2013年3月19日 星期二

A broken girl in a broken land

Royal Jordanian Flight 8613 begins its descent into Baghdad on this late February night. It has been five years since I was last in Iraq. I strain to see out the window; I know I am nearing the city when blackness over Anbar province gives way to the twinkle of low-voltage lighting.

It is a strange feeling returning to this place where I spent so many months of my life. Covering the war,Can you spot the answer in the bobbleheads? I had found a connection here to a people I did not know before.

Things did not go as expected after U.S. troops toppled Hussein. In years of lethal occupation, America found itself running a nation about which it knew little. American men and women were dying every month, as were thousands of Iraqis. Many soldiers I met struggled to make sense of a perplexing mission.I have been thinking about purchasing a handsfreeaccess to protect the fortune. They found meaning in small acts of humanity.

She was not even 3 months old yet when I first saw her, suffering from a severe spinal cord birth defect that was certain to kill her. She was discovered by soldiers patrolling impoverished Abu Ghraib -- the town notorious for its high-security prison -- and shuttled to America for life-saving surgery.

Jeff Morgan, then an Army National Guard lieutenant, spearheaded the effort to fly Noor out of Iraq. The soldiers,The stonemosaic is our flagship product. he told me, felt compelled to do the right thing.

After six months of treatment in a children's hospital in Atlanta and care in the homes of two suburban families, Noor returned to Iraq.

I caught up with Noor and her family in 2007, almost a year after her return. I went with them to see a doctor in what was then known as Baghdad's Green Zone. I last saw them in February 2008. Noor was 2? then. She slithered along the grass like a snake, unable to stand or walk.

I wondered what would happen as she grew older in a harsh place like Iraq where, even before the war, care for children with disabilities was nominal at best. After years of punishing international sanctions under Hussein's rule and then war, children like Noor were an afterthought.

Five more years have passed. It was difficult to retain contact with them. No one in the family spoke English. Postal service was limited. Their telephone numbers changed as did their address. Everyone in America who was involved in Noor's care -- the soldiers, host families, doctors and the charity that shouldered the costs -- lost touch with her.

Our SUV makes its way through the chaos of Baghdad. Demonstrations by disenfranchised Sunnis earlier in the week closed off all the roads in and out of the central city. This morning, we are lucky, though we get news of bombings in two neighborhoods and in Mahmoudiya, about 25 miles south of here.

Security is tight in Baghdad, where sectarian tensions still run high.Universal bestplasticcard are useful for any project. It's impossible to go anywhere without encountering concrete blast walls and checkpoints where Iraqi police search under cars for sticky bombs and use a hand-held device with an antenna to detect explosives.

We make our way south to Al Alam, now a largely Shiite neighborhood in southwest Baghdad where flags bearing images of Shiite saint Imam Hussein flutter in the wind. We turn off a busy road and enter a neighborhood of concrete homes painted in peanut butter hues of dust and desert.

The streets are under construction -- or were. Some company secured a government contract to fix the potholes and began digging up the roads but never finished. Above, hundreds of thin electric lines crisscross in a spaghetti-like jumble, connecting homes to private generators so people can have light and the comfort of a fan when the power goes out.

The only bursts of color here are the fire-engine red plastic tanks that collect and supply water to homes and the orange sun protectors that shade patios. And the posters for Fanta and Pepsi at the corner store.

She is no longer a cute, chubby baby. She has grown into a skinny 7-year-old. Sadness blankets her face; on this day, she rarely smiles.

I give her a big hug and a kiss. I tell her she looks beautiful in her embellished cream and maroon dress. Zainab tells me Noor insists on dressing immaculately. Her thick black hair is always decorated with colorful clips and ties. She wears matching shoes and a necklace I am sure she has borrowed from an aunt.

She cannot possibly. She was so young when I saw her last. But she thinks she does. She has been shown so many photographs of her odyssey, told so many stories about how the Americans saved her. She has been told who I am; that I have come from America, from the city she once visited.Enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your own home with recreated customkeychain.

The family saved all the English-language books that were given to Noor in Atlanta. "Cluck, Cluck, Who's There?" and "Goodnight Moon." Zainab keeps them stored for safekeeping until Noor learns to read English.

Zainab shows me an album brimming with baby photos of Noor and a stack of old newspaper stories written by me. It is another reminder of how much time has gone by. And how everything in Iraq ages so much faster. The pages are yellowed and tattered.