It was a wet and chilly night in Atlanta. It was almost 10pm when my husband, Adam, and my friend, Easton, and I pulled into the Hartsfield Jackson Airport.

We made the finishing touches to our colorful welcome sign, and walked inside the somewhat empty airport.

We were there to welcome Batula, a teenage girl from Somalia who found herself stuck in transit to her family who had already arrived in the US. The Refugee ban is what prevented her from being reunited with her family.

This family had undergone such trauma in Somalia, and were now having to go through the fear of being separated.

A federal judge in Washington is the reason we were there. This judge overturned the executive order, deemed it unconstitutional, and allowed those in transit to be allowed in to the US.

Batula’s family, along with the International Rescue Committee, was there to pick her up and bring her to her new home in America.




After wandering around for a bit, we found Batula’s family headed towards the arrival gate. We said our hello’s and walked with them to the gate along with the IRC and a few other people who wanted to welcome Batula as well.




They stood lined up in the very center of the welcome gate. They were smiling, laughing, and talking, They were so excited to finally see her again.

Time went on; we all kept our eyes peeled on the escalators, looking for Batula’s head rising up from the crowd. Thirty minutes passed. An hour passed.

The nervous and excited talk turned to silent expectation. Almost worry. Would she ever come up from the escalator?




In what felt like a complete blur of time, the family rushed passed the security line exclaiming words in Somali. They had finally found their Batula. The security guards were alarmed at first, but realized the situation and called for them to move back past the line.

The family, at first unaware that they had violated the rules, picked her up in the air rejoicing. They then moved back past the red line, still carrying Batula, all the way across the hall until they finally fell on the floor weeping together.



After weeping together for a while, they rose, ready to begin new life together in the United States as a family.


It was difficult to hold back the tears as I captured this reunion. Just being there with friends and family from Atlanta created this feeling of true community and family.

We are called to weep with those who weep, and rejoice for those who are rejoicing. I feel like we practiced that in such a real way that night.

I desire for more of these moments in my life.

I am not the best writer, and I failed to include the horrific histories the family experienced in Somalia and the stress of their whole situation, but I hope that somehow the photos conveyed what words cannot.


When it comes to the refugee crisis, it is overwhelming and daunting to know how you can help. It can also be hard to humanize the crisis.

Check out to learn more about the crisis and volunteer! The best way to humanize the crisis, is to meet some people who have been affected by it.

Clarkston, Ga is right by Atlanta and is FULL of refugees from around the world. What a unique opportunity.


Posted by:Crystal Anne Downs

I am a professional photographer and unprofessional sociologist pursuing creative outlets that lead to beauty, social justice, and peace in this world.

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