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Facebook reunites family after 19 years

Before this week, Ieshia Allen hadn't seen or heard from family in Rock Hill for 19 years. Not a phone call or a card from her aunt, Janice Thompson - not even after the death of her mother 14 years ago in Baltimore.

"I thought I was forgotten," Allen said.

As children, Janice Thompson and her sister, Victoria Allen, were close. When Allen's daughter, Ieshia, came to stay with Thompson at age 14 for a year, they too became close.

But Ieshia was homesick for her mother 19 years ago. She went back to her mother and never talked to her aunt again - until now.

Through the Internet, specifically Facebook, a family has been reunited. Even more, Allen's aunt has had the chance to say what she wanted to say for years and years.

"I wanted to tell my niece that I loved her," said Janice Thompson, the aunt who waited 19 years to say those words. "When her mother died, I am not proud of this - I was hooked on drugs. I didn't go to her funeral. I regretted it for so long."

Thompson, 53, is a custodian at Rock Hill's Rawlinson Road Middle School and has been sober for 11 years. She's proud of that, and a proud mother and a grandmother and a Christian and lives in the city's Boyd Hill Apartments. For years, losing touch with her niece - an only child - gnawed at her.

"I sent letters to the only address I had, and they would come back 'Return to sender,'" Thompson said. "I wondered if she was all right. I wondered what happened to her."

What had happened is Ieshia did what young people do whose parents die at an early age - she worked. After her mother and then father died in rapid succession, Ieshia worked at a gas station and a McDonald's restaurant and at a cleaning service. She worked for years, and still does, at an Applebee's restaurant.

"It upset me after my mother died that nobody, especially my aunt, came for the funeral," Ieshia said. "Nobody seemed to care then - I thought. But I just had to go on with my life."

Another family member, Carolyn Thompson, nimble with a computer, searched and searched for Ieshia Allen. Finally, a message was sent through Facebook to who the family hoped was the right Ieshia Allen.

"I asked if this was the Ieshia who had an aunt Janice in Rock Hill and whose mother was Victoria," Carolyn Thompson said.

It was the right Ieshia Allen.

Carolyn Thompson sent her aunt's phone number and the next day, Ieshia Allen called. Janice Thompson apologized for missing Ieshia's mother's funeral, and more.

"I talked to her and I was jumping up and down and I thought that it is amazing that a computer can help people get together, said Janice Thompson, the aunt. "I'm not a Facebook person - I have no Facebook. But I know I am thankful for it. In the old days we would have lost touch forever."

Allen said she forgave her aunt long ago, and what was more important is that they see each other. So Ieshia Allen took a few days off from work, packed her bags and her three children, and took a train to Charlotte. She stepped off the train and Janice Thompson was waiting there, with a huge smile and an apology in person that was so many years in the making.

"It's been great just catching up," Thompson said. "She has three wonderful children. She's worked hard in her life. She's a fine lady."

And Allen, now 33 years old, has the family back that she thought was lost.

"I thought all the time about my family, my aunt, and I wondered what happened to them and if they forgot about me," Allen said. "I don't have to wonder anymore. They didn't forget - we are a family again because I was on Facebook."