How a United Airlines employee helped young Afghan evacuees stay calm
- A United Airlines employee told Insider how she helped evacuate Afghan children to the United States.
- Artemis Bayandor said he bought a suitcase full of children’s clothes to give to their parents on board.
- She was also able to provide them with support and comfort by speaking to them in their own language.
When the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital in mid-August, thousands fled to Kabul airport to flee the city.
Scenes of desperation and terror were visible at Kabul airport as people crowded the runways in an attempt to board the planes, some still clinging to take off.
Amid the chaos, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered six US commercial airlines to help transport American and Afghan evacuees, implementing a program called Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF).
Airlines called to participate in the mission included American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines, according to a Pentagon statement.
Artemis Bayandor, a former flight attendant who now works in the airline security department, volunteered on two United flights.
Bayandor is also a translator of Farsi and Dari, two dialects of the same language. Dari is spoken as an official language in northern and western Afghanistan and is also commonly spoken in the capital.
“United sent an appeal email to company employees asking if anyone had Farsi / Dari / Pashto language skills to participate in the CRAF assignments we had just been assigned,” said Bayandor to Insider.
“I answered immediately, I wanted to help,” she added.
Bayandor said she could sympathize with the passengers on board as she had experienced the same fear of the unknown in the past. She fled the Iranian revolution when she was a young girl and the experience inspired her to participate in the CRAF mission.
She said she was also motivated by United’s mission to connect people and unite the world.
One of the ways Bayandor helped the evacuees feel comfortable was by answering their needs and questions in their own language, during one of the longest and most difficult journeys in the world. their life.
“Knowing that I could welcome them on board, provide them with the safety announcements and comfort them in their own language was invaluable,” she said.
Talking to the evacuees was a moving experience for Bayandor. “I have listened to all of their stories and what their life was like for the last 20 years or so. Then how things changed so quickly,” she said. “The things they had to leave behind, the family they had to leave behind to make sure they stayed safe.”
But the grief of the evacuees contrasted with the hope of what the future held in store for them. “You could see that they were starting to imagine what could be and what to expect in the United States,” Bayandor said.
In another effort to console the passengers, Bayandor filled a suitcase with children’s clothes to give to parents so that their offspring would have new clothes to wear on long flights. ” A little girl [who was] my daughter’s age had an accident. She was so excited to know that she had other clothes that she could change into, ”she said.
“I braided the hair. We played with my makeup. We colored. The kids were so much fun,” Bayandor added.
There were also many pregnant women on the flight. The moments Bayandor shared with them were the highlight of his trip. “I was able to play with the kids or hold the babies while their parents rested and slept well,” she said.
Overall, “it was a truly life changing experience,” Bayandor said.