Boy, 3, returns to school group hug after surviving Hurricane Dorian
(ABC News) — A 3-year-old boy was welcomed back with a warm embrace by his classmates in Florida after riding out deadly Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.
Makai Simmons had his first day back at school Monday at the Learning City Academy in Pembroke Pines after missing a week of school while he and his mom, Tekara Capron, were stuck in the Bahamas.
“As soon as he walked in, everyone just jumped up,” Capron said of her son’s first day back. “It was really emotional.”
Capron, 22, and Makai had planned on traveling over Labor Day weekend to visit family in the Bahamas, where Capron was born and lived until she was 19. When they left, they thought they were dodging a bullet because Dorian was on track to hit Florida.
“Everyone [in South Florida] was going crazy preparing for the storm,” Capron, 22, told “Good Morning America “We had to rush to the airport and there were huge lines at gas stations.”
By the time they were in the Bahamas, Dorian had become a Category 5 storm and was on track to devastate the island.
Capron stayed put in the Bahamas with her son because leaving was too difficult logistically and, even more so, because she wanted to stay with her mom, sister, grandparents and extended family through the hurricane.
Hurricane Dorian slammed into the Bahamas on Sept. 1, making landfall as a Category 5, with 183 mph buzzsaw-like winds cutting a wide swath of destruction and killing at least 50 people.
Capron and Makai rode out the storm at her grandparents’ house in Freeport. At one point, the door to the house flew open.
“Makai was asking, ‘Is that a monster? Is that a monster?’ because that’s what he thought the storm was,” Capron recalled. “I just had to lie down and hold Makai in my arms.”
Capron’s grandparent’s house withstood the storm, but it was flooded and they lost nearly everything, including most of their clothes and Makai’s toys.
“He handled it very bravely, thankfully,” Capron added. “He was like, ‘It’s OK, Mommy.'”
When Capron told Makai that some people, including children, were trapped after the hurricane, Makai put on a Spiderman costume that survived the storm and offered to help.
“He said, ‘Mommy I have to go save the children,'” recalled Capron, who also spoke with ABC station WPLG.
Capron and Makai were able to board a cruise ship back to the U.S. on Friday evening, after waiting in line for 13 hours, she said.
They were greeted in Palm Beach by strangers with water and food and clothing and even Lyft drivers offering free rides.
“The love we got when we got back to the U.S. was unbelievable,” Capron said. “I just want people to know that the Bahamas is a nation with loving people and a rich culture. We will gladly accept any help that anybody can give, and are extremely grateful for everyone who has been so loving.”
Capron said the joyful welcome Makai got on his first day back at school Monday was “something he needed, and I needed it too.”
She shared the video on her Instagram account, where it already has more than 11,000 views. Capron said her grandmother, still in the Bahamas, called her crying after watching the video of her great-grandson.
“Right now, we’re seeing so much trauma, so to see the love that kids are showing, I thought that was beautiful,” she said. “The rest of the world needed to see that too, especially the Bahamas.”
ABC News’ Fergal Gallagher contributed to this report.