BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Back here at home, dozens gathered in Niagara Square Sunday afternoon to show support for Israel and the local Jewish community.

For one western New Yorker, Sunday’s prayers held special meaning for him and his family. But a dream vacation to Israel for the Cohen family was cut short as missiles flew in the air over their heads just days into their trip.

“Early Saturday morning, we woke up. We want to Jaffa, or Joppa, whatever you care to call it. Very historical city,” Steve Cohen said. “We looked up in the sky and started to see missiles. I started taking pictures of the missiles as they were being intercepted and my wife had the good sense to say ‘We have to get out of here.’ Then, the air raid sirens went off.”

Cohen and his family went back to their hotel and took cover in a bomb shelter — the building’s stairwell. They stood there for hours, letting others use their phones to text loved ones. Each time the air raid siren would stop, they would go back to their room and attempt to sleep before that cycle started over.

In the meantime, Cohen and his son worked to find a way back to the United States. More than a dozen canceled flights later, his family was on a flight from Dubai to Chicago.

“We had a lot of friends, and still do, who are in Israel,” Cohen said. “We have friends who have kids who are in the military. We have friends who are our age, maybe a little younger, who are in their 50s that are getting recalled for service. We never felt at ease, and oddly enough, Marlee, we don’t feel at ease today.”

On Sunday, Cohen and his wife, Pam, spent the day surrounded by others who know that sense of unease, as well.

“What happened last Saturday in Israel, it is beyond words,” a speaker at the gathering said. “We’ve said it before: Never again. Never again means right now.”

“We will stand up and be proud of who we are,” another speaker said. “Not give in to terror. They came because they saw how pure and precious we are. And we have to take that message and be proud of being Jewish, be proud to be God’s children. And tomorrow should not be like yesterday.”

Monday at 3 p.m., the group is planning a march at UB’s north campus in support in Israel.

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Marlee Tuskes is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.