'A big piece of my heart got to come home:' Family reunites after a decade apart

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The far end of the B terminal at the Myrtle Beach International Airport was closed Tuesday night for a very special reunion that was shared live on national television.

The day had come for a family to finally be whole again after 10 years apart.

"Ten years is a long time to wait to get to know your own children," Gavin MacDougall said.

MacDougall was anxious and excited as he waited in the terminal for his two daughters. The oldest, Keara, was 2 years old the last time he saw her. His youngest daughter, Ayla, was still in her mother's belly when the father said she vanished with Keara.

"So I went from being a family man with one expected on the way, to just being at the house by myself trying to figure out where my family was," MacDougall said.

One day, he came home and they were gone. MacDougall searched for them with no success, and because he couldn't prove to police there was no ill intent, he didn't receive much assistance.

It was three years ago that MacDougall said he made contact with them for the first time. Then last month, his world turned upside down.

"It was in April. I got a message from the girls' grandmother, Tammy, asking me if I'd be willing to take them in because they've been asking about me and want to get to know their dad," MacDougall said.

"I had every emotion. I couldn't even put them together on how I was feeling at that time. I was terrified, nervous, excited, happy," said his wife, Cassie.

Gavin and Cassie have two young boys together, Connor and William. Both wanted to bring MacDougall's girls home to make them a family of six. That emotional reunion happened Tuesday, captured live on the TLC Network for its four-night series, "This is Life Live."

Cassie said the family started a GoFundMe page months ago to help with the family's legal costs to get the girls. That's how TLC found their story.

The family has been talking every night via FaceTime.

"I used to send them something every night on how many wake-ups it was until we were going to meet. So it said zero wake-ups (Tuesday) because we're here!" Cassie said happily.

The family met with smiles, tears and hugs at the end of the tarmac.

Keara and Ayla said they're beyond excited for their new chapter with their dad.  They also said they're excited to be big sisters to Connor and William.

Ayla said she wants to teach Connor to talk.

Newly parents of four, Gavin and Cassie said bunk beds have been ordered for their Surfside Beach home and they plan to make a purchase for a larger Sedan.

"It was exhilarating, it really was. I couldn't begin to describe it. It was like a giant weight was lifted off my shoulders and a big piece of my heart got to come home," MacDougall said.

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