CHICAGO (CBS) — Late Thursday afternoon, more than 100 people evacuated from Afghanistan landed at O’Hare International Airport.
CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek learned about their harrowing experiences. Everyone with whom she spoke Thursday said the last several days have been exhausting and frustrating after being stuck at the airport in Kabul for several days and finally getting out to Abu Dhabi – only to be stuck again.READ MORE: Judge Bars Chicago Police Union President John Catanzara From Encouraging Officers To Defy City's Vaccine Mandate
They hadn’t slept in a bed or showered since Saturday, but the sense of relief landing at O’Hare Thursday was palpable.
A total of 117 U.S. citizens, green card holders, and people with special immigration visas evacuated from Afghanistan and arrived on American soil Thursday. This came after that five-day journey, which was described as hellish.
“Frustrating, tiring, very bad,” said Asga Hashimi.
The trip back to America capped off what had already been an unimaginable period for Hashimi. She and her family traveled to their native Afghanistan two and a half months ago for a funeral.
“My grandpa died from coronavirus,” she said.
The plan was to return to Los Angeles – where they have been living for the past four years. But when the U.S. withdrew and the Taliban took over, leaving became as difficult as staying.
“Very scary. Very bad,” Hashimi said. “I felt not safe. I didn’t feel safe there.”
Hashimi and her family are green card holders, from her father’s work helping the U.S. military in Afghanistan.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Chilly Tonight, Sunny And Cool Weekend
“My dad worked with the Americans for 14 years,” she said. “That’s why we are here now in America.”
Hashimi and her family are among the first group evacuated by a newly-formed organization called Project Dynamo.
“The idea of Americans saying, ‘Help me,’ and being a spectator to that?” said Bryan Stern, a founder of Project Dynamo. “I just, I can’t do that.”
Stern said he has spent his entire adult life in the military and was a first responder on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I can’t watch people fall from a C-17 to their death,” he said. “The last time I saw that I was at Ground Zero watching people jump to their death – for the same reasons, the same people.”
He said this effort to get people out of Afghanistan has been almost six weeks in the making. Everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but still – they made it.
Their actions are already so worth it.
“I most want to go to school, become a doctor, help my family and help the world like Brian and Jen did,” Hashimi said.MORE NEWS: No Cameras Will Be Allowed In Courtroom For Jussie Smollett's Trial
An organizer said only one family has ties to Chicago and will likely be staying. She said the other families will be traveling to other places across the country, but everyone will be spending the night at a nearby hotel.