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Lagunans escape the violence in Egypt

Carol Reynolds and her daughter were touring in Alexandria when the protests erupted.

February 03, 2011|By Barbara Diamond, coastlinepilot@latimes.com

A harrowing week has ended for two of Laguna's own, trapped amid the escalating violence in Egypt.

Concert Band founder Carol Reynolds and her daughter, jeweler Patti Jo Kiraly, were due home Thursday.

They were among the tourists stranded by the political upheaval that coincided with their arrival in Egypt, stuck there until Wednesday, when they were flown to Rome.

"They originally were supposed to fly from Rome into New York, where their tour had originated, but the tour company arranged a kind of special flight," said Kiraly's husband, Sherwood. "I slept about 10 hours last night."

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It was the first good night's sleep the author and playwright had gotten since his wife and mother-in-law landed in Egypt. The two women started in Cairo and then went onto Alexandria on Jan. 27, just as the demonstrations were getting under way.

They spent the next six days holed up in a hotel, while arrangements were made to get them out of Alexandria. Patti Jo Kiraly was appointed spokeswoman for her tour group, using the skills she had honed as a PTA mom, her husband said.

This was not Patti Jo Kiraly's first experience with a political uprising.

Several years ago, the Kiralys and their daughter, Katie, were in Bali on a pearl-buying trip for Patti Jo's Designs.

"There was an election, and the people's choice came in second," Sherwood Kiraly said. "There was rioting and looting."

Although not together, the Kiralys fortunately were able to stay in contact throughout the recent ordeal.

"Patti Jo was able to call out on her cell phone," he said. "I couldn't always get calls in to her, but I got through on the hotel's landline.

"In the early days, Patti Jo said the demonstrators were blowing kisses at the tourists. It is not anti-American. It is anti-(President Hosni) Mubarak."

But the situation deteriorated, and efforts began to evacuate tourists.

There were ups and downs, Sherwood Kiraly said.

A rumor that the air space over Egypt was closed was also upsetting.

"It kind of gave them the feeling of being a hostage," he said.

The rumor proved untrue.

The women were scheduled to leave Alexandria on Tuesday and were on the bus headed to the airport when they were turned back. A flight that originated in Luxor that was supposed to pick them up instead flew directly to Rome.

They also were told at one point by workers at the American Embassy that they would have to go to Cairo to get a flight, which was a frightening prospect, Kiraly said.

Demonstrations were much more violent in Cairo than in Alexandria.

But by Wednesday, Reynolds and Patti Jo Kiraly were on their way to Italy — and safety.

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