Almost two years ago, a woman from Alabama called 12, asking for help in finding her birth mother.
Rita Bradford was born in Virginia but adopted by a military family and raised in Alabama.
Adoption records are sealed in this state, so, we were hitting a brick wall - that is, until we turned to the NBC12 Facebook page.
Rita Bradford has amassed a mountain of paperwork in her 15-year search for her birth parents - but in all that time, it really didn't reveal very much. Rita was born at Riverside Shore Hospital in Northhampton County, Virginia in January of 1975. Her adopted father was stationed in the military, not far from there. At just a few weeks old, Rita moved with her adoptive parents to Alabama, where she's been ever since.
"It was a very long journey, but no - I was determined, I would never give up," said Rita.
Rita called NBC12 for help about 2 years ago, assuming her biological family was still somewhere in Virginia. Since her birth records are sealed, we weren't getting much traction either, until Rita posted a picture on Facebook, which I shared on the NBC12 Facebook page. In the picture, Rita is holding up cards that read, "Please help!" She explains she's trying to find her birth family, and asks people to "like" and "share." More than 5,000 of you did - the most ever on our page.
Within two days, we had major leads.
"I got messages on Facebook like crazy, like thousands - I couldn't answer them all," said Rita.
On a tip - I found a picture on ancestry.com in an obituary file - Rita's birth mother had died 7 years ago. I sent her the photograph, but even as a little girl, Rita always had a gut instinct that she had a brother - and she did: a former Secret Service agent who now works for the state department.
The voicemail she left at his home rattled him to the core.
"There's just no way possible," said Greg. "I don't have a sister... I've got one sister, her name is Shannon. I don't have a younger sister. I would know about that."
But then, as he listened to the message, over and over - a flashback. Christmas - he was just six. His mom put three little porcelain figurines on the mantle next to the stockings. There was a little boy, in blue pajamas, kneeling and praying - and two little girls, in pink pajamas, doing the same:
"I know who the boy was - me, and the other little girl is my sister Shannon, but I don't know who this third one is," said Greg. "Why would my mom have three? There's only two kids. Why would my mom have three of them with a name on it and a birth date, and so I asked mom, 'who's the third little girl?' Mom said, 'when you're old enough, I'll tell you.'"
But his mother never did, and Greg never thought about it again - until that moment. That's when he realized the woman on the voicemail was his sister.
"I'm a pretty big guy. I don't really show my emotions a whole lot, but even something like that, you can't help but cry when you hear something like that," said Greg.
"We both cried, I couldn't stop," said Rita. "It's a life changing experience. Really, I'm tickled to death."
Rita and her brother will meet face to face, for the first time, this Saturday at her home in Alabama.
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