It should have been the most special moment of 18-year-old Sarai Ruiz’s life.
The Texas high school senior stood at her graduation ceremony on Friday, May 24 and knew that the one person missing from the audience was her father, Esteban Ruiz, who was deported from the United States when she was 4 years old, NBC News reports.
Ruiz lives with both her parents in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, but was able to cross the border bridge to attend Hector J. Garcia Early College High School.
“As I looked over at my mom that day as my principal was speaking, I couldn’t help but to see other parents there for their kids, and it wasn’t just a mom,” Ruiz told the news outlet. “It was mom and dad, or mom and dad and grandma and grandpa. And it really did hit home for me. I knew that my dad couldn’t be there.”
Right after the ceremony, Ruiz went straight to see her father on the border bridge between the U.S. and Mexico, and the emotional moment she captured on camera and posted on Facebook went viral.
“I gave him a hug and I just started to cry a lot,” she said. “It’s like I fulfilled the dreams of both my mom and dad to find better opportunities that they didn’t have.”
On Saturday, May 25, Ruiz posted on Facebook, “I tried so hard not to cry when we saluted our parents knowing that only my mom was there. I knew my father would never see me walk to get my diploma but today I’d thought I’d surprise him by crossing the bridge so he could see me with my cap and gown.“
She added: “I have to say that all my life I wondered if my dad would ever see me graduate..it started as not seeing him on Father’s Day then it continued to be a spiral of downhill emotions where I would only see him once a year.. and then things changed I moved to Laredo..and I got to see him every weekend..we bought a house and now I’d see him every day..today I can say that although we may have lost father and daughter time..I will always be grateful for his sacrifice to put his life at risk many times just to see me again.. gracias por todo papá.”
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