A version of this story originally appeared in NBC Latino.
Nine years ago, on April 2, 2004, 14-year old Gina DeJesus left Wilbur Wright Middle School on a rainy afternoon in Cleveland, Ohio, and never made it home.
On Monday night, she was finally found, and her oldest cousin through her mom’s side, Robert Osorio, says it was a joyous reunion for the Puerto Rican family residing in Cleveland.
“I saw her in the hospital,” says Osorio. “She’s happy—she’s in good spirits. She recognizes everybody by name. She’s just happy to be home.”
He says he remembers her as being an upbeat, free kind of girl.
“‘Is that Robert?,’ was the first thing she said to me,” says Osorio.
He says, visibly, he’s noticed she got skinny over the years.
“She was a medium-size girl, she likes her food,” Osorio says is one of the attributes he remembers vividly of his cousin.
He also says she’s seems ready to go back to her normal life and hang out with her friends.
“She likes to have lots of fun and hang out with her friends, and that’s what she wants to go back to doing again,” says Osorio.
Her parents were initially unavailable for comment, but according to her family member she will go back to living with her mom once the investigation and questioning are done.
DeJesus’ disappearance came close to a year after that of Amanda Berry in the same area. After years the FBI searching, and even being featured on “America’s Most Wanted,” the girls were found Monday, alive, with another missing woman in a house in Cleveland. Police report women had been tied up, and three brothers have been arrested.
According to an article published in 2005 by Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, Nancy Ruiz, Gina’s mother, never gave up hope in believing her daughter is alive. She lined her porch with Christian adornments and religious candles flickering for her daughter. Ruiz worried for her teenage girl who feared the dark and was a finicky eater for nearly a decade.
Last month, DeJesus’ family and community had just marked the nine-year anniversary of Gina’s disappearance.