A bus trip turned out to be a life-changer for a Flint native and a Saline woman.
Have you ever wondered if you had a doppelganger or a look-alike?
What would you do if somebody swore they’d found that person and wanted you to meet them? And then you found out you were related?! It’s a mind-bender that happened in metro Detroit.
“The odds have got to be one-in-a million!” said Indian Trails bus driver Dee Starkey.
Back in 2014 to 2016, one of her routes was from Flint to Chicago. And Flint native Melanie Russell was a regular.
"And every time -- from the first time I got on her bus -- it was like a 1:25 p.m. bus in the afternoon from Flint to Chicago, she said, 'Wow, you know you have a twin,'” said Melanie.
Dee kept telling Melanie that she looked like her friend Molly.
“At first it was just her face, but then as I’m noticing more and more often, they have the exact same hands,” said Dee.
She said they also had the same mannerisms, build, and hairstyles.
Look-alikes lived just miles apart
The doppelganger was Molly Levine of Saline. Her married name is now Richardson.
“I knew I was born in Flint,” said Molly.
She and Dee had met years before driving school buses for Saline Area Schools.
Molly knew she’d been adopted when she was nine months old.
She was lovingly raised by the Levines – an Ann Arbor couple who’d already had two children of their own.
"They were told that I had an African American grandmother and that my Mom was really young,” explained Molly.
She had shared her adoption story with Dee years ago.
Long Lost Sister
As for Melanie, she had learned as a teenager that her single mother had given up a baby girl for adoption when she was 20.
Her Mom – Linda Moore – never forgot the baby’s birthday.
“July 29, 1968,” said Linda softly. And she added that every July 29-th after that was tough. “Oh, it was always sad. It was hard.”
The Moment of Truth
Fast forward to November of 2015 -- Molly’s look-alike boards Dee Starkey’s bus again.
"She just stopped, and she said, 'Look! My best friend is bi-racial, and she's adopted.’ And I just teared up. Something came over me,” explained Melanie.
The question burned in her brain.
Could this doppelganger Dee was talking about be her long lost sister?
So, right then and there on the bus, Dee snapped a picture of Melanie and sent it to Molly. Then Dee called Molly on her cell – putting her on speaker.
"She goes, ‘You're going to kill me. I can't remember your birthday. What's your birthday?’ recalled Molly.
"And I said, 'July 29th.' and I hear a voice in the background go, 'what year was she born?' and I said, '1968.' And she said this person just burst out into tears,” said Molly.
“I think when Melanie started crying even I started crying,” said Dee as she teared up remembering the moment.
“I'm calling my Mom so I get to ask questions. And I could hear Molly in the background telling her, 'Tell her don't cry. I'm not mad. Tell her please don't cry,” said Melanie remembering the emotional moment.
Getting To Know Each Other
After that, Melanie and Molly started messaging on facebook. They started sharing old family pictures.
The resemblance between the two of them as they were growing up was uncanny.
But Molly’s family was skeptical. Both her brother and her Mom were not convinced.
“You can't just run into someone on a bus and be like, ‘Oh, hey! Here is a sister you never knew!" said Melanie’s brother Jeff Moore.
“I was like, ‘You know, I just can’t get my hopes up on this right here,’” said their Mom Linda Moore.
Linda did confirm that Melanie and her brother Jeff and her first baby girl all had the same father – Rodney Morrow – who has since passed away.
Linda had had a 16-year love affair with him, but they had never married.
For Linda, the guilt of giving away their first born was at times excruciating.
She was always plagued with questions.
“Is there anybody playing Santa Clause? Is she going to see the Easter Bunny? Does she have a birthday cake? What did she wear her first day of school? You know, did people like her? Are they nice to her? All those questions,” she said with a catch in her voice.
After months of facebook messaging, it was time to meet face-to-face. They coordinated to meet at Jeff’s house in Wixom in the summer of 2016.
Yes, they all wondered if they should get a DNA test.
Turns out the birthdate match and meeting in person convinced them all.
When Molly walked through the door into the Moore household, she gave a warm greeting.
“Hi. How are ya?”she said as she approached Linda Moore – the woman she now believed to be her birth mother.
"When I finally got into the door and into the kitchen and looked at these faces, I knew this was my family,” said Molly with a smile. “
And she and Linda hugged for a long time -- a mother and daughter reunited nearly 50 years later.
“My baby!” cried Linda softly as she put her arms around Molly.
“I expected, the, you know, ‘What? Did you give me away?’ I think that’s how I would have reacted if I had been her. I did not expect what I got…just pure love. Just pure love,” said Linda.
“I believe I told her I wasn't angry. I was adopted into a great family. And I told her life happens,” said Molly.
"She's a beautiful person,” said Melanie talking about how much she has enjoyed getting to know her sister.
All of them still can’t believe how they ended up reconnecting.
"You never know who you're passing at what time, and then sometimes the stars align,” said Jeff.
The family has been meeting regularly and enjoying their time together.
And every time Linda hugs Molly, her heart warms.
“Oh, I can just feel it. I can feel all those years go away. It was like she was always there in my arms. She was always there,” said Linda thoughtfully.
Molly is just as touched.
"I feel like the biggest hole in the world has been filled. And I couldn't be happier,” she said crying.
On April 8, 2018, Melanie and Molly decided to get matching tattoos of a heart with a missing puzzle piece with the words: “What was once lost has been found.”
A miracle meeting turned into a newfound family.
Special thanks to Melanie and Molly’s brother Jeff Moore who is an editor at WXYZ 7 Action News.
When he told us about this story, it blew our minds.
And he and his family graciously agreed to share their reunion on-air and online.