Houstonian returns from Libya, shares story

February 25, 2011 8:38:13 PM PST
An American who managed to escape from the violence in Libya lives in our area, and he documented his frightening escape with video and pictures.

Because of the way information is restricted in Libya, we really haven't gotten a sense of just how violent and dangerous that country has become -- until now, as the man who barely survived it gives us a firsthand account.

"Around nine o'clock, all hell broke loose," said a Houstonian who just returned from Libya. "Just showered the hotel full of gunfire -- four or five hundreds going off per minute it seemed like."

That Houstonian wants us to call him Joe. He went through a terrifying 36 hours this week.

Joe got caught in the middle of deadly fighting in Tripoli between dictator Moammar Gadhafi and Libyans who want him out of Power.

Joe tried to leave Tuesday but had no airline ticket. He also said the U.S. consulate turned him away.

"Asked me what I want, I tell 'em I have nowhere to go, I'm desperate," he said. "We were all shaken; didn't know how we were gonna get out, didn't know what were we're goin' to do."

Joe had no choice but to go back to his hotel and wait to try again to leave the next day. From his hotel room, he could see that protesters had started driving around with flags. Then the shooting began.

"Then night came and it got really quiet and you just started hearing gunfire in the distance," Joe said.

As Joe crouched down and recorded the gun battle, he heard something that brought more fear.

"You could hear voices in the hall -- people running up and down the hall. It was the soldiers had invaded the hotel and were looking for journalists, taking people's passports," he said."My only reaction was turn out the lights, be extremely quiet, don't answer the door, don't answer the phone, and I slept in the tub that night."

Joe survived the night and on Wednesday night he and his group finally made it onto a plane out of Tripoli and back home to Houston.

"Relieved, tired, stressed but happy," he said.