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This pilot had fled from Afghanistan in his childhood. Now it is bringing Afghan refugees hoping for his or her journey to America


He’s pushed by means of Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona, which is surrounded by rolling sandstone formations shaped by flash flooding.

He stands on the rugged Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, which rises almost 700 toes above the Atlantic Ocean—a surprising emerald backdrop that has been featured in music movies, a people track, and movies resembling “The Princess Bride.”

He has seen daylight dance by means of the cobalt blue domes of whitewashed homes carved on prime of a hill above the Aegean Sea on the Greek island of Santorini.

But the picture that lately introduced him to tears isn’t one thing he had seen in nature. It’s one thing he stumbled upon final summer season throughout a nine-hour flight to the US, volunteering on a aircraft stuffed with Afghan evacuees.

Khogyani was watching the nervous and drawn faces of the Afghan kids sitting with their dad and mom when he realized that he was seeing a youthful model of himself.

“I faced similar situations when I was nine,” says Khogyani, 53. “It all came back quickly. It was harder than I thought.”

He fled to Afghanistan along with his household as a boy

For the fortunate ones amongst us, the vacation season is a time to spend time with family and friends. This 12 months Khogyani’s ideas are turning to a number of the Afghan households he lately met for the primary time – and one he left behind.

Khogyani had are available contact with these households by means of his day job. He has been a pilot for United Airlines for 27 years. When the Taliban occupied Afghanistan in August, the Pentagon known as on the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to assist provide industrial plane for the emergency evacuation of American and Afghan allies.

Khogyani wrote to the CEO of United Airlines and volunteered to assist. For him, it was private.

He grew up in Afghanistan however fled the nation along with his household in 1977, when he was 9 years outdated.

Zak Khogyani playing with a camera as a boy in Afghanistan.  He immigrated to America at the age of 9 with his parents.

His grandfather was a decide and a senator, whereas his father dominated three provinces. Changes within the political local weather of the nation led to elevated dying threats in opposition to his household.

Khogyani nonetheless remembers the tense automobile journey to Kabul airport.

He had a small bag. They did not deliver any household souvenirs, no images, or additional garments. He had all of the sudden gone from a life to an unsure future.

“The atmosphere was very heavy,” says Khogyani. “Nobody said much. My mother didn’t tell me that we would leave the country.”

He shocked the Afghan individuals by greeting them of their language

Those recollections had been in Khogyani’s thoughts when he was allowed to affix the airlift in August.

He went to an airbase in Germany to fulfill individuals who had been introduced there from Kabul. Over the subsequent 9 days he accompanied 1,000 Afghan passengers on three flights from Europe to the US, serving as an interpreter for refugees – and symbolizing a extra optimistic future.

At first he shocked individuals. He stood on the boarding gate and greeted them in their very own language, Pashto.

“You’re welcome,” he advised them. “I hope you come happily.”

Many Afghans checked out him in amazement, after which in confusion. Relief once more. He began showering them with questions:

Where do I am going subsequent? To whom can I flip for assist? How can I get a job?

An air crew prepares to evacuate people aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 21, 2021.

He tried to assist, however he knew there have been questions he could not reply. An elder confronted the loneliness of leaving members of the family behind.

“I never saw my grandparents again,” he says. “I never see most of my extended family, and I know they face the same future.”

United Airlines staff donated diapers, child wipes, pacifiers and blankets to Afghan households. The bins above these granules had been stuffed with candies and toys. Someone taped the youngsters’s crayon drawings contained in the cabin to make the youngsters really feel extra comfy.

That’s when recollections began flowing once more for Khogyani. His emotions startled her. Suddenly, he was not a fearless world traveler, however a nervous nine-year-old boy who was leaving Afghanistan.

“There were a lot of kids in flight, and each one somehow reminded me of our own escape,” he says.

He’s Thrive In America, And He Wants To Help Other Immigrants Do The Same

One of America’s mottos is E Pluribus Unum, which in Latin stands for “one of many, one”. Adopted in 1776, the motto displays the assumption that America turns into stronger when it embraces individuals of every kind of backgrounds and beliefs.

Khogyani has tried to honor that motto.

He lives in Phoenix, Arizona along with his spouse and their twin 14-year-old sons. They have taught their kids about their heritage and Afghan values ​​resembling respect, humility and hospitality. He says to his kids, and whoever listens, says the identical factor about his individuals:

“You will never meet an Afghan who is willing to give up,” he says.

Jacques Khogyani has been a pilot for United Airlines for 27 years.
Khogyani can also be happy with his adopted residence. He says that he’ll donate half of his earnings from the sale of his photos For a charity benefiting refugees this 12 months.

“The United States is the land of opportunity,” he says. “If you are willing to work hard no one will stop you from achieving what you want to achieve.”

It might sound ludicrous, however historical past backs it up. Immigration has made America one of the highly effective nations on the earth. They work laborious in jobs that many others refuse to do, and so they do not take lots of our liberties frivolously.

Immigrants are nearly twice as more likely to begin a enterprise as Native Americans. Companies resembling Apple, Google and Amazon had been based by immigrants or their kids.

Many Afghan kids at the moment are making the identical journey that Khogyani did greater than 40 years in the past.

About 50,000 Afghan evacuees stay at eight navy bases throughout the nation, however many younger Afghans at the moment are Enrolling in Public Schools In locations as various as Texas, Virginia and California. Their households are making the identical journey that earlier waves of immigrants did.

They will turn out to be American like Khogyani.

His Gift to Him: Hope

Bob Miller, a United Airlines pilot and buddy, says Khogyani is “a prime example of the American dream.”

Miller is optimistic about the way forward for Afghan refugees within the US due to Khogyani’s go to.

Afghan refugees board a US plane bound for Germany at an airport in Madrid, Spain, after being deported from Kabul on August 24, 2021.

“This is really just the beginning for those Afghan refugees,” Miller says. “They came to America with only clothes on their backs, but that’s not the end of it.”

Khogyani says there was a remark that saved arising throughout his conversations with Afghans on flights to the US.

When the evacuees noticed Khogyani, resplendent within the uniform of their United Airlines captain, many continued to utter a phrase.

It was hope.

“A lot of them told me they were proud of me,” he says, “and I gave them hope that the future would be bright.”

It was one thing that solely Khogyani may give as he had traveled by means of them and created a affluent new life

He by no means gave up. They do not suppose they may both.



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