OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Evacuations from Afghanistan continue to bring US citizens and Afghan allies out of Kabul.
We are now starting to see the first trickle of Afghan evacuees arriving in the United States, including here in Nebraska.
One family arrived in Omaha following a harrowing, ten-day journey. There was a sense of relief when the family of seven evacuees landed in Omaha on Thursday.
They say they are weary and worn and that they have been terrified by the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, but at least now they are safely reunited with family.
"Once they take over Kabul...I was really scared. I was like, ‘I have to go to the U.S,’” said Zamier Ray, a U.S. citizen who once lived in Omaha.
He helped his wife, two brothers, two sisters-in-law and 14-year-old sister pass two Taliban checkpoints and escape Kabul on a military flight to Qatar.
From there they flew to Germany, to Virginia, to Dallas and then finally landing here in Omaha where they met their brother, Sharafat.
"I don't want anyone in life to have to experience that pain. I know you guys have not experienced that and I wish you will not and you don't because it's a different pain," said Sharafat.
Zamier and Sharafat, both Afghan interpreters, say their entire family's lives were at stake. The Taliban threatened retaliation for the men's work helping the U.S.
"If I leave them there they will do a lot of bad things to them. of course, they would kill them…that's it,” said Zamier.
The threat increased for women as well. It was a huge reason why Zamier made sure to get his frightened 14-year-old sister out.
But the risk of separation didn't end once they left Afghanistan.
"When we came to Virginia, so the state department told me that you cannot take your sister. I was like ‘No. It is impossible. I will fight for her because I try my best to bring her here,’" Zamier said.
His sister — who has never left Afghanistan let alone flown in a plane — will now find a way to start a life in the United States.
Zamier and Sharafat say those left in Kabul — including a younger brother — are in hiding and burning any form of paperwork that ties them to the U.S. and desperately trying to flee ahead of President Biden's Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing troops.
"It's not something that we beg for…it's our right! We should get our families out. It's such a shame to leave them behind like that," said Sharafat.
Despite leaving friends, packing all they could into a bag and risking their lives to escape a place called home. Zamier says they are unbelievably lucky and ready to make Nebraska home.
Zamier says they went days without meals even when they were able to escape. After a canceled flight in Dallas last night they were finally able to get a real meal nine days into their journey.
As for their life in Omaha, Zamier says he will try to go back to school, get a part-time job and try to provide for him and his wife.
Zamier's family is the first to relocate to Omaha and we can expect to see more Afghan evacuees in the coming days and weeks.
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska was at the airport today to greet Zamier and his family.
They are working quickly to get families settled in Omaha including things like housing and jobs.
"Any support that can be provided from a monetary basis goes directly to the refugee resettlement program in not only the services but in the items that they need in order to get resettled. We are also taking volunteers. This is a group of individuals that is going to need time and energy from the community and it can be in the form of transportation or other things as well as any physical tangible items which we will have a list up on our website very soon on those items that people can donate," said Chris Tonniges, CEO of Lutheran Family Services
Tonniges asks the community to welcome Afghan families with open arms — especially as many of them will be leaving their homes and moving to a place that is so different from what they know.
To learn more visit the Lutheran Family Services website here.