PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — As we watch the horror unfold in Israel, it's even more painful for South Florida families who have loved ones in that country.
One Palm Beach County family recently hosted an Israeli exchange student in their home and now says a part of their heart is in the war-torn country.
"You get that one message and your heart can start again for a while. For a few minutes anyway," Terry Flenniken said.
Flenniken is living every day for updates from Agam, an Israeli exchange student who became a part of his family while living with them over the past year.
"What did she add to your house?" WPTV journalist Stephanie Susskind asked Flenniken.
"She added a lot. A brightness in the morning, even on the days when the rest of us were grumpy in the morning, and things like that. She was a ray of sunshine for us," Flenniken answered.
The 19-year-old immersed herself in the Flenniken family and American culture, until she returned home in August.
"What was it like when she went back to Israel" Susskind asked Flenniken.
"It left an empty spot in our house and it was heartbreaking for a while. But we were proud of the enthusiasm and zeal they have for what they’re doing," Flenniken replied.
Agam joined the Israel Defense Forces as planned, only to see her homeland violently attacked weeks later.
"This was always, in that country, something you know can happen, but not at this extent and this soon," Flenniken said.
For now, Flenniken finds comfort knowing Agam is safe and giving her adopted parents updates whenever she can.
"It’s usually in the middle of the night with the way our timing is, but that’s not much of a problem because we haven’t slept well the past couple of days anyway," Flenniken said.
Flenniken added that he now understands what parents feel like who have children fighting overseas, and hopes he still gets to visit Agam as planned next summer.
"I'd like the world to be a somewhat better place by then. But everything has to work itself out first," Flenniken said.