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Strangers connect on Facebook, discover they're sisters

CBS News logo CBS News 5/03/2017 Jennifer Earl

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-1-48-40-pm.png © Credit: CBSNews screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-1-48-40-pm.png For her entire life, 35-year-old Nia Hayes knew she had an older half sister, but she had never actually met her — until a chance encounter, what she calls “divine intervention,” led her to straight to 42-year-old Lana Hayes’ doorstep this week.

A few months after starting a new job, a coworker who was throwing a team party offered Nia an invitation. When she accepted, he asked for her email address. That’s when he discovered her last name: Hayes.

“Are you related to a Lana Hayes, by chance?” he asked.

“Not that I know of,” Nia said.

But there was something about Nia that seemed familiar to him, and the next day he pulled her aside and showed her his friend Lana’s Facebook page. After flipping through Lana’s pictures, Nia took a leap of faith and decided to send the stranger message, asking if her father’s name was Lonnie Hayes.

When Lana replied, “Yes,” Nia knew the truth. Lana must be her long-lost sister. 

On Tuesday, the half siblings agreed to meet the next day. It turns out, they have been living “literally around the corner” from one another — less than a mile apart in Indianapolis — for the past 8 years.

Before hugging each other on Wednesday, Nia and Lana gave out a small shriek. They felt an instant connection.

“We have the same laugh. We can’t stop looking at each other without laughing,” Lana told CBS News. “We really do have the same personality. That same bubbly attitude — that’s me and Nia.”

“It’s like picking up where we left off, but we never left off,” Nia added.

The women both knew they had a half sister out there somewhere, but they were too afraid they would upset their siblings and parents by asking too many questions. 

Lana, who grew up in Rushville, Indiana, barely remembers Lonnie. He and her mother divorced when she was just a baby, and she hadn’t heard from him since — well, unless you count the time she once called him, panicked and instantly hung up the phone.

“My mother shielded me and protected me,” Lana said.”I really didn’t get that opportunity to know my father.”

Nia, who grew up in Indianapolis with her four sisters and brother, said she, too, never really asked any questions.

“My father always said you have another half sister, Lana, but when you’re younger you just don’t pay attention to those things,” said Nia, admitting that she had once caught a glimpse of Lana’s baby picture when she was young. “It never was something that we really pressed for.”

Lonnie died suddenly in 2012. It’s unfortunate he never got to witness this moment, Nia said, but he would have been happy with how it all unfolded.

“The way it happened is really kind of his doing,” Nia said. “Maybe it’s his unfinished business. He wanted me to know that [Lana] was real and she existed and she’s living near me. I really feel like dad can really rest more peacefully now.”

After their emotional reunion, Nia anxiously texted her siblings, who are all scattered across the United States. The pair are now working on planning a family reunion so both of their families can finally meet.

“Everybody is really excited,” Nia said. “They’re looking forward to embracing a new sibling.”

“We talk to each other almost every day,” Lana said. “We do have that good connection and I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time getting to know her.”

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