TODAY   |  February 03, 2011

Armed with knife, retiree waits out unrest in Egypt

Mary Thornberry, who remains holed up in her Cairo apartment near Tahrir Square, tells TODAY’s Meredith Vieira that after protesters tried to break into her home, she is ready to leave the country she loves.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> us from easton, washington. good morning. mary , if i could start with you, it is now afternoon in cairo. what is the situation outside your apartment? what is going on as far as you know?

>> well, of course my front door, the glass is still broken. so there's -- anyone can do things through the door, if they desire to. i still have a knife and i still have the rest of my armory that i will use. there's no one at my door at this moment. a little bit earlier, there were people around on two different occasions. but right now, there's no one there. i hear some noise, some voices in the background. and a few moments ago, i heard some people coming down from the roof. i heard steps. my building was the one that had most of the maolotov cocktails thrown on it last night.

>> mary , are you the only one still in that building, the only resident of that building who's still there?

>> as far as i know. my -- apparently my -- was overpowered and he fled. he's gone, prudently. and i'm told that my building is trashed below, all the way, except for me. and last night about -- at 5:00, then that's when these hoodlums and thugs came to my door and attempted to get in. and they actually broke the glass on my door, reached in, and i attemptattempted to take my key, which was in the door, in the lock at the time. but i took the key. i got the key.

>> mary , it sounds frightening. i know you said yesterday you did not want to leave because you were afraid if you did, the thugs would come back and loot the place. you've obviously changed your mind. why? what made you decide you want to get out of there?

>> my son. my son called me and told me that i really should. so i doubled back and thought again. and, yes, i'll -- i'll leave. but i intend to come back.

>> and the question now is how do you get out? as lester just said, he tried it reach you and was unable. have you been able to talk to anybody who can get to you? what is your plan?

>> my friends have been most supportive. and yesterday they contacted the emergency numbers on the television. they contacted the army. they contacted the police. they contacted the american embassy . without any effect.

>> let me bring in your son, phil , right now. phil , as your mom said, she's leaving or attempting to leave because you asked her to. i know you've been very worried about her. you yourself contacted the u.s. embassy . is that correct?

>> well, we've had some contacts with them. basically it was a situation where we were told that they just didn't have enough personnel and we were pretty much on our own. they were very polite about it. my concern has been -- i teach a current world problems class. i'm a high school teacher. we've been following this with our class on the various channels. and it's been clear, the escalation that's been taking place. we've had the internet down and i haven't been able to get in touch with her until yesterday morning. and that's just when things were really getting bad. and she's lived in cairo now for 15 years. she loves the place. she loves the people. she's been very happy there. i've always been a little bit concerned about something like this happening. and she's always placated me on this because she's always said the only thing you have to worry about is when mubarak dies or retired and the son takes over. that's the time when there's -- things will get a little dicy. the time table has moved up here a little bit. and i think it's time to use discretion and she needs to come home for a while.

>> phil , because we have mary by phone and you can speak with her directly, is there anything you want to say to your mom right now? she can respond.

>> no, i think we -- we've been actually in touch. i've been very surprised how easily we've been able to be in touch. i thought maybe there would be problems on this. once the phone and internet was restored, we've been able to talk. the last time we talked, mom, was, what, about an hour ago?

>> pretty much so, yes. that's about right.

>> yeah. so the only -- the real concern i have right now, she hasn't had any sleep during this time. i'm concerned about that. the curfew is coming up at 5:00. they're about ten hours ahead of us. so it's about 1:30, 2:00 there now.

>> yes.

>> and so i'm concerned that she's going to -- she's going to end up another night there.

>> yes.

>> and friday is going to be the big demonstration day. i -- you know, she could be there for a while.

>> well, mary thornberry, we're so appreciative that you've spent time talking with us this morning. please stay safe.

>> thank you. i wish to comment that i'm very displeased with the treatment i did not receive from the american embassy .

>> well-put, mary . thank you very