With the world's attention again aroused by tensions in the Middle East, Tristan Anderson quietly came home from Israel last week in a wheelchair and without the sight in his right eye, the use of the left side of his body or his short-term memory.
The San Francisco Bay area photojournalist was seriously injured when he was struck in the forehead with a tear gas canister while covering a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the West Bank. After undergoing 15 months of surgeries and rehabilitation for traumatic brain injuries, he returned to his parents' house in Grass Valley on Wednesday, two days after nine activists were killed during a raid by Israeli naval commandos on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
"He is horrified, like any of us are," said Anderson's partner, Gabrielle Silverman, who was steps away from him when he was hurt and is acting as his spokeswoman because his ability to communicate remains compromised. "Tristan was just very upset and worried about the dead and injured. All of this really hits very close to home for us"
The reality is, though, that Anderson, 39, who used to photograph protests for the left wing website indymedia.us, already had enough of his own worries: chronic headaches, an inability to walk or to complete simple tasks. In the week before he left Tel Aviv, accompanied by Silverman, his parents and a medical escort, he started developing seizures.
"The injury still dominates all aspects of life," SIlverman said, noting that Anderson still requires full-time physical and occupational therapy.
Anderson, of Oakland, was critically injured during a Palestinian protest over Israel's West Bank separation barrier in the village of Naalin in March 2009. The Israeli military said at the time that some of the 400 protesters threw rocks at troops who responded with riot gear.
Silverman said she, Anderson and four other people "were relaxing and hanging out away from main body of the crowd" at the tail end of the protest when he was hit by the canister. He did not see who fired it.
In January, Israel's Justice Ministry decided that no indictments would be filed against police in the case because an investigation determined there was no criminal intent to harm Anderson. His family has filed an appeal on his behalf.
The family also has filed a civil lawsuit against the Israeli military to cover his medical care and lost wages, Silverman said.
"Tristan, at times, is very insightful and really the best person to ask, and sometimes it's very difficult to get anything coherent out of him," she said. "If you ever tried to work with a television blaring nearby, this is a little how I imagine life is for him all the time."
Silverman said it is too soon to know whether Anderson would use his experience to speak out against Israel's military blockade of Gaza and Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
"We feel like he is ready to re-enter the world again," she said. "It's not going to be easy for any of us, specially for Tristan, but it is going to be a life and we are going to try to make a go of it. Some things are going to have to happen in baby steps.