The last time Sahara Abdullahi saw her son, he was barely a boy. He was baldheaded with smooth brown skin, as innocent as any 1 year old anywhere.
She was 23 when she said goodbye. It was the only way, she thought, she could build a life for him. They wouldn't have survived Somalia, and the Ugandan refugee camp where she'd spent seven years held little prospect of a life.
So she made the hardest choice she would ever face. She sacrificed her time with him as a baby to secure his future.
Most nights in America she dreamed about him, the boy whose smile she did not know. She called him every weekend. She told him they'd be together someday. Only 1 percent of refugees make it to America, she knew. But a mother has to hope.
She waited four years, she told the crowd gathered Friday inside the Portland International Airport. She clutched two silver balloons and eyed the arrivals gate.
"His flight is delayed," a Catholic Charities worker said.
Abdullahi's face fell. She had missed his first loose tooth and the day he started school.
"I can't wait any longer," she said.