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'I wanted to help my friends': St. Louis man welcomes Afghan family into his home after helping them escape

Through his connections with the Marines, Adventure Travel and an organization called Save our Allies, Andy Bass helped the Nazari family secure visas and escape.

ST. LOUIS — Dinner time is a hectic time in the Bass household.

"They're very good cooks. They cook sometimes, I cook sometimes," said Andy Bass smiling.

Every night for the past several weeks, there have been three guests for dinner. While not everyone here is related, they are all now family.

Bass is a 53-year-old executive with a large manufacturing company. He's also a retired Marine.

"It was really the jumping-off point for me to learn self-discipline and build my character," he said.

And to continue the construction of that character, Bass also runs marathons. Adventure marathons.

"You're able to get there and see the folks," he said. "Interact with the people and immerse yourself in a local culture."

He's tested his endurance in places like Lebanon, Uganda, even North Korea.

"It was like being on a movie set, in North Korea. There were so many things that were staged just for the visitors," Bass said.

Then, in 2019, his travels took him to the Bamyan Province of Afghanistan, where one morning he wandered into a local market.

"So we go in there," Bass said, "and I'm immediately greeted by the most delightful young woman named Zarha."

"My mom was the first lady to open a shop in Bamyan market," Zahra Nazari tells us.

The 18-year-old Nazari taught herself English while working in her mom's clothing store alongside her younger sister Fatima. A shop owned by a woman in Afghanistan was not unusual, it was unheard of. But not even a bomb could stop them.

"And it exploded and me and my mom, we fainted," Nazari said. "And our shop glass broken and all of our shop broken."

The very next day, they were back in business.

"Over the next few days, I bought things from her," said Bass. "We became friends and when I left, we became Facebook friends."

Then, last year, Bass began to worry about his new friends.

When the Taliban seized power after the Afghan government collapsed, Nazari knew she'd rather die than be captured. So, an Afghan military officer made her a promise to kill her before that happened.

"It was at midnight and the commander told me, don't say it to other women because they will be very nervous," said an emotional Nazari.

We had to pause for her to regain her composure.

"So Zahra reached out to me," Bass said, "and asked if I could help them get out. And I said if you can get to Kabul, I should be able to help."

Through his connections with the Marines, Adventure Travel and an organization called Save our Allies, Bass was able to secure visas for Nazari and her family. After hiding out for days, they were some of the lucky ones to get inside the gates of the Kabul Airport.

"We met a U.S. Soldier. He was a very, very kind soldier," Nazari said. "And I showed him the visa from the U.S. government and our passport and documents to the soldier and he helped us bring our bags into the airport."

"I got a text in the middle of the night," Bass recalled. "It said, 'We're on a military plane, me, mom and sis.'"

Then for nine days. Nothing. Until another text.

"I send message to Mr. Bass, 'We are in Dulles where is this?'" said a smiling Nazari. "He told us it's Washington DC."

After days of vetting and processing, the end of their journey was a new beginning. Andy Bass brought his friends to St. Louis.

"As soon as they get their worker ID card and Social Security card, they want to jump right in and get jobs," Bass said.

Zahra and Fatima are already enrolled in some community college classes with the hope of soon finding a permanent place to live.

"We want to start a new life in USA and we want to be a U.S. citizen," said a gleaming Nazari.

Marathon runners know when you need to go the extra mile, you run with your heart.

"I wanted to help my friends in a meaningful way," Bass said.

Going the distance to save lives. Andy Bass making sure, he didn't cross this finish line alone.

"It makes me very happy," he said.

Bass has set up a GoFundMe page to help the women get back on their feet.