PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Deanna Linder grew up in Los Angeles and met her husband in Israel as a young adult.
Now, she's sharing her story of fleeing Israel in a time of war with her three children, ages 12,10 and 4. She left behind loved ones, including her husband, who was called to reserve duty.
"I was actually sleeping in Tel Aviv at my sister-in-law's, that's where the sirens were going off," she said. "I knew I had to get myself home. It was very, very scary to get myself in the car. I started hearing the news that there was something else going on besides the rockets and got myself in the car and drove while having to stop every five to 10 minutes, get out of the car, get on the floor, cover my head and basically be a sitting duck waiting for rockets. I got home and hugged my children and what unfolded that day was beyond my worst nightmare."
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She said her husband was called to reserve duty.
"I was home alone with the three kids," Linder said. "I grew up in Los Angeles. My family is in Los Angeles, and my instinct was to get my children out of there. I couldn't imagine them being exposed to the horrors and nightmares and stories."
She described what it was like to make that drive to the airport.
"It was literally like a ghost town. Nobody was on the road," explained Linder. "I was very, very, very scared to do it, but I knew that was pretty much my only opportunity to get out."
She said they got a flight to Miami, spent a few days with close friends, and then made their way to Los Angeles, where her family lives.
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"My heart is just bleeding for my country. My heart is bleeding for my friends, my family," Linder said. "It really just felt like we were refugees leaving, and it was a horrible feeling, a horrible feeling, and when I got to the States and was in the hands of loving friends and family. I felt so privileged to be here, but it's so hard. I left my family and friends there, and my husband is still in the country."
She said she speaks to her husband every so often.
"I tell him we are OK, and he's happy that we are here and he doesn't have to worry about us, and he can focus on serving our country and helping people get in and out of the country that need to," Linder said.
She described a mother's instinct to keep her children safe.
"Today I posted something that it's like a mother shielding her children from darkness. And really, that's the way that mothers fight war is to protect their children, and that's what I saw I was doing is to take my kids out."
Her hope is to return to Israel at some point.
"I wake up every morning wishing I was back in Israel," she said. "We will prevail, and we are strong, and we will get over this, but we need the support of the international community."