For her family, it’s nothing short of a miracle.
Georgina “Gina” DeJesus was found alive in Cleveland after being held captive for nearly a decade less than two miles away from her home. She’s now out of the hospital.
DeJesus, 23, was one of three women kidnapped for nearly a decade in the same home, apparently owned by Ariel Castro. He and his two brothers were arrested Tuesday in connection with the case.
“If you don’t believe in miracles, I suggest you think again, because it does happen,” Sandra Ruiz, DeJesus’s aunt, said at a press conference Tuesday in front of the family home, where a sign read: “Welcome Home Gina.”
Ruiz could hardly contain her joy.
“It’s just unbelievable, these girls, these women, are so strong, stronger than I … and they all have a positive attitude,” said Sandra, noting that her niece’s reappearance came on the tenth anniversary of her grandmother’s death.
DeJesus joined Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry as the kidnapped trio released from the hospital and are now in an undisclosed Cleveland suburb.
The three women were 14, 16, and 20 respectfully when they vanished in three separate incidents in Cleveland from 2002 to 2004. They were found Monday after Berry escaped the house and rushed to a neighbor’s house, making a frantic 911 call.
Police identified the three suspects as brothers Castro, 52, Pedro Castro, 54 and Onil Castro, 50.
On April 2, 2004, then 14-year-old DeJesus disappeared after walking home from Wilbur Wright Middle School on Lorain Avenue in Cleveland alongside her best friend, Arlene Castro.
For nine years, DeJesus’s parents, Nancy and Felix, did not lose hope of finding their little girl alive, holding prayer vigils every year on the anniversary of her disappearance and on her birthday. They hung yellow ribbons and missing-person posters all over the neighborhood.
Relatives remain in disbelief over just how close Gina DeJesus was all those years she went missing. Sheila Figaro, DeJesus’s cousin, told Fox News Latino that one of the kidnapped girl’s aunt owned a home less than a half-mile away from the Castro home where she was held captive.
“I can only imagine how that feel, to have traveled that area every single day,” Figaro said. “You feel helpless and accountable.”
Some relatives and neighbors even saw Ariel Castro at local vigils and memorials held by DeJesus’s family to remember the missing girl.
“If I could recall I have seen him twice,” Robert Osario, DeJesus’ cousin, told Fox 8. “If they go through the footage of all the vigils…I have seen him twice there."
The proximity of the alleged kidnappers is enough to make another relative, Luis Soto, utterly sick.
“I’m pissed. I’m really pissed because he was a friend of the family,” Soto, told Fox News 8 in Cleveland, about suspected kidnapper Castro.“I’ve seen him around at Puerto Rican parades and stuff like that.
“I want to bust down and cry right now,” Soto added.
DeJesus is described by Figaro as a bit in shock, in good spirits, and anxious to be reunited with her parents, cousins and extended family.
Caitlin Figaro, DeJesus’s cousin, remembered playing with her 14-year-old cousin Gina during family events. After she went missing, Caitlin created a week-long cheerleading camp over the summer in Gina’s honor to help keep kids off the streets.
“I’m going to give her a huge hug. I’m speechless really. I’m just happy that she’s alive,” Caitlin Figaro told Fox News Latino, noting she planned to see Gina on Wednesday.
Gina DeJesus’s aunt, Sandra Ruiz, said the family’s efforts to maintain hope paled in comparison to the ordeal the captive women went through.
“What we’ve done in ten years, is nothing compared to what those women have done together to survive,” she said, then issued a warning:
“We need to watch out for all kids. Watch who your neighbor is because you never know.”
Bryan Llenas currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC) and a reporter for Fox News Latino (FNL). He joined FNL in September 2010 and assumed the added position of FNC correspondent in July 2013.