Hisham Awartani, who was paralyzed from the chest down when he was among three Palestinian college students shot over Thanksgiving weekend in Vermont, was released Wednesday from a hospital to rousing applause, according to video shared by his family.
In the 16-second clip, Awartani, 20, was strapped to a medical stretcher and covered by a red blanket as he waved goodbye with his right hand to onlookers in a hallway at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
The video was provided to NBC News by Rich Price, Awartani’s uncle.
It shows people standing on both sides of the hallway as a man pushes the stretcher. One side of the hallway is adorned with balloons in the red, white, black and green colors of the Palestinian flag. On the other side of the hallway, someone holds up what appears to be a flag from the war-torn region.
As Awartani is moved on the stretcher down the hallway, a woman’s voice appears to yell, “We love you.” Awartani then blows a kiss, and a woman hugs him. As he continues moving in the stretcher, people begin clapping. A woman’s voice is heard saying, “Bye, Hisham.” Awartani then shakes a hand while a man’s voice seems to say, “Love you," according to the video.
In a GoFundMe campaign created to raise money for Awartani’s medical expenses, his loved ones disclosed that “one of the bullets that struck him is lodged in his spine and has left him paralyzed from the chest down.”
Awartani's mother, Elizabeth Price, said last week that her son has a lot of physical rehabilitation ahead of him.
“He has what they call an incomplete spinal injury, which means that he can feel, but he can’t move the areas that are currently paralyzed,” she said. “He is going into intensive rehab later this week, and we hope that that will help with his prognosis. … He’s resolute. He’s resilient.”
Awartani, a Palestinian Irish American who grew up in the West Bank, speaks seven languages and is a teaching assistant at Brown University, where he studies math and archaeology.
Awartani and his friends Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, who are also 20, were walking near Awartani’s grandmother’s home on Nov. 25 when a man they didn't know shot them with no apparent provocation.
The students were speaking in Arabic when they were attacked, and two of them were wearing traditional Palestinian kaffiyehs.
Abdalhamid, a Haverford College student, was shot in the glute. Ali Ahmad, who was shot in the chest, is a student at Connecticut’s Trinity College.
Awartani and Abdalhamid are U.S. citizens, and Ali Ahmad is a legal U.S. resident.
Jason Eaton, 48, was arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty.