Immigrant, Harvard Dad, NYC Cab Driver: A Son’s Tribute to a Father Lost to Covid-19

Mohammed Jafor worked as a cab driver in New York City for 20 years. His son tells his story.

Katie Couric
Apr 22, 2020 · 3 min read
Mahtab Shihab

Today, our Wake-Up Call newsletter is telling the story of Mohammed Jafor, a devoted father, an NYC cab driver, who died at age 56 from Covid-19.

Whenever one of his kids accomplished something, Mohammed Jafor broke out in a grin. “He would light up,” his son Mahtab Shihab said. “One thing that stood out to me was his pride in everything that me and my siblings did.”

Jafor immigrated to New York City from Bangladesh in 1991. He lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, delivered food, and worked at McDonald’s. He later brought his wife and oldest son to the U.S. from Bangladesh. And in 2000, Mahtab was born.

Mahtab told us: “He was a very devout man…He was very involved in the Bengali community in New York.” When immigrants came over from Bangladesh, Jafor would give them a place to stay for a few weeks, helping them get acclimated.

Jafor became a cab driver in the early 2000s. He worked six-days per week — often 12-hour shifts, to give his family “the best opportunities they could possibly have.”

Heartbreakingly, Jafor’s wife passed away a few years ago from colon cancer, leaving him as a single parent to three children.

“He was someone who always put his family first,” Mahtab said. “He worked hard to make sure that his family back in Bangladesh, and here in America, were taken care of.”

He also believed in the power of education: Mahtab is a sophomore studying history and economics at Harvard University, while his younger sister goes to the Trinity School in New York City.

By early March, the Covid-19 outbreak began taking hold of the region. Jafor took precautions, such as wearing a mask inside his cab. Soon after, when his son came home from school around March 14th, he stopped driving and socially isolated with his children.

But a week later, he began to develop mild Covid-19 symptoms: a fever, cough and more. He eventually began experiencing extreme shortness of breath. On March 26th, his family called him an ambulance.

He was sent to Montefiore Medical Center, where he was put on a ventilator soon after his arrival. Since his condition accelerated so quickly, his family wasn’t able to speak to him. The doctors tried to save him with everything they could: hydroxychloroquine, and a few other medications. None of the treatments worked, and Jafor died on April 1st at the age of 56.

“It was a lot to take in,” Mahtab said. “It happened all of a sudden, and it was very unexpected. It’s like: ‘What happens from here? This wasn’t supposed to happen.’”

“My dad worked really hard for everything,” he added. “It’s sad… he won’t be able to see the fruits of his hard work through the paths of me, my brother and my sister.”

Our hearts are with Mahtab and his loved ones at this time. Donate to help his family, here.

Reporting by staff writer Amanda Svachula

This appeared in Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter. Subscribe here.

Katie Couric

Written by

Founder, Katie Couric Media. Newscaster: Wake-Up Call. Podcaster: Next Question. Doc filmmaker. @SU2C founder.

Wake-Up Call

Katie Couric and friends talk career, culture, politics, wellness, love, and money

Katie Couric

Written by

Founder, Katie Couric Media. Newscaster: Wake-Up Call. Podcaster: Next Question. Doc filmmaker. @SU2C founder.

Wake-Up Call

Katie Couric and friends talk career, culture, politics, wellness, love, and money

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store