Family reunited after years of international separation during pandemic

Dec 16, 2022, 9:15 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2022, 4:59 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The anticipation of meeting a loved one at the airport is when minutes can feel like hours.

For sisters Emsley Helms and Chelsea Allgaier, this particular wait has been years.

“I am anxious, and I am excited,” said Emsley.

“I just want it to happen I’m so excited,” said Chelsea.

They were both waiting for their father at the Salt Lake City International Airport. It’s been a long time since they have seen him in person.

“I think it has been 1,111 days,” said Emsley.

Now, those final few minutes at the greeting area felt even longer.

“It’s so weird,” Chelsea said. “I can’t even, like it doesn’t feel real.”

They haven’t seen him since the holidays in 2019 just before the pandemic.

Their father lives and works in China, where Covid lockdowns were common and prevented him from being able to visit his daughters in Utah.

“Food was being delivered to their houses. Food and water. Their building was being locked with chains,” said Emsley.

They made video calls as often as possible, but it just wasn’t the same. A lot of life moments were missed.

“Those Christmases were so hard,” said Chelsea.

Utah family hasn’t seen father in nearly 1,000 days due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

However, now that China’s Covid lockdowns have been eased, it meant this family’s years long countdown could finally hit zero.

“Touchdown! He just texted,” Chelsea said while looking at her phone.

A few minutes later, David Allgaier walked through the security exit.

“There he is!” yelled Chelsea.

Nothing beats an old-fashioned hug from dad.

“I’m so glad you’re home,” said Emsley in tears.

Their dad was finally here, and it was time to catch up.

“I love them so much and I missed them so much,” said David Allgaier. “Her (Emsley) husband got accepted into and started law school, I have missed. She started a new job at an amazing firm, I have missed. She (Chelsea) is engaged, I have missed that. She has a dog that I need to meet. She (Emsley) has a dog I need to meet.”

It’s the little things that really are the big things. This Christmas is going to be their best one ever.

“We are just going to hang out and catch up and never let him go,” said Emsley with a laugh.

Allgaier lives in Shanghai and said that during one lockdown, he was in his apartment for 78 days straight, and was only allowed to go into his apartment lobby for Covid testing.

The Chinese government supplied his food. Now, he’s looking forward to a pink sugar cookie, coffee, and a Dr. Pepper.

He’s planning on going back in mid-January.

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Family reunited after years of international separation during pandemic