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Credit: Timothy Allen

Early on Thursday morning I opened my front door to get the paper (a ritual I still enjoy in a digital age).  The section below the fold was turned up with the main headline of the day facing the ground. I did as I usually do, and stuck the paper under my arm, locked the front door and walked to my dining room table where I’d read the paper with my coffee. But I never got the coffee. I turned over the paper to see the photo that I know I will see hundreds if not thousands of times again in my lifetime. The kind of photo that so captures a moment in history that it stops you cold in your tracks.

We have all seen it now. The photo of a young boy, only three years of age. Face down. Alone. Dead on the shores of a Turkish beach. A victim of a refugee crisis that no story or picture, as of yet, has so clearly communicated the magnitude of. And while this issue gains more and more attention every day, if any one person, one agency or one government takes a stand and does something real to address this problem, it will because of this one photo – that of one boy, face down. Alone. Dead.

A picture like this is more powerful than a thousand words. In a heartbeat it provokes a thousand emotions. Profound sadness for the boy, and his surviving father who lost two children and a wife. Frustration that those in power continue to let this crisis escalate with no clear path to a solution. Anger that on this Earth, we have created conditions that put a helpless, young child into these horrific conditions. The emotions generated by this photo are so strong that few of us would oppose the significant measures required to remedy this horrific situation. Push Europe to open its doors to these refugees? Yes. Revise the Dublin Regulation? Yes. Support Canada and the United States stepping up and stepping in do their part? Yes. That is the power of this photograph.

It has happened before. We know the shots. A student in Tiananmen Square risking his life in front of a tank to protest oppression. A young girl, naked and terrified, running from a napalm attack in Vietnam. These photos marked significant moments in human history, as will this photo. In the context of effective communications, no words or policy statements can communicate meaning, so instantly and powerfully, than a photo.

One hopes that the tragic story of this one boy, Aylan Kurdi (please remember his name), alone, face down, dead, captured in this photo will not only mark a moment in human history but will serve as a catalyst for international action. One can only hope his death is not in vain and this photo will change the course of history.

By: John Crean