EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) - An El Cajon family is back on American soil after a dramatic escape from Afghanistan.
In 2017, while volunteering for a nonprofit advocating for immigrants, Amanda Matti, helped resettle a family of four in El Cajon, including a former Afghan interpreter, his wife and two young sons.
Matti, a Navy veteran and former intelligence analyst, helped furnish their apartment. She and the father became friends.
“He became one of my best volunteers. He got helped, and then he started helping others. They are a wonderful family, and we've gotten close,” said Matti.
The family welcomed a new baby a few years ago.
Then, on the day the Taliban took over, Matti got a frantic message from her friend on Facebook.
The family was in Afghanistan for the funeral of a family member who passed from COVID, and were trapped in Kabul.
“I felt helpless. I was very afraid for them,” said Matti.
Matti knew the family was a target.
“I told them, ‘Take anything you have as far as documents, your green cards. Everything. Put them in a plastic bag and bury them. Hide them, in case the Taliban starts going house to house,'” said Matti.
Meanwhile, Matti went to work, calling her military contacts, which eventually led her to office of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. With help from his staff, the family was emailed a gate pass for the airport, but they would have to get there on their own.
Video recorded by the father shows the packed crowd they were faced with Thursday, which forced them to turn around.
“He couldn't get through. His kids got dehydrated. They were getting crushed. They were getting stampeded,” said Matti.
The next day, they tried again.
“They had to push and shove through the crowd,” said Matti.
With an assist from the senator's office, the family was told to be a certain spot a a certain time.
“The guards or Americans inside would know where to look and and help them get in,” said Matti.
On Friday, Matti got a message: the family was inside the airport.
“I lost it. I was crying and a mess. So relieved they can come home,” said Matti.
Matti isn't sure how the family got past the Taliban checkpoints, but she says there are routes around the checkpoints.
Matti says the family landed in Washington D.C. on Tuesday afternoon.
Matti has asked for any veterans trying to assist Afghans who qualify for Special Immigrant Visas to contact her at Amanda@AmandaMatti.com.