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TikTok Reunites Long-Lost Siblings After 44 Years Apart

Manny Ray Stories /
michigan family reunited tiktok
Facebook via Philip Herrera

"It's a blessing that still seems unreal," Josie confessed. "I am so happy this is finally happening." Sure enough, after uncovering the truth about her long lost siblings, nothing's ever been the same. Here's her remarkable story.

A Family Again

On a fateful day in May 2021, one Michigan family was finally reunited, a journey 40+ years in the making. Only in filling in the missing pieces, they came across a startling discovery: They were never really that far apart.

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Facebook via Josie Herrera

"I'm excited… a lifetime of waiting and wondering is… [finally] over," an emotional Josie recalled. From her siblings' separation decades earlier to their reunion in the most unexpected of places, here's the Herrera family's miraculous journey to coming home.

Meet Maria

As for how 5 estranged siblings found their way back to one another - almost half a century later? Now that's one complicated story. But to understand the events that eventually transpired, let's go back to the very beginning: meet Maria Herrera - the face our journey starts and ends with.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

Back in 1973, when Jerardo and Magdalena Herrera welcomed their baby girl Maria into the world, none of their lives would ever be the same. After all, the teen parents had no idea where to start. So as much love as they had to give, they soon decided to make one of the toughest decisions of their lives.

She Was Separated from Her Mother

What happened? At just 3-years-old, Maria Herrera was put into foster care, a decision her mother felt was best for her future. But while her time in the system may not have been long, it soon had her crossing paths with a very special somebody: Her foster brother.

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Facebook via Josie Herrera

Little did the young girl know that he was actually so much more than that. But we're not there just yet. And in the months that followed, the foster child's life was about to take another turn. As she was about to find out, a family in Lansing, Michigan, was going to change her life forever.

Her New Beginning

As the story goes, just 3 years later, the young child was adopted by a loving couple - the Gray family. They welcomed their new daughter into their home with open arms, no questions asked. But when it came to their little girl? She had lots of them.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

What had happened to her birth parents? Did she have any siblings? It was a thought that'd follow her for the rest of her life. But the more time she spent in the Gray household, the closer she'd actually get to finding those answers. After all, she wasn't the only one they welcomed into their home...

Her Birth Brother

As fate would have it, Mr. and Mrs. Gray's decision to adopt Maria had done so much more than provide her with parental figures - it also gave her a built-in brother. That's right: Maria Herrera wasn't the only child to join the family in their loving Michigan home.

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Facebook via Jerry Gray

Meet Jerry Gray - otherwise known as Maria's biological sibling: long before the Grays adopted the foster child, they'd actually adopted her younger brother. But while the adoptive parents had their sights set on building a future, their 2 children were still looking back at the past.

They Grew Curious About Their Past

As Jerry and Maria's bond continued to grow, so did the questions they had about their past. After all, there was still so much they had yet to learn. Sure, they always knew they had other birth siblings out there - but that didn't make it any easier. In fact, quite the opposite.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

Where were their other 4 siblings? They were only 2/6, a ratio that didn't rule in their favor. Would they ever be able to connect the dots? As the years continued to pass, their hope only continued to diminish. Perhaps that's why Maria soon decided to take matters into her own hands.

She Took a DNA Test

With her questions only growing by the day, Maria Gray decided to take a leap of faith like never before: She took a DNA test. But not just one. The curious young woman got her hands on whatever testing kits she could find. She was going to stop at nothing until she had her answers.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

Unfortunately, her quest for the truth didn't pan out the way she'd planned. Despite turning to several sources for help, her search had gotten her... nowhere. She seemed deflated, almost hopeless. Little did Maria know, she wasn't the only one on a hunt for answers.

Enter Josie

Just a few miles away in Lansing, Michigan, lived the key to all of Maria's questions. Meet Josie, the youngest of the Herrera children. And while she, too, always knew she was 1 of 6, that's about as far as she ever got. Sure, Josie and her older brother, Phil, were raised by their birth mom. But the truth?

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Facebook via Josie Herrera

Magdalena was actually just as desperate for answers. After all, when she said goodbye to her babies back in the 70s, all she had left was their memories. And in a city with a population of almost 120,000? The mother's dreams of reuniting her children seemed to be just that - a dream.

Tragedy Struck

Unfortunately, on August 11, 2015, those dreams were suddenly cut short: tragedy struck the Herrera household. At just 59-years-old, Magdalena Salinas Cortez passed away after battling a sudden illness. "Rest in peace, needing you so much right now," a heartbroken Josie announced of the passing.

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Facebook via Josie Herrera

She felt lost, broken. But as her broken heart began to heal, the mourning daughter came across a new realization. She was going to honor her late mother in the best way possible, something Magdalena was only able to dream about: bringing her family home.

Her Other Siblings

With a newfound purpose, Josie began sifting through old mementos and photo albums. Sure enough, it wasn't long before the memories came flooding back. "I remember growing up and catching my mom crying, and I never understood why," the young woman recalled. "As I got older? I understood..."

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Facebook via Philip Herrera

"My mom had memories of her other kids," Josie recalled. "She tried to go on with her life, but she still remembered them." But while Magdalena was never able to watch her babies grow up, Josie was ready to do things differently. As hard as it was going to be, she was going to find them.

Her Search for Answers

But where would she even start? She was drained, mentally and physically. After chasing down every lead she possibly could, Josie Herrera's newfound quest for answers was beginning to lead her down a rabbit hole. She had to face the facts: She needed help.

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Facebook via Josie Herrera

After much deliberation, Josie decided to take a DNA test, with no idea what to expect. What she did know, though, was that she was one step closer to finding answers. After all, genetics don't lie. But as she waited for her results to come back, she decided to help speed along the process elsewhere…

She Posted a TikTok Video

Sure, she typically preferred to keep her private life, well, private. But Josie Herrera felt backed up against a wall: She had her siblings' first names, their suspected birthdays, and maybe a few childhood pictures. But that was about it. Was she chasing a dead end? She decided to ask the public for help.

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TikTok via @JosieHerrera3

With shaky hands, the young woman opened the TikTok app on her phone as she began assembling her latest video. No matter what awaited her, she was ready to get some answers. Only was she really? What if the truth wasn't what Josie wanted to hear? She took a deep breath and hit the "upload" button. There was no going back now.

“I’m Looking for Four Half-Siblings”

"I'm looking for four half-siblings that were taken away in 1970 and in the late 1970s," Josie announced. Alongside a series of childhood snapshots, the young woman pleaded with her online followers to join her in her quest for the truth. "#Helpourfamily."

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Facebook via Josie Herrera

But would that be enough? After all, Josie only had a mere 70+ followers. The thought of her clip finding its way onto 4 strangers' feeds seemed far-fetched, almost impossible. Sure enough, though, in a remarkable twist of fate... that's exactly what happened.

Maria Saw Her Post

Any guess who we're talking about? On April 19, 2021, as Josie Herrera's cry for help went public, it soon caught the attention of a very special somebody - her birth sister. No, Maria had never planned on stumbling across her long-lost sister. But as she began to scroll through her TikTok feed, fate had other plans.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

All it took was a few seconds for everything to become clear. "She had a picture of my mom with Jerry and I," an emotional Maria recalled. It was remarkable: written out directly in front of her were the answers to everything - names, birthdays, pictures of everyone she once wondered about. She knew exactly what she had to do next.

“I’m Right Here Sis.”

As her heart continued to race, Maria Gray frantically scrolled through her inbox and began typing. She didn't even know what she would say - how she would possibly find the words to sum up all of her emotions. Sure enough, all it took was 2 short sentences.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

"I'm right here sis. I'm right here," an emotional Maria told the stranger behind her screen. It was overwhelming, and then some. "It's just crazy that my… family has been right here in Lansing this whole time," she said. After 40+ years spent wondering, here her long-lost sister was, propped directly in front of her.

Breaking the News

But Josie was just as speechless. For endless years, she and her sister had led separate lives, mere miles apart, something that only existed in movies. But now that they were finally reunited? Their jobs were just getting started: it was time to break the news to their other siblings.

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Facebook via Jerry Gray

"When I told my brother to come over, that I had something important to tell him, I wasn't sure how he was going to take it," Maria recalled of filling Jerry in. But once she finally did? "Instantly, I could see a change in his attitude. His whole demeanor. And it warmed my heart because he's never been like that before," Maria recalled.

Where Was the Rest of Their Family?

With Jerry and Phil now up to date on their sisters' reunion, nothing would ever be the same. The truth was that their discovery had only left them wanting more - they were so close to completing the puzzle, they could practically feel it. And they were going to stop at nothing until they did exactly that.

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Facebook via Josie Herrera

After all, they now had 4/6 of the missing pieces: Maria, Jerry, Philip, and Josie. Only where were their other 2 siblings - their eldest sister and middle brother? Sure enough, as they continued digging, they soon came across another startling discovery.

Their Brother’s Identity

As Josie and her 3 siblings began to compare notes, they decided to try their luck on Google. After figuring out what their brother's last name would likely be, they frantically typed it into the search engine. Only the results propped before them were shocking.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

They couldn't believe their eyes: Their long-lost brother was closer than they ever imagined. He, too, had spent his younger years living in Michigan's capital. But that's not all they found out. Much to their surprise, Maria had actually met him before.

Her Foster Brother, Martin

She was speechless. How could she have missed it? After putting the pieces together, Maria realized her former foster brother Martin was actually her biological brother. It was shocking, almost dizzying. But there was still so much she had yet to learn. She raced to the phone and punched in her foster-birth brother's info.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

It wasn't going to be easy, but she needed answers - her family needed answers, desperately. Maria waited frantically for a voice on the other end to answer. But what was she even going to say? She had no idea what awaited her, but she was ready to find out.

“I Thought It Was a Scam”

It was a typical summer evening when Martin McCallum received the call of a lifetime. He didn't know it yet, but as he reached for the receiver, his life was never going to be the same. After all, how could it be? As he listened to the stranger on the other end of the line explain themselves, his eyes began to well up with tears.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

"I thought it was a scam, to be honest. I really thought it was," he recalled of his initial shock. After all, it couldn't be… could it? Was his birth sister - along with his other siblings - right under his nose after all this time? It was a thought almost too painful to bear. "I told her, 'You have to give me some time,'" he explained.

They Planned To Meet

Sure enough, 60 minutes was all the time it took. As Martin sat down to digest the news, he didn't know what to think. Everything had happened so fast. But if there was one thing he did know? He'd waited 40+ years for this very moment - he wasn't going to waste another second.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

With shaky hands, Martin picked up his cell phone and hit redial. What was he supposed to even say? His mind was racing, his vision blurred. As the now-familiar voice appeared on the other end, he suddenly blurted out 4 scary words: "I'll meet you Thursday."

Reunited at Last

On May 16, 2021, there were no dry eyes in sight as 5/6 of the Herrera family came face to face - 44 years later. "It's a blessing that still seems unreal; I am so happy this is finally happening," Josie gushed. But she wasn't the only one with lots to process.

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Facebook via Philip Herrera

"I always questioned why… Why was I given up for adoption? Was I not loved? Was I not wanted?" Jerry confessed. "Come to find out that wasn't the case. I was very much loved, very much wanted." After endless years of wondering, of feeling misplaced, they now had 5x the love.

“Heartwarming & Heartbreaking at the Same Time”

In the span of mere days, Josie Herrera's clip had cracked a 44 year-long mystery. But in welcoming a slew of answers, the reunited siblings also welcomed a new wave of concerns. At least where Philip was concerned. "My mom couldn't see her kids, so why should I?" he confessed of his initial hesitance. "I just didn't think it was fair."

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Facebook via Philip Herrera

Sure enough, after finally fulfilling his late mother's wish, Philip and his siblings' connection was instant. "It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time," he recalled. After all, they had 40+ years of memories and milestones lost on them. And they weren't the only ones whose lives were changed...

Their Birth Dad

The Herreras' latest chapter had brought out emotions they never even knew they could feel - let alone describe. But in reuniting as a family, they didn't just change the course of their lives: They also changed Jerardo Herrera's - their birth father. How did he feel?

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Facebook via Jerardo A Herrera

From the sounds of it, their estranged father was just as emotional as they were. "I love the way my children respect me after so long - being lost for so many years. It's a great feeling having my babies back. Love you," Mr. Herrera proudly revealed.

No Hard Feelings

Sure enough, Jerardo was feeling all the love. But so were his children. Yes, spending their entire lives apart had brought out emotions like never before. But in doing so, the siblings still harbored no hard feelings for their birth dad - and they wanted to make that known.

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Facebook via Jerry Gray

"I just want you to know that we would never disrespect you, dad," Josie assured. "You [have] given us life." After endless years craving acceptance, she never lost out hope for her father. "All we've ever wanted in our life is to belong somewhere for the longest time… we love you very much, dad, and always will," she added.

The Mystery Continues

44 years later, the Herreras are finally a family again. But that's actually not where this story ends. In case you forgot, there's still one missing piece - something that's been consuming the Herrera family since the 1970s: the identity of their eldest sister.

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Facebook via Josie Herrera

With their family almost whole again, where is their 6th sibling? Was she, too, living under their noses all along? If so, why hadn't they found her? It was a mystery as haunting as it was confusing. Nonetheless, there's one thing the siblings now have that'll help the ongoing investigation: each other.

“Just One More, and We Will Be 100% Complete”

"I feel like it will be an easier task now that there are [more] of us," Phil assured. Sure enough, their eldest sister Janie Lou Salinas still has yet to be found. They believe she was adopted through St. Vincent Catholic Services in Lansing as a baby back in 1970.

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Facebook via Josie Herrera

But despite having only a few clues, the siblings won't stop until they crack this mystery. "Just one more, and we will be 100% complete," Maria gushed. "That's our number one goal right now." And until that day comes? They won't be closing this chapter. "I'm not letting her go," Josie added.

Telling Their Extended Family

With the perfect amount of faith and fate, the Herrera family grew 5x. But what about the rest of their extended family? How do their adoptive families, siblings, parents feel about their latest chapter? Sure enough, they've welcomed it with open arms.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

"We are all so excited to meet you after all these years. Welcome back to the family," Elizabeth, one of many newfound cousins, proudly added. "I wish I would have been able to convince Jerry to look for his parents when the kids were little... I hope that you find the one more missing link," wrote another.

Only Up From Here

Well, what now? Where do they go from here? As Jerry perfectly put it, "I have lost so much - and all at once, got it back." Safe to say, it's been one whirlwind of a ride for the Herrera family. But from the sounds of it? They're actually just getting started.

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Facebook via Maria Gray

"I look forward to building many, many, many more memories," Maria confessed. No matter where the wind takes them next, they'll be taking on life by each other's sides. "From now until the end of time, open arms, open doors, open hearts…" Josie gushed.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

When Magdalena Salinas Cortez put her babies up for adoption back in the 1970s, she had no idea how things would pan out. What she also didn't know, though, was that the bond her family had was simply unbreakable. Which meant that no matter the distance or time, they somehow found a way back to one another - 44 years later.

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Facebook via Philip Herrera

"Oh, how I wish I could see you and hug you one last time. I hope you look down and say, 'That's my daughter I am so proud,'" Maria gushed of her journey to coming home. Safe to say, in fulfilling her late mother's lifelong dream, she went on to change 4 other lives. And we can't wait to see what comes next.