I Was Evacuated from Egypt
"He said, 'Pack as if you are never going to see your stuff again. You are on a flight to Paris this afternoon,'" Patterson told AOL yesterday from her home in Lynnfield, Mass. "It was a hard decision. I really didn't want to leave. But the embassy wanted Americans out, the school wanted us out, and I didn't want to worry my mother unnecessarily."
She did pack her belongings and then took a bus to the airport in Cairo for her 3 p.m. flight on Air Mediterranee to Paris on Wednesday.
Patterson said the most arduous part of her journey was the bus ride through the rioting crowds. "It was the only time I was really nervous. I didn't feel like I was in danger until that part of it."
When she arrived, she was not on the manifest and thought she would be stranded on stand-by for days, but took off hours later for Paris. There, she spent a night at the airport hotel and then had to purchase another ticket to Boston's Logan Airport for just over $1,000.
Her student SOS insurance covered the evacuation flight to Paris, but not the flight back to the States. She landed Thursday night and her mother, Sandra Patterson, was at the gate to greet her. Back in Massachusetts, she found her car buried under four feet of snow.
"I didn't want to leave, but I was happy to see my mother, happy to be home safe," Patterson said. "It wasn't as bad at the airport as I thought it would be. It was chaotic, but not frantic."
When commercial flights were unable to meet demand, United States State Department began chartering flights to shuttle American citizens to Europe. The government said it would charge passengers market rates for the flights. "The security was sub-par and it was a little crazy with commercial flights and American Embassy flights, but not as bad as people made it out to be," she said. "Everything got done. Everything fell into place.
Patterson, 21, has lived in Egypt for five months as part of a pharmaceutical program affiliated with Tulane University. She loves the country and is studying Arabic - which has made her a sympathetic to the anti-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak protestors. She was among the thousands that have crammed the streets of Cairo during the increasingly violent protests that have left an estimated 300 people dead.
"There was some anti-American sentiment out there. But when I explained why I was there and how I felt people were grateful for the foreign support," Patterson said. "It was a saga to be there during the protests, and a saga to get out. I just want to go back."
Patterson said one of the toughest things about leaving was saying goodbye to her Egyptian friends.
"When people heard I was on their side, they were grateful," Patterson said. "Egyptians told me that when I get home I should have some choice words for President Obama."
She plans to fulfill that promise by attending a protest with other anti-Mubarak supporters in Boston's Copley Square on Saturday. "I'm really upset that I couldn't stay. I had to leave. But I won't give up supporting the country."
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