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'Miracle kid' David Rothenberg, the Brooklyn boy who was...

By CATHERINE MARONEY

NEW YORK -- 'Miracle kid' David Rothenberg, the Brooklyn boy who was set ablaze by his father and burned over 90 percent of his body, returned home to a hero's welcome but still faces up to 15 years of surgery and treatment.

About 200 people greeted the 7-year-old boy Friday in front of his walkup apartment building and a large white banner draped from fire escapes said: 'You're one special kid, David. We're glad to have you home.'

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David, sporting a baseball cap given to him Reggie Jackson, walked haltingly from a black limousine to the door as well-wishers, including classmates from his school, cheered and applauded.

One of the well-wishers, Rivelene Saa, 6, said he could not wait to see his playmate.

'I have missed David. When can he come out so we can play?' he asked.

Once inside his apartment, David opened stacks of gifts, including a towel with 'To David The Miracle Kid' printed on it, and then settled down to pursue his favorite past time -- a game of Pac-Man.

'He got 18,000 points,' said Serena Arrabito, 13, a friend and neighbor. 'That's really good. He beat all of us.'

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The youngster's ordeal was reflected in his badly scarred and reddened face, but his mother, Marie Rothenberg, said David seemed to have only one worry.

'He was little afraid to see what his friends would think of him,' she said.

David arrived at LaGuardia Airport Friday morning from Boston, where he underwent months of treatment for his burns at Shriners Burns Institute.

Because of the severity of his burns -- which permanently altered his appearance -- David will have to make frequent trips back to the Boston hospital during the next 10 to 15 years for checkups and possible cosmetic surgery. He is scheduled to return to Shriners in six weeks for his first check-up.

'He's a miraculous and wonderful little boy,' said Mrs. Rothenberg who is engaged to a New York City police officer. 'I have gotten a lot of strength from David. I have no doubt in my mind that he'll come through this like a champ.'

David's father, Charles, is serving a 15-year prison term in California for pouring kerosene over his son while he slept in a motel and setting him on fire in March.

The father told authorities he burned his son because he was afraid the mother would not allow him to see the boy again. David was visiting his father at the time. The couple is divorced.

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Mrs. Rothenberg said her son was confused about his father.

'He'll have mixed emotions on that topic for many years to come. Recently he voiced an opinion that he does not want to see his father and wished he (the father) were dead,' she said.

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