When Samar Hassan and her family were on their way back from an Iraqi hospital one evening in January, 2005, US troops shot both of her parents in front of her and her siblings.
After her family's small sedan came under fire while traveling through the town of Tal Afar, Iraq, photojournalist Chris Hondros took a series of photographs depicting the aftermath. These photos found their way onto the front page of every notable newspaper in the world within a day's time. The most infamous photograph is of a five-year-old Samar crying out in immeasurable grief while surrounded by the bloodied boots of her parents' killers.
In 2011, New York Times journalists visited then 12-year-old Samar to catch up on her story. They showed her the series of famed photographs for the very first time, including the image of her that shocked the world and brought the conversation surrounding the Iraw war to a head. She, too, was shocked by what she saw.
Samar Hassan Had Never Seen The Shocking Photographs
"He was taking pictures of me, I remember. Then he stopped, and they brought me a jacket and put me in the truck and treated the wound on my hand. And they gave me some toys," remembered Samar while discussing the event with New York Times journalist Tim Arango.
Just over six years after the tragedy, Samar finally had the chance to view the photographs for herself. Despite the images being innately traumatic, she expressed that she understood their inherent impact, as they showed the world “the sad thing that is happening in Iraq.”
Her Brother Was Injured During The Shooting And Killed In A Later Attack
Samar and most of her siblings only sustained minimal physical injuries from the attack; however, her younger brother, Rakan, suffered serious wounds in his back and required substantial treatment, which he received at a hospital in Boston, MA, thanks to the assistance of an American aid worker named Marla Ruzicka. Sadly, only a few years after recovering from this injury, Rakan was killed during a separate attack.
Samar and her other siblings moved into a small two-story house in Mosul with her extended family while they began recovering from their trauma. Nathir Bashir Ali, who helped care for the children, explained how he has "taken them many times to the hospital, where they get pills... all of them take pills.”
At The Time Of The Attack, The Hassan Family Was Returning From The Hospital
Just before Chris Hondros took the series of photographs that resulted in his military-requested dismissal as an embedded journalist in Iraq, the Hassan family had been driving back from the local hospital where they were seeking treatment for their sick son. Suddenly, as they approached a US military patrol, their vehicle came under rapid fire as the soldiers suspected that the vehicle, out past curfew, may have been a car bomb.
Apparently, the two US soldiers patrolling that area had indicated towards the Hassan's car that they should stop. When the Hassans failed to comply, the soldiers tried to halt them with warning blasts before firing 100 rounds each into the car. After the vehicle rolled to a stop against a curb, the soldiers heard the cries of the children still inside the vehicle.
The US Military Paid The Hassan Family $7,500 In Reparations
The tragic scene – from the moment that the six children were taken out of the car to when they were carried into the ambulance that would return them to the hospital they had just departed –was forever captured by Chris Hondros's camera. After Hondros's photographs of the tragedy hit international new circuits, public outcry against the military's actions forced a response. As a result, the US military offered the Hassan family a total of $7,500 USD to compensate for their loss.