As she drove away from Kibbutz Nahal Oz on Thursday evening with her daughter Tom, 13, safely in the car, Karen Doron-Katz knew full well that her day might have ended differently – tragically differently.
Tom was among several dozen children lucky enough to be dropped off before an anti-tank missile hit their yellow school bus, which was by then all but empty save for the driver and a 16-year-old boy.
IAF strikes Gaza as Hamas announces immediate cease-fire
Iron Dome works in combat, intercepts Katyusha rocket
Analysis: A callous escalation
The two victims were flown by helicopter to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment.
Doron Katz told The Jerusalem Post she realizes the fate of her child hung on such small details as how long the bus stood in traffic, or the amount of time it took the children to board.
“If the trip had taken longer, if they had stopped along the way, it could have all ended differently; she could have died,” Doron- Katz said.
At the time of the attack, Doron- Katz was in her car with two of her children, ages 10 and 11, on her way home from a doctor’s appointment in Ashkelon. Her one-year-old was in the kibbutz nursery.
Tom called her from the kibbutz to say that she had heard a large explosion that scared her.
Neither of them immediately understood that the target was the bus that Tom had just been on.
“Don’t worry, we will be home any moment,” Doron-Katz told her daughter.
But as Doron-Katz got close to the kibbutz, soldiers stopped her car and explained that the area around her home was now a closed military zone.
She stood there with other residents, whose cars formed a line on the road, and journalists who wanted to get to the scene.
Speaking with the waiting crowd, she pieced together the events of the afternoon.
Wanting to be with Tom and her baby, she called a friend who lived nearby and asked her to come to the intersection to pick up her 10- and 11-year-olds. Then she moved her car to the side of the road and parked.
Doron-Katz said she then hitched a ride to the kibbutz on a military jeep.
Given that her husband was out of the country, her plan had been to leave Friday to spend the weekend with her in-laws.
Fearing the mortar barrage would continue overnight, she decided to take her children and leave early.
Hours after the attack, Yanina Barnea of Kibbutz Nahal Oz still sat in the safe room in her home with her three-year-old son Inbar and her husband, Eran.
She was at home when she heard a missile shriek through the air, followed by the sound of the explosion.
Her husband was at work and Inbar was in day-care.
Slowly, from the media and phone calls, she learned what had happened.
The kibbutz decided to leave the children in day-care until 7 p.m. because the day-care center is protected from rockets.
“They played music for them and tried to shield them from what was happening,” Barnea said.
Even though Inbar was safe, she called the school anyway, just to check in with the teacher.
Her husband works outside the kibbutz, she said, and it took him a long time to come home because of the closed roads in the area, Barnea said.
At 7:45 p.m. when she spoke with the Post over the telephone, the three of them were in Inbar’s room, which doubles as their safe room.
Rockets have been falling in the area for 10 years, so the situation is not a new one, she said.
People in the kibbutz move forward with their lives despite the attacks, Barnea said.
“But this one marked an escalation. Something has changed. But we will learn how to deal with it,” she said.