For this mother and son who were separated for 41 years and more than 6,000 miles, the first meeting was a warm, long embrace. The few words that were muttered came in different languages, but everything that truly mattered was said in the universal language of the heart.
“I finally feel like I belong, that I am from somewhere, and I finally feel I am part of a family. I never felt this before,” the son wrote in a Gofundme page explaining his curious story.
The only thing that Travis Tolliver, a father of two from Tacoma, Washington, knew about his birth is that he had been adopted in Chile in the year of 1973, while his American father was on military duty in the South American country.
But when Tolliver set out last year to find his biological mother, which he managed to do online in a matter of months, he was shocked to find out that he had not been adopted at all. He had been stolen.
Tolliver was born in a Valparaiso hospital to an unmarried 19 year-old girl, Nelly Reyes, who was told that her baby boy had been born with heart defect and didn't survive. She never saw the body and was discharged a few days later without further explanation.
It was November 1973, just two months after the bloody coup that removed socialist President Salvador Allende from office and brought to power Augusto Pinochet’s military regime. The country was in utter turmoil.
People were disappearing and, little did she realize, so did her newborn son.
“Today I am looking for justice. I am looking to recover lost time,” wrote Tolliver, who is seeking to raise money to fly his family to Chile, where he has been living with his biological mother in the town of Placilla, not far from the Santiago airport where they first met on Monday.
“I want to sue whoever is responsible. I want to restore my identity. I want to be compensated for the lost time. My destiny was altered – I could never play with my brothers, and I could never enjoy my mom,” he added.
Tolliver, who according to CNN is a supervisor at an import distribution center, said his adoptive parents were told that he had been abandoned at the hospital.
“My adoptive parents never knew I had been stolen and did not pay any money for me,” he wrote on Gofundme. “My adoptive mother remembers that they were escorted by Chilean military personnel ... through the different offices to get my adoption.”
Tolliver's family now includes four brothers and one sister Reyes had and raised.
On Tuesday, he posted a note on Facebook that read, "Thanks for the support. Its a little daunting trying to go through everything on my phone. So just wanted say a big thank you from my family. Keep sharing the story," he wrote.