NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A Long Island man recently reunited with his wife and children after they successfully fled Afghanistan was welcomed Wednesday by Congressman Tom Suozzi, who helped make the evacuation possible.
Mohammad Wali, an American citizen who lives in Plainview, had sought Suozzi's assistance to help get his wife Aishah and three children -- 1-year-old Yasir, 8-year-old Omar, and 6-year-old Zahra -- from Kabul after the Taliban took control of the country.
"They gave me a new life," Mohammad Wali said. "I still don't believe that they are here."
The evacuation took 12 days and involved hundreds of calls, texts, WhatApp messages, and emails at all hours of the day and night.
"This family got special attention from my office, as did others, because there were two children that were US citizens," Suozzi said. "We knew that we had to do it when I spoke to them, and I was like, we have to make this a priority."
It also involved the help and expertise of former US soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan who worked on logistics, including meetup times, pick up points, and an essential red bandanna.
"The children lost their shoes," Suozzi said. "The baby was crying, was hot outside, they're getting dehydrated, and they had to go home because they couldn't take it anymore. And when he told me that story, I was like, we have to find somebody on the ground."
After some harrowing days and nights, Wali's family was safely evacuated with the help of Suozzi, his staff, and the outside group Allied Airlift.
"For 12 days straight and at all hours of the day and night, we were in constant contact with them," Suozzi said. "We found the amazing Adam DeMarco, who had a team on the ground in Kabul and, working together, we did not give up until we got them safely home. Without the work of my wonderful staff, the State Department, US military, and Allied Airlift, the safe evacuation of the Wali family would have not been possible."
The team arranged a specific meetup spot outside the airport in Kabul, and the family was instructed to place the bandanna on the youngest child and hold him up high so they would be recognized.
"It's through the combined efforts of Representative Tom Suozzi, his staff and the dedicated volunteers of Allied Airlift that we were able to safely secure and then evacuate the Wali family from what was a chaotic, volatile, and harrowing situation," DeMarco said. "While there's still work to do and the mission is not over, we can all take solace in knowing that the Wali family is reunited and safe in the United States because of the work of Congressman Suozzi and a team of selfless patriots."
After flying to Qatar and then Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the Wali family was reunited in the United States late last week, two weeks after first reaching out to Suozzi's office.
"There were so many checkpoints, and no one can allow you to go there," Mohammad Wali said. "But through the help of Mr Tom, they got through many checkpoints."
The reunion took place at Ariana, an Afghan restaurant on Ninth Avenue in Hell's Kitchen that Wali owns and operates.
Suozzi admits there are many other families desperate for help, and he said he and other members of Congress are hoping for more success stories -- but he admits that's becoming increasingly difficult.
"There's so many stories involved with so many different families," Suozzi said. "And we have to just try and do the best we can and just keep on plowing through."
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