The picture of a drowned 3-year-old showed up on social media feeds everywhere this morning, making the plight of Syrians' harrowing attempts to build lives outside of their country impossible for the rest of the world to avoid.
The image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, limp in the arms of a Turkish coast guard, set off a storm of grief and comments about the crisis in Syria. Shortly thereafter, an image of just the boy lying face down in the water, completely alone, made the rounds.
The story of his death is even more unimaginable and harrowing. Aylan's 5-year-old brother and their mother, Rehan, also perished, after the captain of the boat the Kurdi family had commissioned for their passage from Turkey to Greece jumped overboard due to dangerously choppy water.
The Independent reported that after the captain abandoned the boat, Kurdi tried to steer it. The waters capsized the boat, at which point he tried to hold on to his wife and two sons. Reports say he now wishes to return to Syria to bury his wife and children. And also to "be buried alongside them."
The family had been making the treacherous journey across Turkey to Europe in the hope of joining Abdullah's sister, Teema Kurdi, a hairdresser who has lived in Vancouver, Canada for more than 20 years.
The Kurdis were among at least 12 other people who died on the boat, "part of a flotilla of small dinghies boarded by passengers at Akyarlar, the closest point to the Greek Aegean island of Kos," the Guardian reported. "The deputy district governor Ekrem Aylanc told the BBC that the Kurdi family had been in Turkey for three years before deciding they should move on to Europe. The process of repatriating the bodies of the three family members is set to begin later on Thursday, authorities told the broadcaster."
The family is believed to have been attempting travel to Canada, where their relatives had unsuccessfully pledged to sponsor their claim for asylum. A journalist in Kobani, Mustefa Ebdi, the Kurdi family's hometown in Syria, said the four of them had been forced to move during the Syrian conflict. They left the country in 2012.
The Turkish coastguard has rescued more than 42,000 people in the Aegean Sea in the first five months of 2015, and 2,160 in the past week. More than 100 were pulled from the sea on Wednesday night alone while trying to reach Kos, the coastguard told AFP.