Elian Gonzalez Recalls the Moment Captured in Iconic Photo of Federal Raid

PHOTO: Elian Gonzalez is held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, one of the two men who rescued the boy from the ocean, right, as government officials search the home of Lazaro Gonzalez for the young boy, April 22, 2000, in Miami.PlayAlan Diaz/AP Photo
WATCH Elian Gonzalez Describes the Fear He Felt in Famous Photo

It’s that famous photo seared into the minds of the American public.

Six-year-old Elian Gonzalez in the arms of Donato Dalrymple, one of the fishermen who had rescued him from the ocean, as federal marshals stormed into his Miami family's home, weapons drawn, to forcibly return the boy to his father and Cuba.

Today, Elian Gonzalez, now 21 years old and speaking exclusively with ABC News 15 years after returning home, recounts the moment those agents entered.

“When I saw a person with a weapon. I got scared. I didn't understand what they wanted with me, didn't know what was going on,” he recalled. “And I didn't know as to what was happening -- this litigation between my father and my uncles. But when the marshal took me in her arms and she took me to the vehicle, the first thing she said to me was 'We are friends of your dad. We are going to take you with your dad.' While after such a great impact, this is not going to go away. But I felt relieved, total relieved."

Gonzalez was found floating off of Florida's coast in 1999, after the boat he was in with his mother capsized. Gonzalez stayed with his uncle in Miami, but the 6-year-old boy soon found himself at the center of a tug of war between Cuba and the United States over whether he should remain in this country or be returned to his father in Cuba.

Gonzalez added he knew his dad wouldn’t hurt him, so he knew the agents “were not going to hurt me. They were not going to do anything wrong to me.”

“And it wasn’t until the moment I saw my dad and hugged him that I realized that everything was done -- that what they were saying was true and that I was able to calm down finally,” he said.

PHOTO: ABCs Jim Avila speaks with Elian Gonzalez and his father Juan Miguel in an exclusive interview in 2015. ABC News
ABC's Jim Avila speaks with Elian Gonzalez and his father Juan Miguel in an exclusive interview in 2015.

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