her,” said Ann Cothran, of Greenville. “We don’t really need words most of the time.”
Cothran is a member of the Upstate Coalition of Compassion, which worked with No More Victims to bring Salee to the U.S.
Miller, a freelance writer and editor, founded No More Victims to bring to America an Iraqi child who had lost an arm. Since then, five more children, including Salee, have come for medical treatment through the efforts of the nonprofit.
When Miller began to describe the work of No More Victims, Salee giggled and chided him with, “Blah, blah, blah.”
“She does that when I talk too much,” he said.