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Angeleno back from Cairo with harrowing tale

February 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A mother returning to Los Angeles from Egypt says she armed her young daughter with a knife in fear for their lives. That family is relieved to be home.

The family was evacuated out of Cairo on a U.S. cargo plane. They were flown to Cyprus, where they were stranded for two days, then went on to London and finally to LAX, where they landed Friday.

It was the end of a trip that started Monday. Three children and their mother are overwhelmed with relief to make it safely out of Cairo.

"I had to be escorted by the men in my neighborhood to the grocery store," said Melanie Sherif. "Bullets all night."

Sherif is a U.S. citizen who's been teaching kindergarten in Cairo for the past two and a half years.

She and her kids found themselves trapped in the middle of the Egyptian unrest. Neighborhood stores had no food, and Sherif says Egyptian police released 14,000 prison inmates and gave them guns.

For days, Sherif says, she kept her family barricaded inside their home and even gave her 8-year-old daughter a kitchen knife for self-defense.

"She brought knives into the room, she said, 'When I say "elephant,"' I have to do this to the person who comes in the room," said 8-year-old Amina Sherif. "I was really scared."

"The neighborhood men were downstairs. I broke apart my kids' bed to throw wood down for them to burn, because they were taking shifts guarding our neighborhood," said Melanie Sherif.

On Monday, the U.S. Embassy was able to evacuate the family. What they could pack up in their luggage, they brought with them. The rest stayed behind, including the family dog and Sherif's savings, frozen in a Cairo bank.

She and her daughters are back in the arms of loved ones, with her Egyptian husband, who goes to school in the States.

The family says the violence in Cairo doesn't seem any farther away.

"We left family and friends back there. We're praying for them and hoping that everything will turn out OK," said Sherif.

Sherif says she does plan to return to Egypt, just not until things calm down and it is safe. She says she is definitely not going to bring her children.