PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. - 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. "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 b*ullet because Dorian was on track to hit Florida.
"Everyone [in South Florida] was going crazy preparing for the storm," Capron 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 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.
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."