Teacher recounts horrors of Egyptian ordeal

Teacher recounts horrors of Egyptian ordeal

Escalating violence forced Becky Garrod to flee

From their third-floor apartment, Becky Garrod and her roommates had a clear view of the riot.

There were two to three hundred people rampaging through the shopping mall below, throwing lit bottles of gasoline, vandalizing signs and trying, unsuccessfully, to set a small utility building on fire.

Garrod and the other two Canadians had switched off their apartment lights when they heard screaming.

It was the same kind of wailing, wordless yelling she recalled from the crowds that celebrated the Africa Cup win by the Egyptian national soccer team the year before, but filled with anger, not joy.

Most of the people in the mob were young, teenagers and twenty-somethings.

The Canadians in the apartment knew about the disturbances in Cairo, where thousands of people were staging violent demonstrations against the rule of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

But that was far away from Maadi, the well-off suburb south of the Egyptian capital where the three lived.

Phone lines were down, but life seemed otherwise normal in Maadi until that night.

Peering through the curtains, the roommates could see the female owner of a flower shop begging the crowd to leave her business alone.

She was successful.

Then the mob turned its attention elsewhere, but not, thankfully, to the apartment building where Garrod and her roommates lived.

That was Friday, Jan. 28 and the violence would escalate over the next few days, forcing the three Canadians to make the hard choice to leave.

Garrod, a 28-year-old Walnut Grove resident, had come to Egypt with the others to work as an English-language teacher.

She commuted from Maadi to the school in nearby El Sherouk City where her 13 Kindergarten students addressed her as “Miss Becky.”

The day after the riot, she went to a local grocery and picked up some yogurt, cereal and stern advice from a store employee.

“Today is not going to be a good day for Egypt,” he told her.

“You should go home.”

That day, the phones started working again.

As the Canadians frantically called their families, they could heard more screaming outside.

Another mob was coming through. It was time to go.

They booked tickets out on a British Airways flight, then switched to an Air Canada evacuation flight arranged by the Canadian government.

Garrod remembers seeing tanks rolling into Maadi as she and her friends were heading for the airport. They were everywhere.

She also remembers seeing some armed soldiers suddenly firing their weapons at something below a bridge as the three friends were crossing it in a taxi.

At the airport, a last-minute hitch developed when airport staff demanded $2,000 from the large group of Canadian evacuees waiting to leave before they would let them board the jet.

The money was raised with impressive speed.

When the flight finally became airborne, everyone on board applauded.

The trip home took 35 hours.

Now reunited with her parents, Garrod plans to look for another teaching job, but not in Egypt.

Will she ever go back? she is asked.

“Maybe one day but not any time soon,” she says.

Langley Times

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