32 Images

The Face of War

The face of war. In the spring of 2003 near Baghdad, an explosion destroyed the home of Marwa Naim and killed her mother. Shrapnel blew off most of her nose and her right thumb. She was 9. ()
Marwa Naim was in her home on the southern outskirts of Baghdad when an explosion changed her life forever. It was impossible to know who wrought the destruction, but the Americans were invading, and she blamed them. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
The explosion killed Marwa’s mother, blew off her right thumb and most of her nose. She stopped going to school because of the taunts she endured. Bullies called her “Mrs. No Nose.” (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Marwa trembles and looks away as a nurse inserts a needle into her left arm. Aid organizations worked to send her to America, where UCLA Medical Center treated her for free. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Dr. Tim Miller, who had been in the Vietnam War and seen children die, took a personal interest in Marwa. Here he operates on her for the first time, employing techniques developed to rebuild noses that were first used more than 2,000 years ago. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
As Marwa woke up after her second surgery she cried out: “Mother! Father! Sisters! Brother!” Then she cried: “No mother!” (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Saad Alazzawi, who emigrated from Iraq in the 1970s, watches over Marwa. She lived with him and his family for several months while in the Southland. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Marwa drew close to women who were young and caring, like her mother. She holds Theresa Moussa’s hand after a surgery. Moussa, a liason at UCLA Medical Center, treated Marwa like a daughter. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Marwa wakes up after the first surgery, which involved taking a flap of skin from her forehead and folding it over cartilage taken from her ear. There were a total of four surgeries. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Saad takes Marwa home after the first surgery. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
In America, Marwa experienced things she had only dreamed of. She went to Sea World with Saad. She saw, for the first time, dolphins and whales. Here on that trip, after her second operation, she has her picture taken at a photo booth. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Marwa had many moods. Sometimes she grew so frustrated she would talk back to those around her. Other times, all she wanted to do was play. Here she is at a San Onofre rest stop during an outing to San Diego. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
She was willing to try most anything new, even if it meant getting wet on Sea World ride. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Marwa points to a family photo. In it, she stands next to one of her aunts. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Sometimes things just didn’t work out. Here, Marwa is comforted by Theresa. She has just learned that one of her surgeries has been postponed because she has a cold. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Saad taught Marwa to ride a bike. Then, after he watched her fall, he regretted it. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Saad tries to comfort Marwa, who is dreading the pain of another laser treatment to remove hair from her nose. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
The third surgery. Dr. Miller cut the flap. Finally, her new nose took shape. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
A tearful Marwa waves goodbye to Theresa, who has become a mother figure to her, as she leaves UCLA Medical Center after her final surgery. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Saad tries to make her feel at home by feeding Marwa her favorite foods: roast chicken, juice and Arabic bread. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
The playful child hides from Saad. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
The surgeries are over, but Marwa has one last visit with Miller to get an injection of steroids meant to lessen the swelling on her nose. “Be careful,” she tells him. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
A new nose, and she likes it. “Goodbye,” she said to Miller. “Thank you very much.” (Anne Cusack / LAT)
A UCLA photographer takes a portrait, not long before she will go back home. She is beginning to feel good about herself again. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Days away from going home, Marwa and Theresa play in the Malibu surf. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Marwa’s host family in Mission Viejo, Salam and Sahar Ali and their two young children – Nora, here, and Amir -- treated Marwa as if she were one of their own. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
The trouble back home, and the trouble she has endured, seems so far away. After Marwa flips on the music, she takes Nora’s hand, and on and on they dance. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Tears flow when Marwa reads Theresa’s letter as she flies home. It says Theresa will never forget her. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Her plane is about to land in Amman, Jordan. As the plane descends she grows pensive. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Finally, she is back in the arms of her father, Mohammed Naim. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
Early on the morning of July 3, Marwa and her father gather their bags. Soon they will be on another plane, on their way to Baghdad. (Anne Cusack / LAT)
It has been three years since her mother’s death. Marwa’s father has yet to tell her a secret: When she was gone, he remarried. Marwa said by phone that she was happy to be home, but there was so much violence that she could rarely go outside. When speaking of America she said, “ I want to go back as soon as I can.” (Anne Cusack / LAT)