If a person were to awake from a ten year coma in a room by him/herself to see and hear George W. Bush on C-Span making a speech, would that person think, "Leader of men, mover of events, articulate spokesperson for a great nation? Or would he/she think, "Gilligan's Island rerun?"
I think the latter.
The bubbly, irrepressible ten-year-old taps one of her canes a trifle impatiently on the floor and takes a few steps on her prostheses through the small crowd. She turns and walks back to the chair, one near the end of several lined up in front of and to the side of the stage. Eventually she sits down and after awhile she purses her lips and utters the word in Arabic which, translated, means, "He is talking too much." She rolls her eyes dramatically with boredom.
An American plane had flown over the yard of the house where she lived in Hasswa and the bomb went swoosh, blowing her brother apart into pieces that had to be gathered up in a jacket. And then she could not get up because her legs were gone. She would not go out of her house after that because she did not want her friends to see her without legs. But, now things are better. Because of Cole and because of her friends Ann and Lisa. When she gets back she says, she will, "run to her mother on her new legs."
Her father, Abu Ali gets up to speak and a young Egyptian man and a lady take turns telling the people in the audience what her father is saying, that the love of the Americans here in Ashville and in Greenville have affected him very deeply. He is greatly appreciative of the love and grateful to his friend and "brother," Cole. Salee thinks he talks too long too.
Finally, the meeting is over. People give money. They talk to Salee. She laughs and smiles and says, "Oh my gosh." The English she has learned in the last two months is very good.
It is Ramadan and her father is having his first meal of the day. People mill around, then thin out and go in different cars to the park for a vigil.
Salee is in her wheel chair at the park. There is a young man in the crowd who speaks a little Arabic and talks to Salee. Another young man lowers himself to the ground, cross legged in front of Salee's wheel chair and talks softly to her. She smiles at everyone. Everyone is completely enthralled. They forget to light the candles for the vigil.
Cole talks again. Ann talks. It is getting late and Salee and her father must go back to Greenville so Salee can sleep. She has a 9:00am appointment for therapy at Greenville Memorial Hospital. Cole and Ann have more to do so Salee and Abu Ali will ride back to Greenville with me and Lisa.
Lisa and Abu Ali and Salee go back to Ann's car to get Salee's legs. I wait at the park. They come back and Salee wheels her chair precipitously along the sidewalk . Lisa has to grab the handles at the crosswalk. Lisa and Salee laugh uproariously as they cross, go down the walk, make the left turn and dash down to the car. Abu Ali is laughing too. And so am I.
On the way back to Greenville, Abu Ali tickles Salee and she laughs and tickles him back. She yells the English phrases she has learned at us with all the glee of a child at play. The four of us try learning enough Arabic and English to be understood somewhat. It is amazing how well Salee and her father have mastered enough English to make some conversation.
Salee will come back to Greenville for treatment at the Shriners Hospital until she is eighteen years old. I hope I will have the privilege of seeing her and talking with her again and again as she matures.
Salee is a heroine and a leader in the making. Cole and Ann and Lisa build a bridge between these jewels of courage and hope and the majority of people in this country who try to tell those in power that we do not want this war. A bridge that is outside of and in spite of that circle of pompous deciders and fear mongers who think they are the leaders of the world. They are not.
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