CHICAGO, IL — After a week of hearing the soundtrack of rockets and missiles in Israel, the sights and sounds at Chicago's O'Hare airport were a welcome change for Wisconsinites on their last leg home.
A church group from Kenosha and a man from Madison were in Israel when the fighting started. After several anxious days, on Friday they were back home.
“I got to the gate, I sat down, and I started crying,” said Scott Forester.
Forester, who lives in Madison, says after several canceled bookings finding a flight home was nearly impossible.
“Tuesday I sat at my laptop for four or five hours,” he recalled.
He finally found a flight that took him from Israel to Berlin, to Washington, and finally to Chicago.
But his homecoming was not without mixed emotions.
“I am very grateful to be here but also my heart is just heavy and sad because of the people that I left behind,” he said.
“The people that have died, the people that are wounded, the people that are missing and their families, none of them are as lucky as I am to be here.”
Forester wasn't the only one thankful to be back in the Midwest.
33 Kenosha parishioners from St. Mary's and St. Mark's Catholic Churches getting off a 13-and-a-half-hour flight from Jordan after quickly leaving Israel.
Father Roman Stikel says prayers from people in Wisconsin helped them through this traumatic trek.
“I think all of us are very happy to be home,” Stikel said. “As we were making this somewhat trying and difficult journey from Bethlehem to Jordan, we could feel the wind of the prayers of the archdiocese.”
Both travelers agree the tension in Israel was like nothing they've experienced before.
“If we would've stayed another 8 hours it would've been very difficult,” Strikel said. “But there was a point when we finally made it to Jordan I can say we felt safe.”
“There’s multiple apps to track the rockets- like how to track the weather!” Forester explained. “And as soon as I got off the plane I deleted it. I didn't want to think about it anymore.”
A long tiring week finally ended back on U.S. soil.