SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — It was just last month when thousands of Afghans fled their country as democracy ended after more than two decades and the Taliban took command.
Some escaped to the Sacramento area, which has one of the largest populations of Afghan refugees in the U.S.
The military occupation of the Kabul Airport made leaving the country a dangerous endeavor — with bullets flying more often than planes.
“At that point, Taliban was just starting to shoot on the people, and everyone was just running and just putting down. And then, running again and they were just shooting,” said Raheelah Shinwari. “It was really horrible and hard.”
“The risk of … to lose one of your loved ones, your kids because people are pushing,” explained Habib Shinwari. “There was continuous firing. It was a huge risk for us.”
But it was a risk Habib and Raheelah Shinwari had to take.
They said with the collapse of Afghanistan’s government and the violence of the Taliban taking command, they knew it was not the life they wanted for their three children.
“For the future of the family, for the kids to be happy outside, for their prosperous future. So we have to make a decision,” Habib Shinwari told FOX40.
Habib Shinwari, who was a government economist, said once the Taliban entered Kabul, they were looking for government officials.
Taking no chances, Habib and Raheelah Shinwari urgently tried for several days to leave with their children amid the chaos of thousands of people pushing and shoving at the airport.
But on the sixth day, they were finally able to enter and make it to the gate.
“We just went. We’re holding the children and walking, walking, and we just reach the U.S. forces. They were standing there,” Raheelah Shinwari recalled.
They boarded a plane and with aid from the International Rescue Committee, the Shinwari family was placed with Kim, Mark and Jasmine Daya, who opened their Sacramento-area home to complete strangers.
“They have such strength, and it was just sheer will and determination to live that got them to our home,” Mark Daya said.
“We are called to do this and it was actually my daughter who is the one who really pushed us over the edge,” Kim Daya explained.
“I wanted to help, you know?” their daughter, Jasmine Daya, said.
“Their generosity … They opened their hearts and home for us,” Habib Shinwari told FOX40.
It was the melding of two completely different worlds all under one roof for a month.
“Mostly when two women sharing the kitchen, it is difficult,” Raheelah Shinwari said.
“I don’t cook,” Kim Daya said with a chuckle. “So I was like, have at it. My kitchen’s your kitchen.”
And a lifelong friendship was born.
“Being from totally different sides of the world, Raheelah and I, we have so much in common with who were are as people and we really connected,” Kim Daya said.
“I think we were meant to find each other,” she continued.
Habib and Raheelah Shinwari said the Dayas helped to restore their faith in mankind after seeing the democracy in their country, built over 20 years, diminish within days as the Americans were leaving their country.
“It’s really heartbroken for us, really hard moment for every Afghan, for everyone over there. It’s hard,” Raheelah Shinwari said, crying.
“Humanity-wise, perfect example of Mark and Kim’s family, to open their hearts and home for those people who are in need,” Habib Shinwari said.