'Nothing is going to separate us again': Bay Area family finally reunited after coronavirus quarantine

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- A mother-daughter trip to Wuhan, China takes an unexpected turn for Bay Area residents.

Ester Tebeka and her 15-year-old daughter Chaya were visiting family in Wuhan, China when the virus hit.

The outbreak led to their evacuation from China, followed by a two-week federal quarantine in Southern California.

RELATED: Coronavirus: Bay Area mom and daughter among the 195 cleared from quarantine

On Tuesday, both were part of the group of 195 people cleared from quarantine at March Air Base Reserve in Riverside County.

Husband and father, Haim Tebeka, was waiting outside, ready to drive his wife and daughter back to the Bay Area.

Meantime, their two younger kids, 13-year-old Rivka, or "Rivky" and 11-year-old Menachem remained with family friends.



They had spent more than two weeks with the Perlov family in San Jose. ABC7 News introduced viewers to Luba Perlov on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, without skipping a beat, Esther, Chaya, and Haim were present during after school pick up at Rivky and Menachem's school in Sunnyvale. This is the first time the family was whole since early January.

After dismissal, Rivky ran into her mother's arms and immediately burst into tears. The emotions and embrace were six weeks in the making.

"She's matured quite a bit," Esther said about Rivky. "My son's still, at his age, he doesn't know how to express what's going on but he really missed us."

"Your hair has gotten so long," she told Menachem. "I'm so sorry!"

Esther explained she left for Wuhan in early January. She went to visit her ailing mother, sick with something other than coronavirus.

RELATED: Coronavirus: How to stop illness from becoming pandemic

Esther believes Rabbi Yosef Levin with Chabad of Greater South Bay had something to do with getting the pair seats on an evacuation plane.

She said Rabbi Levin contacted a Rabbi in Beijing to assist, and the next thing she knew, she and her daughter were on their way back to the U.S.

"We all got very concerned- not just about Esther, but about everybody. About the whole community," Rabbi Levin said. "But then Esther's specific situation was very daunting, and so we tried to get involved to help her."

The pair and the rest of the evacuation group were flown from China to Alaska. They were then taken to the Air Reserve Base.

In that time, Chaya said she realized there could be no experience that comes close to fearing for your life.



"You get a whole new perspective on things. You have a whole new appreciation for everything," she told ABC7 News. "For example, for my family, it's not that I didn't love them before, but you have a whole new sense of... wow!"

Wednesday's "welcome home" brought a mix of emotions.

"I'm back. I'm not sick. So that's the most important thing," Esther said with her hands on Rivky's shoulders.

The family said they're definitely feeling joy, but also sadness seeing how much time was lost.

"There's no one word to describe seeing your family after not being able to see them after such a long time," Rivky told ABC7 News.

For now, the Tebeka's will focus on much-needed family time.

"I'm happy we're reunited," Esther said. "And hopefully nothing is going to separate us again."

See more stories related to coronavirus here.
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.