Dozens of friends, family and community members gathered at Tupelo Regional Airport on Friday afternoon to welcome home the Mantachie boy. He had been in Georgia burn centers since October.
Gabe suffered second- and third-degree burns to more than 60 percent of his body when flames jumped from a burned gas tank and covered him.
Tiffany Wigginton, Gabe’s mother, carried him off a plane at 3 p.m. Friday to a cheering and crying crowd holding welcome home signs. There was even a monkey from the Tupelo Buffalo Park to greet him.
Gabe’s grandfather loaded him into a red wagon labeled “Gabe’s Limo” and took him inside where he was overwhelmed with hugs, kisses and presents.
“We have his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Halloween, all that we have to make up,” said family friend Taylor Reeves.
“And Valentine’s now too,” chimed in Gabe’s grandfather, Jimmy Ensley, or Booger as he is known to family and friends. “But this is our Valentine’s present.”
Gabe turned 3 on Dec. 23 while he was still in the hospital.
He said they will be making up for his missed birthday with a party at Check E. Cheese’s.
“It feels amazing to be home,” his mother said. “He’s doing super good right now. It’s just amazing compared to what he came out of. We still have a long way to go and he’s got to go back for surgery in two weeks and we’ve got follow-up appointments every day for the next month and constant therapy. He’s still got a long way to go, but he’s much better than what he was.”
Some of those at the airport to welcome Gabe had never met him before but have been praying for months.
“We just started praying for him and following him on Facebook,” said Lynn Coley of Shannon. “Every day there are more and more people at work who become interested in Gabe and are praying for him. We have about 20 employees (at Franklin Collection) that are following him every day.”