Collectively, they seemed to embody the toll that the virus was taking on the many people around the world whose lives had already been upended by war and political dysfunction.
My editor Juliana Barbassa spotted their narrative in my notes, and suggested we pull out their story and turn it into a separate piece.
Once we decided to stick with them, we were faced with the challenge of keeping in touch over many miles and weeks, not to mention a shuttered border.
Many stories at The Times involve a team — but this one involved a particularly coordinated effort from five journalists working for more than six months, with several of us driving thousands of miles to meet up with Jessika and her family along the route. By the end, the Google document holding our notes spanned 124 pages.
When they could, Jessika; Sebastián; Jessika’s partner, Javier; and her brother, Jesús, were also participants in the reporting process, sending us hundreds of text and audio messages from their journey, sometimes with photographs, often responding to my questions about mundane and major events from the road.
Finally, toward the end of the journey, I gave Sebastián a package of markers and a notebook, a reporting tool that he began to use to document the trek from his perspective, texting us pictures of his drawings, becoming a tiny documentarian-in-training.
After the initial night on the road, Federico visited Jessika and her family twice more along the route in Colombia, joining them in a smuggler’s truck over a frigid mountain pass, and then traveling with them all the way to the Colombian border city of Cúcuta. Along the way, I sent him questions for the family and asked him to share the sounds, smells and textures of the journey, and he responded with audio, videos and photos.