CLEVELAND — A true survivor made a public appearance on Sunday and enjoyed her city at the same time.
Gina DeJesus, 23, surprised many by attending the Puerto Rican Parade and Latino Fest.
“I was like, ‘wow, that’s Gina DeJesus. I’ve gotta take her picture,'” said Renee Jackson, who caught a glimpse of DeJesus at the parade.
Seeing the young survivor was an emotional experience for many.
DeJesus was part of the downtown Cleveland parade, riding with her family as part of the Janet Garcia for City Council group.
DeJesus sat on top of the vehicle, waving at parade watchers along the route.
“It was very beautiful. I got chills when I saw her on top of the car,” said Vivian Prez, who watched the parade.
“I got emotional when I saw her. I got a granddaughter back there, looked like she was about to cry; it was just very emotional,” said Aida Cruz, who sat with her family during the parade.
FOX 8 spent some time with the DeJesus family before the parade and they gave permission for Gina’s picture to be taken.
“It was just a blessing to see her,” Jones said.
Many people along the parade route said it was truly amazing to see the young woman at the event, smiling and laughing. Many were calling her an inspiration to the city of Cleveland because she represents so much hope.
Back on May 6, DeJesus, Amanda Berry, 27, and Michelle Knight, 32, were freed from a Seymour Avenue home. They were held against their will in that home for about a decade.
“It was a blessing and the biggest miracle in the city of Cleveland,” said Felix DeJesus, Gina’s father.
Mr. DeJesus spoke at the Latino Fest after Sunday’s parade with his wife by his side. He let the public know how all three women are doing now.
“Gina, Michelle and Amanda are doing beautiful,” DeJesus said.
He also went on to say that the work is far from over when it comes to Ohio’s missing people. Several at the festival held up signs of the missing as a reminder that they are still out there and need to be found.
“Our work is not done. We have more beautiful children out there who need our help,” DeJesus said. “We need to keep our eyes and ears open. Don’t let these children go in vain.”