Posted at 8:22 a.m., Thursday, July 20, 2006
Big Island teacher safe in Cyprus
By Brittany Yap
Advertiser Staff Writer
"I'm finally in Cyprus," Sarah Ahmadia said while riding a bus to a shelter she'll be staying at until she can get back to the United States.
"It's finally hitting me now," Ahmadia said. "I'm looking at a big sign right now that says 'GREECE.'"
Ahmadia, her two aunts, three cousins and hundreds of other Americans will be sleeping on fair grounds in Cyprus tonight. Tents have been set up for the evacuees, as well as bathrooms. Food and water are also being provided.
"Cyprus looks a lot like northern California," Ahmadia said. "Except that it's an island."
Ahmadia said she has one carry-on bag with her. Told to pack light so she could move quickly through the war-torn country of Lebanon, Ahmadia gave her clothes to her cousin, whose house was blown up by Israeli military bombing in Sofer last Friday.
"I went (to Lebanon) with four suitcases and I came back with one carry-on," Ahmadia said. "I'm going to have to get a new wardrobe when I get home.
I'm so exhausted. I got like four hours of sleep in the last 72 hours."
Ahmadia had gone to Lebanon on July 8 to visit her father's home country and family she had never met. They ended up helping her survive as Israeli military blitzed the country's roads and infrastructure over the past week. Her cousin, a sergeant in the Lebanese police department, escorted her traveling party from her aunt's safe house in Sharoon, a town in the mountains of Lebanon, back to the U.S. Embassy's evacuation point in Beirut.
Ahmadia said that saying goodbye to her family, after just meeting them for the first time, "was really heartbreaking. I can't even tell you how close I got to everyone since I got there."
Ahmadia said she hopes to return to Lebanon to visit her family next summer if the fighting stops.
U.S. officials have booked a charter flight for Ahmadia and her relatives to fly to Baltimore, Md. tomorrow, but she doesn't know what time.