Source: NY Daily News
Boy, 10, was living in Ivory Coast with relatives since 2003.
WHEN THE SON he had not seen for eight years stepped into the arrivals hall at Kennedy Airport, cabbie Eugene Pothy sobbed and gripped the railing.
He had waited so long for this moment — the end of a wrenching international custody battle — and when he finally hugged the boy, it seemed he might never let go.
As that first embrace ended, 10-year-old Philippe-Emmanuel looked up at a father he knew only from photographs, smiled shyly, and asked in French, “Why are you crying?“
“Just for you,“ Pothy said.
Pothy hadn’t seen Philippe-Emmanuel since the boy’s mother sent him to the Ivory Coast to visit her relatives in 2003. He never returned.
On Tuesday, the cabbie kept shaking his head in disbelief that the ordeal had a happy ending.
“Eight years. Eight years,” he said.
“This is all I have been hoping for for eight years. The day has come.”
Philippe-Emmanuel seemed taken aback by the outpouring.
With his dad translating for him, he said he felt “happy.”
“I recognize my dad from photos. From Facebook, I knew him,” he said.
Pothy, 46, who lives in East Orange, N.J., and works in the city, first told his story of losing his son to the Daily News last November.
After the boy did not return from Africa, Pothy failed for years to convince the child’s mother and her family that he should be raised in America.
Last spring, he contacted the State Department, which opened a case but told him it would be difficult for them to take action, because the Ivory Coast isn’t part of the Hague Convention on International Parental Child Abduction.
The agency also cautioned him against flying there to get the boy himself, if he could get a U.S. judge to sign a order, because foreign courts often do not recognize American custody rules.
The case took a promising turn when Pothy met with self-styled anti-abduction activist Peter Thomas Senese before a December hearing on the case in New Jersey Superior Court.
Pothy said Senese brokered an agreement with the boy’s mother, Judith Any-Grah, that stipulated his return.
The judge approved it and Any-Grah’s family overseas complied.
The boy will now live with Pothy, who already has residential custody of his 6-year-old sister, but his mom will have joint custody.
Any-Grah was also at the airport Tuesday, waiting to see the boy she had not seen in eight years, either.
She told The News that when she sent Philippe-Emmanuel to live with her sister in 2003, she was overwhelmed as a mom and college student.
“I asked her to raise him for me,” she said.
She claimed Pothy agreed it was best at the time. He says he expected his son to be gone only six months.
“Now, I can do my job,” he said. “I can be his dad.”
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