NBC Nightly News talked Wednesday with Mary Thornberry, a 76-year-old native Texan who moved to Cairo years ago to study ancient Egyptian history (her segment begins above at 20:30). She now has an apartment overlooking Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of many of the violent protests.
The apartment is typically a great find — just not in the middle of all the turmoil. Thornberry said she knew she was in danger Wednesday as the violence in the streets intensified, and 12 unknown men suddenly barged their way into her building, shattering the glass on her front door as they tried to reach inside and steal the key.
But Thornberry was able to fend them off, and has now been keeping the key on her body ever since.
(More on TIME.com: See our complete coverage: The Middle East in Revolt)
The situation looks grim for Thornberry, as the sound of gunfire has become a permanent fixture of the erupting city. But she told Brian Williams that she isn’t leaving her home to the whims of vandals. “I really don’t want to leave because my place will be vandalized, and that’s my home,” she said. “I just wish someone would come and take these thugs away and let me go on with my life.”
She says she will stay and fight, defending herself the best she can: “I have a sharp knife, I have hot water, I have my walking cane and I have my rolling pin,” she told Brian Williams. “So that’s my armory.”
But no matter how determined Thornberry is to save her home, the U.S. government is now urging her to abandon it. Wednesday morning, the U.S. State Department urged all Americans to leave the country as quickly as possible.
While the department is making charter flights available to citizens, in a bid to escape the violence, the program could be coming to an end soon. Which means it might be now or never for Thornberry.
(More on TIME.com: See pictures of the unrest in Cairo)