'There's an emptiness that we cannot describe, and it's just sad.'
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Haseeb Shojai carries on with his day-to-day life as a father, business owner and community member in Central Oregon. But he's also been carrying the weight of his family's and friends' well-being.
That's because Shojai has several loved ones who live in Afghanistan.
An immigrant himself, Shojai came to the United States from Afghanistan in 2004. Now, he owns several gas stations, restaurants, and bars in Central Oregon , including the Silver Leaf Cafe and Market in Eagle Crest.
While he's doing well, he says he has nightmares about what's happening over there.
"There is an emptiness that we cannot describe, and it's just sad," Shojai said Tuesday. "We are sad, and we are trying to do everything we can to help our family and our friends -- but as people, we can only do so much."
He says his family and friends are in hiding, fearing the Taliban will find them, or worse, kill them for disagreeing with their fundamentalist beliefs.
"Every so often, we are reminded that, okay so I don't know where my cousin is right now and if they're okay," Shojai said. "And that's constantly, constantly on your mind."
Shojai says while his loved ones have the papers and supporting documents to leave Afghanistan, they don't have access to any of their money, because all banks are closed.
Moe Aria also moved to the United States from Afghanistan. He's been living in Central Oregon for more than 30 years, doing business with Shojai.
His family is in the same situation.
"Always something on the mind. Anything -- any incoming call, I hope is some good news." Aria said.
"I hope my family is still alive. I hope they are still in good hands. But it's really, really, really sad."
In 2018, Shojai's parents left Afghanistan to join their son in the U.S.
His mother, Gullay, lived through four different Afghan regimes. She was once an elementary school teacher, but was forced to retire when the Taliban first took control of the country in the '90s.
Gullay says life in Central Oregon is different than in Kabul, but that the biggest change was the community.
"Most importantly -- the people. The amount of respect, kindness, from neighbors, from friends, from people that cannot pronounce her name, was what actually got her attention." Haseeb translated for his mother.
Shojai agrees with his mom.
"In the past week, I have got more messages and calls and text messages and emails from friends who are worried about my cousins, and my family and my friends in Afghanistan than ever before," he said.
Right now, Shojai is working on sending his loved ones' documents to the right agencies, in hopes of getting them a ticket out of the country.
Shojai told NewsChannel 21 he wants to raise awareness about what's going on in Afghanistan, and that he needs help submitting his friends' and family's documents to area agencies.
To reach Shojai, you can send him an email at email@example.com.