I had Issa in three classes last year: English, science, and English language development, so I got to know him well. He had come to the United States four years earlier fleeing violence in his home country of Iraq. Issa’s father had been assassinated during a time of great instability in his country. His mother, alone with two young boys to raise, applied for refugee status and was able to emigrate to the U.S.
When I first learned it was Issa who was shot in the head, I was horrified and saddened. How could this happen to such a lovely, compassionate boy, who had already experienced so much loss in his life! And how could it happen in a classroom, where children are supposed to feel safe and cared for.
Issa is truly lucky to be alive; the stray bullet that entered his skull did not hit any vital organs. But he has a long road of recovery ahead. Although he was recently released from the hospital, the bullet is still lodged in his temple, and he will require another surgery and months of treatment.
I checked in with his mother this week asking if I could come visit Issa to read to him and provide my support and encouragement. She agreed. As I arrived at the small one-room apartment, I expected to find a house full of friends and family, sympathy cards piled up on tables, and a refrigerator full of donated food. But I found none of these things. I spent an hour with Issa as he described to me what happened in the classroom and how he believes if it weren’t for the bullet first entering the hand of a fellow classmate, he would not be alive today. He feels grateful for the office staff who cared for him and kept talking to him as he went in and out of consciousness that day. His resiliency and spirit were amazing to me, and I choked back tears as he made the connection between his father’s murder and what had happened to him.
I learned from Issa’s mother that she receives just $700 a month, plus food stamps. She is completing classes at LA City College in pursuit of a degree in computer application and office technology. Although she completed college in Iraq, she had to redo the courses when she came to the U.S. And despite all her training, she is still struggling to find a job. She has no family nearby to help watch Issa and her younger son Moussa. And she struggles to find transportation to get Issa to and from his doctor’s appointments. The one-room apartment they live in reverberates with sounds from the street and helicopters that buzz overhead. She said she’s been on a waiting list for permanent housing for four years, but nothing has come through. Although her dream of giving her children a better life has been shaken by the shooting, it is not shattered.
It is unclear what the future holds for Issa, physically and psychologically. He suffers from frequent bouts of dizziness, impaired vision, problems walking, and pain and numbness in his face. He will need ongoing counseling to deal with the trauma he has experienced, as will his mother and younger brother. Issa’s family struggled financially before the accident, and now their situation is even more dire. Issa’s mother would like to find a job using her training in computer applications. But in the meantime, they need money for basic needs such as safe housing, food, transportation, home care, clothes, and other necessities.
No child should ever have to experience the type of loss and violence that Issa has experienced in his short life. I am asking that this community come together to support this family and restore their faith in humanity and in the dream of America. Any donation and words of encouragement would be appreciated and will go a long way in helping Issa heal so that he can return to being the sweet, hard working boy that brought such joy to my classroom last year.
All proceeds will go to Maha Al-Sadoon, Issa’s mother, to pay for medical fees, immediate housing in a safer location, food and basic necessities for her family. Thank you!
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