NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A restaurant owner in Manhattan has been reunited with his family from Afghanistan after a harrowing two-week ordeal trying to get them out of the country.
CBS2’s Cindy Hsu spoke to the family about what happened.READ MORE: Cast Of 'Ain't Too Proud' Fired Up For Return To Broadway: 'I Have Dreamed About That Reopening Night'
Zahra is 6 years old, and her brother Omar is 8. They’re both American citizens but have been living in Afghanistan with their mother and baby brother Yasir.
Their father, Mohammad Wali, came to the United States in 1992 and owns the Afghan restaurant Ariana in Hell’s Kitchen.
His family stayed behind to care for a sick relative, but as United States troops withdrew from Afghanistan in August, thousands rushed to the airport in Kabul to leave. Chaos broke out, and Wali’s wife and kids couldn’t make it through the crowds.
“There was heavy shooting there, and there was people die in front of my family,” Wali said.READ MORE: The 3 'Fates' Of 'Hadestown' Reflect On Broadway's Return And Their Love For NYC's Theater Community
So Wali contacted Congressman Tom Suozzi for help. He eventually found a former U.S. soldier on the ground in Kabul who was working to get people out of Afghanistan.
“There was a group of people there. They formed a not-for-profit while this was all going on and formed this Allied Airlift group to coordinate with the U.S. government and to get people like this out, doing things like this. They helped at least a thousand people get out that way,” Suozzi said.
The group had the family hold up a red bandana in the mass of people to help identify them. It worked, and they made it out safely. A couple days later, ISIS-K attacked the airport, killing more than 180 people, including 13 U.S. service members.
Wali talked about how it felt to finally see his family safe in the U.S.
“The kids were in shock. My dream was to get united and be with my family, and suddenly they came to this country, and they hug me for, like, one hour, each child and my wife and everybody. I was like, still I don’t believe it. They are here,” Wali said.MORE NEWS: New Musical 'Six' Back On Stage After Pandemic Forced Broadway's Closure On Opening Night
The family plans to settle on Long Island and continue to work on getting American citizenship for Wali’s wife and youngest child.