Local volunteers help welcome evacuees from Afghanistan

The U.S. has welcomed close to 12,000 evacuees so far.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When people fled their native Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover, thousands escaped to Philadelphia.

As Philadelphia welcomed those evacuees from the war-torn country, local volunteers helped make them feel safe and comfortable.

On Thursday, two of them shared their experiences.

They called it emotional, gut-wrenching, and for one woman, it was personal.

RELATED: Hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan arrive at Philadelphia International Airport

Diba Atar's own family fled Iran. Her mother was pregnant with her during their harrowing escape.

When Atar volunteered for Operation Allies Refuge, she was not only an EMT but also an interpreter.

She says being able to communicate was comforting for devastated people arriving in a foreign country.

"I would ask, 'How are you?'" Atar said. "They would tell me that they were exhausted but so happy to be alive, sitting here with their kids. They left everything behind. It was really emotional."

Atar says she cried on her way home one night because it felt like she was sitting there with her family when they first immigrated.

"I thought about my parents, here alone," she said.

The Temple University senior was one of 730 Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps deployed to Philadelphia International Airport.

ALSO RELATED: Nearly 900 Afghan evacuees have arrived in Philadelphia

Stephanie Stucka is a registered nurse who was part of the team offering aid and COVID-19 testing.

Stucka says she hopes you won't see them as refugees but friends.

"These are people that were our allies over in Afghanistan that worked with us during that 20-year war and put their own lives at risk in order to support the U.S. mission," Stucka said. "These are very much our allies."

The U.S. has welcomed close to 12,000 evacuees so far.

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