Local News

Earthquake reunites adopted woman with Chilean family

Posted June 4, 2010 1:28 p.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2010 8:13 p.m. EDT

— A devastating earthquake that struck Chile in February prompted an 19-year-old adopted woman living in Apex to seek out her biological mother and family.

Jeanine LaDue, 19, was born in Antofagasta, Chile, but was adopted by an American family when she was 3 months old.

When the 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck her native country and killed more than 500 people, LaDue's first thoughts were on the biological family she had never met.

"I just wanted to make sure everyone was OK," she said.

First, LaDue scoured websites for locating quake survivors and victims, but weeks of searching turned up nothing. Then she remembered a friend who still lived in Chile and called him for help.

"He tells me his brother-in-law is in the police force down there, so it should be pretty easy for him to find information," LaDue said. "A couple days later, he sent me pictures of my biological family."

After 19 years, LaDue got her first look at her mother and her sister, Roxana.

"I just couldn't stop smiling when I first got the pictures. I could see my mom and how I looked just like her," she said.

Bad news, however, accompanied the pictures. LaDue learned that her mother passed away from an illness in 1998.

"I was disappointed. I was actually more comforted, because I knew where she was," she said.

LaDue also got an unexpected surprise: a picture of a young man named Bryan, who was still in an orphanage.

"This is my little brother. I didn't know I had a brother before," she said.

LaDue said she plans to write to her siblings and hopes one day to save enough money to visit them in Chile.

"I had this empty space inside of me," she said. "As soon as I found that information – even if I wouldn't have had the pictures – that space was filled."