Reporting Christine Sloan
NEPTUNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – When thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Egypt for anti-government protests days ago, New Jersey residents Mark and Rachel Steinberg were vacationing in the country.
As the scene went from serene to more violent almost over night, the couple knew they had to leave. On Monday, the Steinbergs were finally able to board a plane from Cairo’s international airport to Athens.
Mark Steinberg spoke with CBS 2′s Christine Sloan on the phone Monday and said the environment at the airport in Cairo was a “mob scene.”
“We waited two hours in a mob [that was getting] bigger and bigger. We finally got through and we got onto the plane,” he said.
Steinberg said he and his wife experienced some frightening moments at their hotel and heard gunshots and tanks outside.
“We didn’t know if we were going to get raided or what not that night because the doors were chained shut and we were told not to use the first floor at all,” Steinberg said.
“They locked us in what they called the VIP suite, but it was 28 of us. Then they ran in and locked the doors and turned the lights down,” Steinberg said. “It was frightening yet the people that we were with…we became closer.”
Monday was also the first time Steinberg’s mother had heard about the couple’s experience. She said her son had reassured her that he and his wife were safe.
“He shared nothing with me. We’re fine, no problem,” Esther Bloom said.
The Steinbergs hope to be back in the U.S. in the next couple of days, but also have an upcoming safari trip planned in Africa. On the phone, Steinberg joked that after their experience in Egypt, the couple may just consider a tour of national parks in the United States.
Meanwhile, a church group from Bridgewater, New Jersey was also trapped in the Egypt for some time during the unrest.
A dozen parishioners from the Bridgewater United Methodist Church — including its senior pastor — had their travel plans immediately scrapped when they arrived in Cairo. They have since shuffled in and out of three hotels for safety and finally were able to get a flight to Rome.
“One of them had said something about a bus being hit with stones, but they all felt safe and were safe after that,” Associate Pastor Christina C. Zito told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
Cathi Reckenbeil was in that group and came home after the trip’s first leg in Israel.
“It’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that they’re fine and they’re going to have a chance to tour Rome, which is kind of an unexpected plus,” she said.