Chicago Tour Group Flees Egypt for Israel

Group from Catholic Theological Union spent about five days in Giza, near Cairo

By Carol Marin
|  Monday, Jan 31, 2011  |  Updated 7:32 PM CDT
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Dramatic Photos From Egypt

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CAIRO, EGYPT - JANUARY 29: Protestors mass in front of a police line on January 29, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets across Egypt in Cairo, Suez, and Alexandria to call for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Riot police and the Army have been sent into the streets to quell the protests, which so far according to health officials have claimed at least 45 lives and left more than a two-thousand injured. The cabinet has formally resigned, but protesters are seeking a regime change with the resignation of Mubarak. Whilst the Army has deployed tanks and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to the streets there has been little implementation of them, and soldiers have interacted peacefully with passing marchers. The government has installed a curfew, blockaded access to the Giza pyramids with tanks and APC's and taken measures to secure museums from looters. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

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A tour group from Chicago has a harrowing tale of survival after safely getting out of Egypt after days of protests there.

Fr. Don Senior and 44 members of the Catholic Theological Union spent about five days in Giza, Egypt, about about 20 kilometers southwest of Cairo, before getting out and making their way to Israel.

The group arrived in Giza last Wednesday, and their dream trip soon turned into a nightmare when protestors took over the streets, prisoners were released and people started looting.

"At night we started to hear a lot of gunfire.  We could smell the burning of the Giza police station," said Senior.  "On Sunday it became clear to me that we, you know, could just not go anywhere, and you sense the anxiety."

They first turned to the United States Embassy in Egypt, but it was overburdened. 

"Their advice was to get out of the country, but really that was the only help we got from the embassy," he said. 

Senior managed to get the tour group out of Giza with help from a friend in Israel -- a travel agent -- who knew of an Israeli plane that was headed to Egypt to ferry its citizens back home. 

"There were only 21 seats left and we were 42 people, and so he argued with them and they sent a bigger plane," explained Senior.

The group traveled through the battlefield that is Cairo in order to reach the airport.  He said the scene there was unlike anything he'd ever seen in his life.

Though now safely in Israel, there remains great sentiment, if not for the situation they just left, for the people they left behind.

"The Egyptian people are just beautiful and friendly.  They're protective.  None of us experienced any hostility against us as Americans," he said.

In a message posted to the group's website, Senior said the group hopes to return to the United States around Feb. 5.

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