ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – The town of Roswell is celebrating the return of Nathaniel Tavarez.
The boy, 12, was one of two students shot at Berrendo Middle School on Jan. 14.
He suffered the worst injuries of the victims and now, after a number of surgeries, is finally back home.
“We’re just waiting for him to come,” said Nathaniel’s aunt, Lillie Chavez.
“We can hardly wait,” said his aunt, Mary Sanchez. “We’ve been praying and praying for him.”
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Roswell to welcome Nathaniel. The whole time, he was grinning from ear to ear. He even showed off some dance moves.
“I’m very excited. He’s my best friend. I gave him the nickname smiley,” said Adalita Garcia.
Nathaniel was hit in the face, neck and chest with birdshot when police say Mason Campbell, 12, started shooting at Berrendo Middle School in January.
“Very, very hard time for all of us. It’s just a very hard time,” Sanchez said.
But Friday was a celebration as friends and family welcomed Nathaniel home.
Kendal Sanders, 13, was also shot in the arm, was there Friday as Nathaniel was led through town by local law enforcement.
For weeks, Nathaniel had been recovering at a Dallas rehab center. His loved ones said they were worried about his recovery.
Doctors had said he might not ever see again, but on Wednesday, he had eye surgery and now he can see shapes in his right eye and lights and shadows in his left.
His family is confident, he will only get better.
“Eventually he’ll see, with time,” Sanchez said.
“He is a miracle boy,” said Nathaniel’s aunt, Lucy Miranda.
His family says they’re thankful for everyone’s support.
“It’s going to be hard on him, but I believe everybody is standing behind him and loving him and everything will work out and eventually he will see,’ said Sanchez.
Even those who didn’t know Nathaniel all that well, now see him as an inspiration.
“It makes me happy that he has made it this far,” Karen Carvajal said. “He is really strong.”
Nathaniel’s family says he will recover at home in Roswell, but will go to Texas for follow-up appointments.
They said Nathaniel misses his friends and wants to get back to Berrendo Middle School as soon as possible.
The accused shooter, 12-year-old Mason Campbell, is still locked up at the Chaves County Juvenile Detention Center.