DENVER (CBS4) – A Colorado couple struggled mightily to get out of Libya and they finally made it home late on Wednesday.
Ernie and BJ Diller were teaching at the American School in Tripoli until last week. After two flights were canceled, the Dillers had to take a boat to Malta, which was also delayed by bad weather. Finally they flew home Wednesday evening.
CBS4’s Dominic Garcia spoke to the two tired travelers at Denver International Airport right as they got through customs, but he learned their return was bittersweet.
“I’ve got bloodshot eyes, can’t wear my contacts for a while, but I lost about 10 pounds, I think,” Ernie said.
The Diller’s trek, more like journey, has been one setback after the other. It started on their way back to Libya from vacation. The word from friends was everything was calm.
“Then about 2:40 exactly in the morning the phone rang and said, ‘Pack your bags, we’re leaving today,'” Ernie said.
They spent two nights in their school, two on a boat, and a few more in Malta. They were some of the lucky few to make it out.
“There was a lot of stories, particularly at the airport. There was 40,000 people trying to get in. It’s chaos normally, so this was even worse,” Ernie said.
Ernie said a conversation he had with a young man who worked in a store may have foreshadowed the revolt.
“He said Tunisia, Egypt and here in Libya; and he said we need democracy. He said you’re American, what do you think?”
Ernie agreed but was still surprised.
“I think everybody was surprised.”
The Dillers were surprised and sad to leave their students behind. But they’re doing everything they can.
“We’ve set up websites for them, so they’ll be doing stuff on the website and contacting us that way.”
The Dillers want to get back as soon as possible.
“We don’t know what the future is, the next couple of weeks will decide it,” Ernie said. “The likelihood for this year is slim, but the likelihood for the revolution was slim.”
There are some perks to being back home. BJ and Ernie say they are excited to get some sushi, a bagel, and — no surprise — Starbucks.