US citizens fleeing Afghanistan on charter flight arrive in Chicago after multiple challenges

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than one hundred U.S. citizens, green card and special immigrant visa holders landing at O'Hare Airport Thursday afternoon after fleeing Afghanistan.

It's been a few months since Sayed Hashimi has seen his wife and two sons who had been visiting family.

"I was so worried about them so I was trying to find many different ways to bring them here," said Hashimi, a resident of Skokie.

The journey to the U.S. was made possible by Project Dynamo. The nonprofit was created just weeks ago to help civilians in Afghanistan who assisted the United States over the last two decades in the country.

The passengers faced multiple challenges on this trip.

"Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong," said Bryan Stern, a co-founder of Project Dynamo. "We lost planes."

Najiba Hassan was trying to get to her husband and two children in Washington State.

"I'm safe and here," she said. "I can't believe it right now that I'm here."

Many passengers had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave some relatives behind.

Jen Wilson, a Project Dynamo case manager, worked with Hassan to get her home.

"She had to say goodbye to her family at the bus. She was able to get on. She had to make that decision to leave," Wilson said.

Stern said they couldn't bring a whole family unless they had the required documents.

He said some of the passengers will remain in Chicago where they have family, others will travel to cities across the country where they have loved ones.

Despite the challenges Stern said this was the most rewarding work he's ever done.

"We're here. That's the story. These people woke up one day in Kabul surrounded by the Taliban. They went to bed outside of Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi," he said. "Mission Accomplished."
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