David Amaya, At last, a Wisconsin mother and her long-lost son met Saturday for the first time since her estranged husband spirited him away to Mexico more than 30 years ago.
It was an emotional reunion in the San Diego airport, heightened by the fact that the mother speaks only English and her 37-year-old son only Spanish.
David Amaya Barrick, whose father took him across the border at about age 2 from Chicago, was biting his nails just before his mother, Kathy Amaya, now 60, appeared before him in the airport.
They embraced, hugged and kissed — the first time they’ve laid eyes on each other in about 35 years.
The son spoke in Spanish: “I love you and I missed you a lot. I welcome you into my life.”
The mother declared to her son: “I love you and I’m very happy to see you and I’m not going to let you go.”
Later, the son told reporters that he was at a loss of words.
The mother remarked: “He’s all grown up.”
The mother and son will spend a few days in San Diego getting to know each other again. They will do so during long strolls along the beach, they said.
Then they will travel Tuesday to her home in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where they will enjoy Thanksgiving together. Kathy Amaya, an assistant housekeeper at a hotel, has four adult children who are half-siblings to David Amaya. Two of those adult children live with Kathy Amaya.
Saturday’s journey to see her son also marked another milestone in Kathy Amaya’s life: It was the first time she ever flew in a plane.
The separation between mother and son spanned 1,800 miles and lasted more than 30 years. The mother counts the absence as 35 years, the son as 34 years — an exact figure to be certainly figured out while they get reacquainted.
The family saga then took a dramatic turn by how David Amaya was discovered: He was arrested illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at Imperial Beach, California, on October 30. The U.S. Border Patrol thought he and a Mexican national were smugglers because they were in the company of six Romanian nationals.
They were all arrested after crossing a flood control tunnel frequented by intravenous drug users and polluted by human waste. Bandits had earlier robbed David Amaya of his money and cell phone, leaving him only the clothes he was wearing.