NEW YORK (1010 WINS/CBS 2/AP) – The first commercial flight to land in the United States from Egypt since anti-government protests erupted there arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport Monday night.
While there were hugs and smiles in the terminal, Heather McPherson fought back tears thinking about the town outside Cairo she had just left behind.
“There is no police control. The police have left. It’s military rule so the tanks have rolled in,” she told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon, noting that a shortage of food and water was quickly becoming a problem.
McPherson said she was very lucky to get the Egypt Air flight out with her two young children and hopes her husband, who works in Egypt, will join them in the United States soon.
The long flight home followed an even longer wait in the chaotic airport for Georgette Hannah, who said she was “super happy” to be back home.
“With the curfew, it’s hard to get to the airport. And we had to sleep over so I could make sure that I get the flight in the morning,” she said.
Despite being home safe, Hannah expressed worry about her husband, who is an Egyptian citizen trying to get a visa, and for the country that has become her second home.
“Thank God we’re here. I want to kiss the ground,” evacuee Barbara Schmidt told CBS 2’s Lou Young.
More arriving passengers from Cairo spoke of the harrowing experience they had just left behind.
The Egyptian capital has been paralyzed by throngs of protesters, troops in the street and warplanes making low passes over the crowd.
“Two over-flights, three or four times and it came right over the airport going downtown,” Bill Schmidt said.
Below the warplanes there were shifting scenes of chaos. The police vanished in many neighborhoods, only to be replaced by looters and vigilante bands to resists them.
“We were standing in the streets to protect our homes and our neighborhood and we saw a lot of people break in houses, break in ATM machine and it was horrible,” Robert Alexander said.
“Egypt just needs a government — a stable government. And right now there is nothing stable for them and so the people are tired. They need promises that are kept and so far 30 years, no promises have been kept,” Hannah said.
The cold winter, New York air never felt so welcoming for others, including Muhammad Nabeel.
Nabeel, who is in the United States to play in a series of squash tournaments, said the timing couldn’t have been better.
“I’m very lucky to be here in this time because it’s very hot in Egypt right now,” he said.
Meanwhile, the State Department says it has so far evacuated more than 1,200 Americans from Egypt aboard government-chartered planes and expects to fly out roughly 1,400 more in the coming days.
Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that by the end of Monday six planes will have flown nine flights ferrying U.S. citizens from Cairo to Larnaca, Cyprus; Athens, Greece; and Istanbul, Turkey. He said that on Tuesday an additional destination, Frankfurt, Germany, will be added. In the coming days, the department expects to add evacuation flights from the Egyptian cities of Aswan and Luxor.
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)