Suaad sits with me one afternoon and flips through the family group chat, showing me photos her children have sent her over the past few months. After some scrolling, we get to the parts of the Ahmad family story that I know intimately — Magd and Hussam’s trips from Turkey through the European Union.
But these are different versions of the photos that I know so well.
One of them, in particular, stands out — it’s Hussam in a boat from Izmir, Turkey, to Mytilene, Greece, wearing the emblematic orange life jacket. The vast expanse of the Mediterranean is behind him, his head thrown back in a hearty laugh, squinting into the sun. The photo that I’ve seen of that moment is Hussam in the life jacket, lips tight, unsmiling, with deep circles under his eyes.