In 1975, in Bogota, Colombia, 4 year old Nicole Culverhouse was kidnapped by a woman dressed in black. She was placed in a children’s home and adopted in good-faith by a new family in the United States. Almost 40 years later, she still remembered the park where she played with her brother, the stone wall where she sat crying after they argued, her mother’s little food cart with the door, her father’s chin-dimple. She had made a life for herself in the United States: she was happily married and had served in the U.S. Air Force. Yet she had never forgotten her kidnapping and the loss of her entire family and national identity. She didn’t even know her real name.
In 2012, Nicole contacted our blog to ask for help in searching for the park from where she was kidnapped, as she attempted to put together the pieces of her past. Her story touched us so much that it became our mission to not only find the park, but to find her family. Having recently had my own daughter, Maria del Mar, I was especially touched by Nicole’s story and dropped everything to dedicate my time (and the See Colombia team’s time) to searching for potential leads. I spoke to taxi drivers, news reporters, friends and family, in a desperate attempt to help reunite Nicole with the family she had lost. We harnessed the blog, and it’s popularity and reach to maximise our efforts. Eventually, after months of searching we were successful and Nicole was finally reunited with her mother, father, brothers and the rest of her family, in an emotional moment which can be seen in the video below. The hug she shares with her mother, after nearly forty years of waiting and wondering, was the most emotional moment I have ever been involved in.
The video has me in tears without fail every time.
Even more miraculously, prior to finding her family, Nicole was unable to have children. She had tried and tried, but it seemed impossible. However, since that moment in 2012, Nicole has had her first child, a little girl named Miraya Irene, born in October 2013. Irene was Nicole’s real name, given to her by her Colombian mother in Bogota, all those years ago. Mother and baby are healthy and happy, and Nicole’s Colombian brother was even able to fly over to the States recently to pay his sister and new niece a visit. He once told me how guilty he had felt leaving Nicole in the park before her kidnapping; now he is able to be a brother to the sister he never thought he’d see again.
Nicole’s (or Irene’s) story is a remarkable one. Kidnapped so many years ago, she never gave up her faith that one day she would be reunited with her real family and feel whole again. What has happened since has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations. So, congratulations to Nicole, her husband Jonathan, and baby Miraya Irene. The Colombia Travel Blog wishes them the very best for their future as a Colombian-American family.