TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Allison Zur, her husband Ron and their two young children flew from Florida to Israel for a two-week vacation, not knowing a war would break out while they were there.
“We came on Monday. By Saturday, the war broke out,” said Zur who remembers waking up one morning to the sound of air raid sirens and the sight of her husband picking up their child to run to a bomb shelter.
“Those sirens, I tried to be really strong for my kids, but even when I think I’m being strong and telling them it’s a fire alarm and we have to go to a safe space, my body is literally shaking,” Zur recalled.
She tried booking a flight out of Israel, but like many Americans, she soon learned there were very few options.
“I wanted to see our options, there were none. I could not find a flight home, everything was booked,” said Zur.
She soon learned of Tampa-based Project Dynamo. The nonprofit’s CEO and founder, Bryan Stern traveled to Israel right after the conflict began and started to help.
“We knew that Americans would be in trouble. We knew they would have a hard time getting out. We knew through experience that air carriers would start losing their insurance and flights would slow down once Benjamin Netanyahu got on TV and declared war,” said Stern.
This is now the fourth time Stern has traveled to a war zone in the last 26 months to help evacuate people to safety.
“We saw the massacre on TV, we did a spin up, we spun up our case managers, we spun up our portal, we spun up our fund raising efforts, and also spun up a small operations team to get on the ground,” said Stern.
Project Dynamo case manager Jeannine Germain, who is a volunteer, worked seven days in a row, often for 20 hours at a time to help organize a trip home for the Zur family and others.
“It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done to see that plane roll up in front of the doors and see people coming off. I was so thankful that I was able to be a part of this,” said Germain.
On Monday night, a flight with 270 people, including the entire Zur family returned from Israel to Tampa.
Now Allison Zur says she just wants to spend more time with her children.
“I’m very thankful to have them here safe and I really just hold on to them extra, really just hold on to them extra tightly right now,” Zur said.