Local elementary school principal helps Afghan families return home to Sacramento

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — An Afghan family from Sacramento was trapped in a war-torn country while a local elementary school principal worked day and night to get them safely back home. 

Humayaseem Shirzad and her husband were looking forward to watching their three young children grow and enjoy life as American citizens after moving to Sacramento four years ago.

But this spring, they were called back to Afghanistan where the unexpected happen.

“We were just going to the family to visit my country, and then we got stuck there,” Shirzad told FOX40.

In May, Taliban forces moved in and took over the country, and because they were U.S. citizens, Shirzad said they became moving targets and were living in fear every day. 

“If we showed them our green card, our U.S. documents it would’ve been big trouble for us,” Shirzad’s husband said.

“You hear the noises of the gunfighting. Today, they are arresting the people. Tomorrow, the families found the dead bodies outside,” Shirzad recalled. “So that kind of life is in Afghanistan.”

Shirzad even told her children not to tell anyone they were from the U.S. in fear they would be hurt, or even worse.

As they made every attempt to get back to the U.S., they realized many Afghans were doing the same and began to lose hope, until Shirzad got a message from their principal at Ethel Baker Elementary. 

“We knew that they had gone to Afghanistan,” principal Nate McGill told FOX40. “We knew that the kids continued to take classes, even with the time difference. And so we reached out to those families and that’s when we learned they were going to be in a real tough situation.”

With the help of a non-government agency, McGill was able to get Shirzad and her family out of the Taliban’s control and to safety in Abu Dhabi.

“That was real, the emotional release for us, because it had been several weeks and months,” McGill said.

On Nov. 4, the Shirzads returned to Sacramento and their kids, Pakiza, Raihan and Faizani, were given a warm welcome back to school.

“Their people are our people and as American citizens or green card holders, LPRs, they represent our extended population, so they’re still our responsibility,” McGill said.

During the season of giving and thanks, Shirzad said she is deeply grateful to McGill and hopes his generous spirit helps others do the same for her family and others trapped in Afghanistan.

“I’m happy people are enjoying their weeks off, but we are the families who suffered for our families and they are stuck,” Shirzad said.  

McGill said all of the Sacramento City Unified School District students and families who were in Afghanistan have come home, but there are still more Afghans from the Sacramento area who have not made it back.

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