CHICAGO — Dozens of Afghans arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Thursday evening, a harrowing journey that ended in relief and a flood of emotion.
For the last five weeks, Jen Wilson and her organization Project Dynamo to get Najiba Hassani out of Afghanistan.
Hassani lives in the U.S. with her husband and kids, but was visiting her parents and siblings in Afghanistan just before the Taliban took control of the country.
“It’s been a long, hard, painful, heartbreaking experience and she’s here,” Wilson said.
“It’s very difficult in Afghanistan to come back here in a safe plane in America,” Hassani said.
“Her family accompanied her to the rally point, but we couldn’t move them. They don’t have us documents,” Wilson said. “She had to say goodbye to her family at the bus.”
Hassani boarded a plane in Kabul with the help Project Dynamo with more than 117 other Afghans, including 59 children.
All had U.S. passports, green cards or special immigrant visas.
Brian Stern is also with Project Dynamo.
“They were literally surrounded by the Taliban in Taliban controlled Afghanistan,” he said. “And we got a plane on the ground got them in the air to Abu Dabi and here we are.”
The journey all together took nearly a week, with the help of the U.S. State Department, and the U.S Embassy in the United Arab Emirates.
Some of the evacuees are Chicago-based and staying with family. Others are traveling on to San Francisco, Seattle, New York and D.C.
“I’m very happy, very happy,” Hassani said. “I’m safe here. I can’t believe it. I’m here.”
Some local mosques are helping provide food and housing assistance to some of the evacuees staying in the Chicago area.
All the individuals who arrived at O’Hare were tested for Covid, and given MMR vaccines beforehand.