Andrew Dys

They were once strangers, but they will always be sisters

Siblings Nikole Cape, 32, left, Lily Nguyen, 35, middle, and Emily Sims, 29, right, meet for the first time this week. Their father, Harry Caraway, was killed in 1993. He never met his daughter, Lily, or her three children.

Details on 3B
Siblings Nikole Cape, 32, left, Lily Nguyen, 35, middle, and Emily Sims, 29, right, meet for the first time this week. Their father, Harry Caraway, was killed in 1993. He never met his daughter, Lily, or her three children. Details on 3B

LESSLIE -- A woman of 35, a beauty, sat in a Lesslie living room Friday afternoon and, for the first time, saw herself in baby pictures.

Lily Nguyen, with freckles on her cheeks and red tones in her hair, saw a handsome red-haired man in other pictures.

Lily said something in Vietnamese and her 9-year-old daughter named Christy said in English, "She thinks she looks like her father."

Lily sat near two younger half-sisters, 32 and 29 years old. She now knew these sisters, Nikole Cape and Emily Sims, for all of about 45 minutes. All were tired.

All three beamed.

And Lily sat right next to the mother of the two sisters. The widow of that father of all three sisters, a man killed 14 years ago in a case that remains unsolved. That woman, remarried and named Sibyl Caraway-Fields, found the strength somewhere in a place unknowable to the rest of us.

"She is one of mine," said Sybil of the lady named Lily. "I have three daughters now."

Here's how Lily came to a Lesslie living room Friday:

Harry Caraway, while still single and just 19, long before he met Sybil, enlisted in the Air Force. He was shipped to Vietnam. There, he met a beauty named Le Thi and fell in love. They lived together and she became pregnant. A couple weeks before the baby came, Harry was ordered home.

He never saw his daughter, although his mother and Lily's birth mother exchanged letters and pictures early on. Lily was later adopted in Vietnam, then people here lost her whereabouts.

Harry later met Sybil and they married. Harry kept no secrets from his wife, Sybil said, and she even helped him search for his daughter in those days before the Internet and when communication with Vietnam was almost impossible. They later had two daughters. Nikole first, then Emily.

Harry kept looking for his daughter from Vietnam he had never seen. He and Sybil hired a lawyer in California. Then in 1993, Harry Caraway was killed at his Fort Mill office. The case remains open and detectives are still working it, said Lt. Tim Hager from the York County Sheriff's Office.

In February, Emily's Internet searches led to a group that helps find Amerasian children.

Lily's birth mother was located in Vietnam, and Nikole and Emily talked to her. Then they found Lily, living in Utah with her husband and their four children. She had come with her adoptive family to Washington, D.C., from Vietnam in 1990.

One time in the early 1990s, Harry and Sybil were in D.C. They had no idea they were less than a mile from Harry's daughter who they had searched so many years for.

Lily was told at age 17 she was adopted, and later found out her birth father had been killed. But she just found out recently, through Emily and Nikole, that her birth mother was alive in Vietnam. Lily talked to her, too.

This whirlwind of finding each other came to York County on Friday. Sybil the mother, the rock all these years, was there. Nikole, with husband Randy and their three daughters, sat with her red hair like her daddy's. Emily and husband Kevin, with daughter and son, were across the room. Lily, with the streaks of red in her hair, and her husband also named Kevin, brought from Utah her four children.

All looked at pictures and laughed. Christy at 9 years old translated English into Vietnamese and back again. There were some tears that needed no translation. There was joy that required no language.

The child cousins that knew each other just a few minutes played together.

It was beautiful.

After almost three decades, it was what people in all places on this earth call the same thing.

Family.

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