Two years ago, this gentle, damaged boy from Iraq came to my daughter’s school. His name was Saleh, and he had picked up a land mine in Iraq, thinking it was a toy. His older brother grabbed it just as the mine went off, dying instantly. Saleh survived.
Saleh was brought to a makeshift American hospital in southern Iraq, where his zest for life so impressed medical personnel that a doctor arranged for him to be brought to Children’s Hospital in Oakland for treatment.
After enduring 32 operations to repair his damaged abdomen, eye and hands, Saleh entered Park Day as a third-grade student. Although his English was limited, his spirit and ebullient personality crossed any cultural divide he encountered. Within days Saleh was hugging his new friends and having a great time on the playground. He now attends fourth grade twice a week, and his presence at the school has taught kids much about war and forgiveness.
The San Francisco Chronicle followed Saleh around for months, taking pictures of him in the hospital, at home, at school, and making his way through American life. When his mother and younger siblings fled Iraq earlier this year, the Chronicle was there to record the reunion.
On Monday, photographer Deanne Fitzmaurice won the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography for her pictures of Saleh.
Here are the other winners.