Twist of Fate
By Rebecca Leung
(CBS) Adriana Scott was adopted from Mexico when she was just weeks old. While growing up on Long Island, N.Y., she noticed that she looked nothing like her cousins.
She had no idea why she excelled at certain things. "I'm very into music and into dancing," she says. "My family's not like that, really."
And she always believed her quirks were hers alone: "Nothing like, 'Oh, I got this from my mom, or I got this from my dad.' It's kind of just been like me."
But what she didn't know was that she had an identical twin sister who lived just miles away in New York City. Last fall, Correspondent Lesley Stahl reported on their remarkable reunion.
For 20 years, Diane Scott hid the truth from Adriana.
"My greatest fear was when she was gonna find out that she had a twin sister," says Diane. "I was afraid she was going to be really upset by it. In her mind, I think she's gonna think we separated them. Why couldn't we adopt her, and she would hold it against us."
It began when Diane, an office receptionist, and her husband Peter, an administrator at a moving company, decided to adopt a child 20 years ago. They flew to Mexico to pick up their baby girl, but they had no idea at the time that she had an identical twin.
Their Mexican adoption lawyer broke the news to them. "The birth mother had taken her out of the hospital and had run off with her," recalls Diane, who says she would have definitely adopted both girls.
A year later, Diane and Peter learned that their daughter's twin was living somewhere in America.
"We thought somewhere upstate near Canada. He wasn't sure of the name. He thought it was Rabbi," recalls Diane, who thought their lawyer meant the twin had been adopted by a rabbi.
They decided never to tell Adriana. But every time Adriana whined about being an only child, Diane says her heart would break a little: "You go through life giving your children whatever you can. And I always feel like that was the most important thing for her. And that was the one thing we couldn't give her."
Years passed. Adriana graduated from high school and enrolled in a local college on Long Island. Diane's secret seemed safe. Until one day, Adriana met a boy, Justin Lattore, who had a crush on her. They went out a couple of times, but there were no sparks.
Then, Justin's buddy, Rueben Morales, decided to set him up with another girl, Tamara Rabi, who looked like Adriana. She went to a nearby college, just 10 minutes away.
"I walked in and I saw her and I was just shocked. I was like, 'Wow. You look exactly like Adriana, this girl I'm seeing right now,'" recalls Justin, who started asking her questions. "It got clearer. They have to be sisters."
But it wasn't the first time someone told Tamara that she looked like someone they knew. In fact, she always thought she had one of those very familiar-looking faces -- until Justin started telling her more about Adriana.
"He was like, 'Well, she was born in Mexico.' I was like, 'Well, I was born in Mexico.' He was like, 'Well, she was adopted from Mexico.' I was like, 'So was I,'" says Tamara.
They even had the same birthday. So Justin decided to leave Adriana a message and ask her to call him back. Soon, Adriana had Tamara's email address and they decided to email each other.
"I was really nervous. I thought, you know, this has to be the one," says Diane, about the moment she had been dreading for 20 years.
Diane asked Adriana to give her last name. It was Rabi. "I said, 'Gee, Adriana, we have to talk,'" says Diane. "I kinda just told her what had happened … And she just looked at me."
To her mother's surprise and relief, Adriana wasn't angry. She was ecstatic. She said she had always wanted a sister.
A few minutes later, Adriana typed an email to Tamara: "My mom says you're my identical twin sister." Tamara and her roommates didn't believe it, so Adriana sent them her picture. "I was shocked. It was such a shock," says Tamara.
It turns out these sisters had grown up just 25 miles apart. While Adriana went to the local public school and was raised Catholic, Tamara grew up in Manhattan, attended an elite private school and was raised by Jewish parents.
"Sometimes, at family events, I'd sit back and they all look alike except for me," says Tamara. "I wonder like what my birth family looks like. If they look like me."
They decided to meet at a neutral spot, a McDonalds parking lot. Tamara brought her ex-boyfriend and her best friend for emotional support.
"I see this girl with a big, black bubble jacket with dark long hair, and I'm like, 'That's Tamara.' And I couldn't look," says Adriana. "We both wore bubble jackets, jeans. Mine was purple, hers was black."
"All we could say to each other was, 'Hi,'" says Tamara. "We didn't cry. Because we didn't really know about each other. We hadn't missed each other. So, it wasn't like we were longing for each other."
The girls barely spoke to each other, occasionally stealing a glance. But for Tamara, nothing seemed real until they got to Adriana's house.
"We walked in and I have my communion pictures over my TV. Tamara was just staring at it, for like 20 minutes," says Adriana. "She was raised Jewish and she was like, 'I didn't have a communion. What is this?' … That got her."
As amazed as Tamara was, her mother, Judy, was also having trouble believing it. When the Rabis were raising Tamara in Manhattan, they had no idea she a sister -- much less an identical twin living just a half hour away on suburban Long Island.
Judy, a therapist, says she had to see Adriana to believe it: "When she walked into my house the first time, that moment, she looked just like Tamara. I wanted to be joyful for her, because she had found a sister and I was conscious intellectually of wanting to feel joyful for her. And yet there was some part of me that felt the sadness."
Just two weeks before the girls met, Judy's husband, Yitzhak, had died of cancer. Judy admits that she was suddenly very worried about being alone: "I did feel frightened of losing her. For that moment, I did."
"She said to me one night, she's like, 'Tamara, you know having a sister is great,'" says Tamara. "She was like, 'But I don't want you to love me any less.' I said, 'You're my mom and I'll always love you no matter what.'"
For Tamara, the reunion was a miracle, a blessing that happened for a reason. Almost 10 years ago, her newfound sister, Adriana, also lost her father to cancer. Both families have come to believe the two fathers brought them together.
"I feel like it's wherever people go when they die, her father met my father and they gave this to us," says Tamara.
At least once a week now, Tamara and Adriana spend time discovering all the ways they mirror each other, and all the ways they don't.
Researcher Nancy Segal has spent a lifetime trying to answer these questions. She has interviewed more than 50 pairs of identical twins who were separated at birth.
"Identical twins raised apart are exceedingly rare," says Segal. "they're very, very valuable cases to scientists."
She wants to know how Tamara and Adriana's similarities compare with other identical twins separated at birth. What can they teach us about why we behave the way we do? Why we pick certain jobs? Why we have certain friends?
"To the extent that identical twins are more alike in these things, we can say with a fairly strong degree of confidence that yes, genes do play a role," says Segal.
So, does it really matter what you do as a parent? Long-range studies of identical twins show that parenting is important because it affects how well your child will develop their genetic potential.
"We find that genes play a 50 percent role in fashioning personality, which means that half is also fashioned by the environment," says Segal.
"The twins show some very striking similarities in personality, but when you look at personality development across a broader spectrum of people, you will find some differences."
Whatever the differences between Adriana and Tamara are, it's their similarities that matter most to them.
"I just feel like I've known her my whole life. I just feel so comfortable and there's just so much familiarity with her that it's strange," says Tamara. "Even when we walk together, I just feel like it's right. It's just so strange."
48 Hours brought the girls and their mothers to Guadalajara, where local guides, with the help of information from the adoption papers, took them back to the last known address of their birth mother – a woman named Norma De La Cruz.
But no one in this working class neighborhood could tell the girls where to find Norma, so 48 Hours hired a Mexican private investigator, Fernando Molina, to find the twins' birth mother.
Molina gathered the girls and their mothers together in a Guadalajara hotel room for a phone call from Norma. To everyone's surprise, Norma was calling from her car in Los Angeles. And she had no idea that she was about to talk to the girls she gave up for adoption 20 years ago.
When Norma heard the twin's story, she told the girls she was forced to give them up for adoption. Diane decided not to talk to her on the phone.
"She'd rather not meet her. She was like, 'I don't care about her,'" says Adriana. "'I never have, I never will, I don't know what to tell you. I've been there and I saw what happened.'"
Remember that 20 years ago, Diane and her husband had hoped to adopt Adriana and Tamara, when they first visited Mexico. But the adoption lawyer told her Norma would give them just one baby.
"I don't know what her reasonings are, you know, for what she did, why she did it," says Diane, who doesn't want to visit Norma in California.
The girls and their mothers reached an agreement. 48 Hours would fly Norma to Guadalajara for the meeting. But first, Diane wanted to see Carlos Lopez, the lawyer who arranged the adoption, and who, over the years, had become Diane's very close friend.
Diane wants Carlos with her when she sees Norma: "I just hope it's the truth that she speaks and she doesn't try to make up any stories."
For months, Adriana and Tamara thought about what they would ask Norma, their biological mother. "We have a lot of things to talk about," says Norma. "You can ask anything that you want. And I want to tell you the truth."
Adriana asks Norma why she and Tamara were separated. At the time, Norma says she was pregnant and unmarried when she agreed to the adoption. She says she changed her mind, but claims lawyer Carlos Lopez threatened her: "He told me I had to do what I had signed on the paper or I, and all my family, were going to be in jail."
Lopez denies that this ever happened.
When Norma signed the adoption papers, she agreed to give up just one baby. She didn't know she was having twins. After she gave birth, she claims Lopez convinced her it would be better for the twins to grow up together. She said she believed that her daughters were together, in San Francisco with a Catholic family.
But Lopez showed us documents signed by Norma that he says proves she knew her daughters were going to be separated.
"This is a big lie. A big lie. This paper is fake. I don't know how much money you pay for this paper," says Norma. "The reason I gave you my other baby was so that they would be together."
"I told you with another good family. I told you it was too late for the same family. I told you," says Lopez.
"As a mother, I would want to see them together. But for two weeks, where was Tamara," asks Diane, who says she didn't expect the reunion to end up like this. "I wanted answers. I wanted to know why did she have a good reason to separate them? And it's not. It just seems like a lot of lies going around."
But Judy's not so sure: "When my husband and I went down to adopt, we thought everything was ethical, and I want to think that it was, and I don't know that it was."
As for Norma, she's just happy her girls are alive: "Perhaps to them, I'm not their mother. But to me, they are my daughters."
The only people not emotional about the meeting were the two people who you would think would care the most. "It's not about what happened or you know, who's right or who's wrong, because it's not gonna change anything," says Tamara.
"Whatever happened happened," adds Adriana. "It doesn't change what I am now."
Four months later, in New York, the girls have emailed Norma, but have no plans to see her.
They've learned one thing from their incredible journey. "Anything's possible," says Tamara. "The minute you get comfortable in your life, it's gonna change."
"People don't like to think like that. They like to think they have control in every single thing in their life, but it's not," says Adriana. "To a certain extent, things are always planned out."
Since 48 Hours first aired this broadcast in November, Adriana has graduated from college with a degree in psychology. Tamara expects to graduate this winter with a minor in psychology.
They say they think of themselves as good friends, and are getting used to being sisters. Both, however, say their close relationships with their adoptive parents have not changed.