Former Fort Worth woman leaving Islamic Egypt 'irrevocably'

Posted Sunday, Apr. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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This article was modified from how it originally appeared in the Star-Telegram and on Star-Telegram.com to correct the religious factions involved in clashes resulting in deaths and injuries.

Mary Thornberry never thought this day would come.

But she has decided she can no longer stay in Egypt - the country she has loved and chosen to live in for nearly two decades, through revolts, protests and the political uprising that swept President Hosni Mubarak out and Mohamed Morsi into power.

"In sorrow and anguish, I shake the Egyptian sands from my sandals and return home," Thornberry, a former Fort Worth resident, told the Star-Telegram in a recent email. "This is forever. Irrevocably."

She made the decision as the number of deaths and injuries rises in the midst of clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians.

Religious tensions have been on the rise since Morsi, an Islamist, rose to power, recently erupting in clashes outside the funerals of four Coptic Christians that ended only after police fired tear gas to break up the crowd.

"I can no longer abide the emerging Islamic Republic of Egypt," wrote Thornberry, 78, who moved to Egypt more than 17 years ago to study ancient Egyptian history after living in Fort Worth with her husband, James Derrick, for about 20 years. Derrick, who has died, worked on the crew of a KC-135 aerial-refueling craft, and she was a nurse.

"The so-called principles of Islam are being put into place," Thornberry said.

'Egypt is my home'

Thornberry has lived through many changes in Egypt in recent years.

She became a focus of international news in 2011 during the beginning of the uprising after her son told news media that she was trapped in her Cairo apartment building amid protests.

For days, she was believed to be the only tenant left in her apartment building overlooking Tahrir Square as activists took over the building.

She stood guard at her front door, preventing people from entering by using her "armory" - a rolling pin and kitchen knife - to hit hands reaching through shattered glass to unlock the door. Eventually, an Egyptian who works for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo helped her leave the building and go to the airport.

She reluctantly agreed to leave the country temporarily until the violence settled down.

But she returned to Egypt last year, saying she couldn't stay away from the country she so deeply loved.

"Egypt is my home; Egypt has been good to me," she said on the Today show after escaping the violence in 2011. "I love Egypt and the Egyptian people."

Changing times

In recent weeks and months, though, Thornberry said, the instability of the Egyptian government, the violence and street protests have been getting worse.

Tensions have continued to rise, protests continued and bloodshed became increasingly familiar in the midst of political chaos, as officials have said they worry about everything from a civil war to the collapse of the country.

"Why anyone should be surprised, surprises me," Thornberry wrote. "The platform, aims and actions of the Muslim Brotherhood have not changed from its inception, if anything, they have intensified."

Thornberry said she's scheduled to leave Cairo for the final time April 30, headed for her daughter's home in Brooklyn Park, Minn.

"I don't have to take it. I won't take it," she said. "I return to a civilized country.

"That is all I can say for the present."

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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