CLEVELAND, Ohio-- It was the day the DeJesus family wished for since their daughter Gina vanished 9 years ago while walking down a street on Cleveland's west side.
Gina was a young, vibrant teenager at the time, and many wondered if she’d ever return, but Wednesday afternoon she finally came home.
“I got chills in my body when the motorcycles were passing,” said Amarilis Caravallo, one of many people who greeted Gina.
Hundreds of people gathered and stood for hours along Camden Ave. near Gina’s home.
A motorcade escorted her and her family down the street before 3 p.m. and the sprawling crowd erupted in cheers and chants.
Gina exited the vehicle wearing a yellow hoodie, which shielded her face; but she flashed a strong thumbs up for all of her supporters.
Nancy Ruiz, Gina’s mom described the moment when she first saw her daughter.
She said, “My first reaction, when I saw my daughter; the only thing I did is grab her and hug her. I didn’t want to let go."
Nancy called Gina’s return a miracle and said it’s amazing that Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight were also rescued and in good health.
She said, “I had the opportunity to be with all 3 of them; spend time with them. It was awesome; no word to describe it- the beauty of just seeing them.”
Felix DeJesus also spoke to the crowd.
As he addressed the microphones, the crowd chanted his name.
For 9 years he has been a pillar of strength in the neighborhood and within his family, an example of unwavering faith.
He said he never doubted she’d be found alive, “I knew she needed me and I never gave up; never gave up searching for her.”
The family thanked the FBI, Cleveland police, the Guardian Angels, the community, the media and countless other people for their support over the years.
They also pledged to work toward preventing child abductions and human trafficking, because they said it can happen to anyone at any time.
“I thought this problem has happened to me on this joyous day- I got my daughter back – would never have happen to my family but it came and knocked on that door,” said Felix.
When asked about Ariel Castro, the man charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting the girls: Gina’s aunt offered only forgiveness. “Because we are all God’s children, we forgive him but we won’t forget,” said Sandra Ruiz.
But this day wasn’t about him, it was about Gina; who they said is ecstatic to be home.
And they are thrilled to have her back. They say she returned just in time for Mother’s Day.
“I still feel it’s a dream. I still pinch myself, even though she’s in there and will be there; but it’s like a dream,” said Nancy.