ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – As thousands risk their own safety to flee Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover, images of smiling families successfully arriving in the U.S. underscore the ongoing anxiety for many still desperately working to get their loved ones to safety.
One of those is College of Coastal Georgia nursing student Fahima Rastagar.
The 24-year-old was born and raised in Afghanistan and moved alone to the U.S. in 2017 where she now lives on St. Simons Island. She returned to Afghanistan for the first time in May -- knowing it would be the last time.
Her parents and cousin are still in Afghanistan, hoping to evacuate.
They almost got out Thursday -- almost.
“My mother said, ‘I think I’m going to the airport.’ And I said, ‘Mom, don’t go to the airport.’ And she said, ‘We only have five more days. … If there’s any chance, then it’s this,’” Rastagar recalled.
Despite Rastagar’s pleas, her parents went to Kabul’s airport.
Rastagar worked as a translator with the U.S. military before coming to America and she had other contacts that she reached out to, trying to get her loved ones on a plane and out of the country.
She said she was up all night and felt helpless as her family waited 36 hours at the airport -- no food, no sleep -- in a crowd of people hoping to flee the country.
“Then, there was a bomb explosion. And they couldn’t get on a plane. The gates were more closed, and they had to go home. The bomb explosion was just so, so close -- only a few feet away,” an emotional Rastagar said.
Her mother was injured, falling and hurting her knee in the chaos that left 13 U.S. service members and more than 160 Afghans dead.
Left feeling hopeless, Rastagar is pleading for help from Rep. Buddy Carter and Sen. Jon Ossoff.
“I just suffer. Tears fall uncontrollably. I don’t know what to make of it. My parents do not deserve this,” Rastagar said. “Put yourselves in their shoes. It’s a difficult situation. People are so desperate. They want out of Afghanistan. All those people that died at the bomb explosion (were) trying to get out for a better life and now they’ll never, never get the chance.”
Rastagar’s parents are now in hiding from the Taliban, which is why we have blurred their faces in the photo she shared with us. It was a selfie they took in the crowd waiting at the airport.
They told her the fighters are now going house to house checking fingerprints to find anyone who has been working with the Americans. Rastagar is telling them to change locations as much as they can.
“I don’t think it’s going to take long before they’re found,” she said.
Rastagar said she has her Green Card and will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship in two months. Then she’ll be able to sponsor her parents and bring them here.
The White House says the next few days will be the most dangerous period in Afghanistan as troops are bracing for another potential terrorist attack.