'I felt sad, I was scared, I wanted to cry': woman from viral tear gas photo shares her story

Odette Odendaal
Nov 28, 2018
07:18 A.M.

The story behind the iconic photo taken during the gas attacks at the U.S. Mexican border over the weekend tells a deeper story.


On November 25, a Reuters photojournalist, Kim Kyung-Hoon took a picture of a migrant woman from Honduras. He captured the moment she ran from tear gas with her twin daughters in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, in Tijuana.

The photo has since become somewhat iconic of the event, capturing the essence of what transpired and has featured on the front page of many newspapers and widely shared across the internet.


The photo shows the fearful woman looking back at the smoke while running in the opposite direction with a daughter in each hand while the border wall, wire fencing, and other running migrants seen in the background.

Read more on our Twitter account @amomama_usa.

The Honduran woman has since been identified as 39-year-old Maria Meza and spoke up about her experience and her reason for risking both her and her children’s safety at the border as they seek asylum.

Source: Twitter/Reuterspictures

Source: Twitter/Reuterspictures

After patrol agents fired tear gas at migrants by the San Ysidro border, Meza felt “sad” and said: “I was scared. I wanted to cry.” Meza added:

“That’s when I grabbed my daughters and ran. I thought my kids were going to die with me because of the gas we inhaled.”

Meza, a mother of five, added that they were not trying to cross illegally and were looking at other members across the border when the agents launched the tear gas. She and her children are now back at their encampment in Benito Juarez Stadium in Tijuana.

Source: Twitter/Reuterspictures

Source: Twitter/Reuterspictures


Maria Meza aims to reunite her family with their father and said:

“I hope God will help me enter the US with these kids because we’re suffering. I’m a single mother who wants to provide for my children.”

It is the first time that Kim, the photojournalist, cover the migrant story in Mexico and feel that the truth and the stories of what unfolds there should be shared. For him, the viral picture he took became the chance for more people to think about migrant issues.


According to U.S. authorities tensions have mounted in recent days as thousands of Central American migrants arrived in a caravan camped out on a Tijuana sports stadium.

On Sunday, Mexican police broke up a protest that triggered a rush toward the U.S. border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers responded to nearly 500 migrants trying to cross the U.S. border ‘in a violent manner’ by throwing canisters of gas to regain control over the border crossing.


The country’s busiest border crossing closed for traffic in both directions for several hours until the situation got under control.On Monday, November 26, Donald Trump responded to the happenings over the weekend by demanding that Mexican authorities send migrants back to their respective countries in a comment he posted to Twitter:

“Mexico should move the flag-waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it any way you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A."

The Mexican Government vehemently denied that any agreement with the Trump administration got made with regards to allowing Migrant Caravans to wait in Mexico while their asylum requests are processed. The Trump administration stated that the vast majority of asylum claims are legally insufficient and fraudulent.

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