VIRGINIA BEACH -- "I think that Israel is, like, really beautiful," shared Sarita Madrid. "I don't want to compare it to the United States or Virginia Beach, but the weather was, like, perfect, and it was, like, green grass, blue sky, palm trees."
The Tallwood High School sophomore returned from Israel earlier this week. She's a student in the Global Studies and World Languages Academy.
Wednesday morning, Madrid's thoughts were on the friends she made during her visit, especially the people with whom she stayed.
"I was, like, 'I hope my family back in Modiin is safe,' but, then, I was like, 'Wait. They're not even my family,' and it's just, like, people I've met that I've bonded so much with that I can call them family," explained Madrid.
She and other students in the program stayed in Modiin, a town about halfway between the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It was during a time when tensions between Israel and Hamas flared up as they often do with rocket fire exchanged between the two.
"We heard one of them, and I never thought that it was a bomb," Madrid told 13News. "We were in Tel Aviv when one of them went off, and people were, like, rushing to get out of the mall, and I was, like, we didn't know what was going on. I don't think I knew until the next day."
Madrid said she never felt unsafe during the trip, and she looks forward to returning Israel one day. Recognizing the danger that is part of life there, Madrid has a greater appreciation for the overall safety she and fellow students enjoy in Virginia Beach and in the United States.
"Realizing that that's something teenagers have to go through every day, some teenagers," Madrid said, "you realize that shouldn't be something that you're used to. You shouldn't have to go to the stairs or go in the cellar every day because a bomb's hitting where you live and destroying homes around you."