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Connecticut School Principal Helps Students, Family Escape Afghanistan

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CBSNewYork) -- A school principal in Connecticut played a big role in helping two of his students escape Afghanistan.

Their family trip to see relatives suddenly plunged them into chaos and uncertainty.

"People often ask me 'How many kids do you have?' and I'm like, 'You mean my three biological or my 550 that go to my school,'" said Brett Gustafson, principal of James J. Curiale School in Bridgeport.

Gustafson sent out his standard start-of-school email Aug. 22 asking if everyone felt ready.

He told CBS2's Dave Carlin he heard back from one family who said their summer trip for two students of the Curiale school with their mom and another sibling had quickly turned into a nightmare.

Far away from the Bridgeport campus, they were in a danger zone.

"'We are stuck in Afghanistan, and we won't make it back for the first day of school, just to let you know,'" Gustafson said. "And then I sent another email saying, 'Are you OK? Do you need help?' ... The next morning I received an email back saying, 'Yes, I need help' ... So I jumped in to help out."

On social media, he gathered contacts and reached out to legislators and rescue groups.

"We had a team that was supposed to go in and extract them, but then that's when the bombing happened," Gustafson said. "So they put that on pause."

Gustafson did not give up. The U.S. Army Rangers eventually found the family members.

"We know they got out," Gustafson said. "They're either in Germany or Saudi Arabia or some other Air Force base."

HOW TO HELP: Growing Concerns About Women And Girls Under Taliban Rule In Afghanistan

When the rescued students return and enter the doors of the school, a very happy principal Gustafson will greet them.

"I'm going to be very excited to see them ... but we have kids in crisis here every single day, and we really think of them as our kids. And we have to help them, so we call services here. I think the biggest difference is I had to call services that were 7,000 miles away," Gustafson said.

The family came to Bridgeport in 2014. The father had earned them all U.S. citizenship working as a translator for special forces. They sacrificed for the U.S., and Gustafson said helping get them back here safely was the least he could do.

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