L.I. Woman Escapes Egypt But Vows to Return

"I never wanted to leave on those terms, but the country I first arrived in wasn't the same one I left"

By Greg Cergol
|  Friday, Feb 4, 2011  |  Updated 8:31 AM EDT
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More Americans are escaping the chaos of the streets of <a title=Cairo." />

More Americans are escaping the chaos of the streets of Cairo.

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Her bags were still unpacked; a welcome home sign stood on the floor nearby; and, Alexandra Woodhouse, 21, curled up in a chair and fought back tears hours after escaping Egypt.

"I didn't want to go home," the Great Neck native said. "I never wanted to leave on those terms, but the country I first arrived in wasn't the same one I left."

Woodhouse, a Cornell University student, had journeyed to Egypt last fall for an internship with a United Nations agency.  When she was offered a full-time job, Woodhouse decided to remain.

Then the country she had grown to love began to disintegrate.

"We saw cars bursting into flames and looters in the neighborhoods and, at that point, it was like, I've got to call my parents and go home."

Easier said than done.

With phone and internet communications cut, Woodhouse was unable to contact her parents for days.  And with her passport being held at the Egyptian Foreign ministry, she was unable to leave the country.

"I thought something was going to happen to my daughter," said mom Latifa Woodhouse.  "We were all going crazy.  Every minute was like an hour.  Every hour like a day."

After several days, Alex Woodhouse found a working phone line and called home.  Later, with the help of Egyptian friends, she made it past the rioters and tanks and retrieved a copy of her passport from the U-S Embassy. 

Her mother, father and sisters worked the phones back in the U-S and booked her a flight out of Egypt; a flight she boarded, with mixed emotions Wednesday.

"Here I am sipping coffee, safe and I know my friends in Egypt are not safe," she lamented.

Woodhouse vows to return, to help the Egyptians she said are fighting for the things we all value- freedom, independence and human rights.

Watching the violent images from the country she left behind brought tears to her eyes as she sat before a computer screen in her Great Neck living room; but, her parents are still relieved she is safe.

"It was just wonderful to hug her," said dad Colin Woodhouse.  "My week long headache is finally gone."

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