By LEE TOLLIVER
The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — The moment gave Katey Bennett goosebumps.
Scrolling through the pictures on Amanda Dunford’s Facebook page, Bennett saw herself with people she didn’t know, in places she’d never been. Days before, she had never even heard of Dunford. Now she was staring at a face identical to her own.
Then a message popped up.
It was Dunford.
“We’re sisters,” it read. “Twin sisters.”
DNA testing had brought the 33-year-olds together for the first time since they were adopted as babies by different families.
For Dunford, a Navy chief stationed in Virginia Beach, it ended years of wondering, guessing and agonizing about where her sister was, who she was, or if she was still alive.
“My parents told me when I was 7 or 8 that I had a twin sister,” Dunford said.
Bennett, who works at the Beverly Hills Hotel in California, was shocked. She had no clue she had a twin.
“I always wondered about things,” Bennett said, like her birth parents and whether she had any siblings. “But I just can’t imagine what the years must have been like for Amanda, knowing but not knowing. This is such a relief for her.”
The two were dropped off at a Seoul, South Korea orphanage as infants. Bennett was adopted within weeks, while Dunford stayed until she was 2. Bennett grew up in Los Angeles, Dunford in Arizona.
But a trip to the doctor by Dunford, coincidental 23andMe’s Ancestry Service DNA tests, and a huge stroke of luck changed both their worlds.
Dunford was getting a routine medical procedure done, but didn’t have any background information for the medical forms.
She used the genetic tests — which reveal health and ancestry information — to get a few answers. Meanwhile, months later, Bennett and her adopted parents all decided to take the test just out of curiosity.
“I wanted to know how Korean I was,” Bennett said. “Turns out it’s only 53 percent, with some Chinese and Japanese.”
Then she read the family results, where the test usually shows possible distant cousins.
“Something like 180 relatives of various degrees of separation,” she said. “And one that said I had a 23-out-of-23 chromosome match with someone.
“It said I had a twin sister.”
After finding out about each other, the two talked on social media for weeks before the “Today Show” brought them together in New York just before Thanksgiving.
“I knew she was there and she knew I was there. We’d been texting back and forth,” Dunford said. “It was an odd experience. They did such a good job of keeping us apart until it was time to meet.”
When the curtain was drawn and the two finally saw each other in the flesh, surprisingly, there were no tears.
“When we talked about each other’s personality, we both said we weren’t much of a crier,” Dunford said.
Added Bennett: “When she walked out it was like looking into a mirror that came to life. Oh my goodness, what a strange feeling. But it was so nice.”
On Christmas Day, the Korean Broadcasting System aired the first of a five-part series documenting the turn of events with the goal of finding one or both of their biological parents.
That would be an extra chapter in the strange tale the two never thought would be told.
“Someone would have to see the show, and come forward and be tested,” Bennett said. “We were abandoned in a basket on the street with no information. They had to guess everything about us.”
Bennett contacted the orphanage several years ago and gave them all her information in case someone came forward.
Dunford said she would like to know the particulars about why the two were given up.
“I have absolutely no ill feelings towards them,” she said. “I know it wasn’t an easy choice. It must have been some extreme circumstances.”
Both said meeting their biological parents would have no effect on their relationships with their adoptive parents.
“They are my parents, and nothing would change that,” Bennett said. “I know Amanda feels the same. But some closure would be nice. My life had been kind of confusing to this point, no sense of who you are, and all that.
“But now I have a sister, and it is amazing.”