10 Memorable Oprah Show Reunions
Ten years earlier, more than 900 members of the People's Temple drank a poisonous cocktail laced with deadly cyanide. It was the biggest mass murder-suicide in modern history and was masterminded by Jones. This tragic event is now known as the Jonestown massacre.
During this historic Oprah Show, former temple members shared what life was like in Jonestown and recalled the events that led up to the mass suicide. They also remembered loved ones lost. Herbert and Cleveland Newell, former Jones followers, said seven of their family members died that dark day in 1978.
Tim Stoen, another People's Temple defector, lost his 6-year-old son during the massacre. When Oprah asked how so many intelligent people could have blindly followed Jones, Tim explained, "What you have to understand about Jonestown is that you had great evil side by side with great virtue. The human mind has a very difficult time conceptualizing great evil and great virtue, side by side."
Mrs. Mary Alice Duncan, Oprah's fourth-grade teacher at Wharton Elementary in Nashville, was first on the list. "I ran home the first day of the fourth grade to tell my dad that I had the best teacher that anybody could ever have. Her name was Mrs. Duncan," Oprah said. "I wanted to be a fourth grade teacher because of Mrs. Duncan."
After their tearful reunion, Oprah asked Mrs. Duncan if she was her favorite student that year. "Oh, of course...but I couldn't let anybody know," Mrs. Duncan said. "Oprah is one I couldn't forget."
Watch Oprah's emotional reunion with Mrs. Duncan
When Dylene Zolikoff found out she was pregnant right before high school graduation, she said she hitchhiked out of town to spare her family any embarrassment and to make a life for her unborn child. A woman took Dylene into her home and then did the unthinkable. Dylene said the woman induced her labor and then ran off with her newborn daughter. Finally, after years of searching, Dylene was reunited with her daughter on Oprah's stage.
Selimah, another mother determined to find the daughter who was stolen from her at birth, also reconnected with the child she never knew. Upon meeting her daughter Ellen for the first time, Selimah echoed a sentiment shared by all the mothers, "Reunited, and it feels so good!"
"It feels like I'm now a whole person, and I know that's hard for someone who hasn't been adopted to understand," Gillian said. "You just don't feel like a whole person until you know everything." Cindy was then surprised with two sons she hadn't seen in 20 years.
At first, Lesia seemed annoyed, but when she saw Jeff, her ex-boyfriend who carried her picture in his wallet for 15 years, with red roses in hand, Lesia seemed to sing a different tune. "Oh, honey, what a surprise!" Lesia said. Jeff said he just wanted a chance to tell Lesia how he felt for all of those years. "I got you this rose in appreciation of the time we had," he said. "You look lovely."
During this heartfelt show, Laura also reconnected with her siblings, Daniel and Diane, whom she hadn't seen since she was 4 years old.
It took three weeks and 1,000 members of the 101st Airborne Division—sent to Little Rock by President Dwight D. Eisenhower—to get these brave black students inside a classroom at Central. But, once inside the schoolhouse, "the Little Rock Nine" as they were called found that their struggles for respect and equality had only just begun.
In 1995, seven of Little Rock Nine—Dr. Terrence Roberts, Ernest Green, Jefferson Thomas, Carlotta Walls-LaNier, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Thelma Mothershed Wair and Melba Pattillo Beals—came together on The Oprah Show to discuss what it was like to integrate a white high school in the South. Throughout the show, the Little Rock Nine were reunited with white students who were allies and tormentors during their high school years.
Oprah said hearing their stories of struggle and triumph was truly inspirational. "I wanted to say to all of you a thank-you because I often, in speeches, say that people who've come before me are the bridges that I crossed over on," Oprah said. "The Little Rock Nine was a big bridge for me because had that not happened, what happened in television 15 to 20 years later could not have happened. All of the other progress that so many of us now enjoy, you guys were the pioneers. You guys were the bridge. A mighty big bridge for me. Thank you."
Holly, Diana and their adopted daughters were separated by hundreds of miles, but a common thread brought them together. They found each other on an online adoption support group and realized their daughters were born on the same day and were from the same place. DNA tests concluded the two Mias are sisters! Without the birth parents, they can't determine whether the girls are twins, but Diana says it's pretty obvious that they are.
In 2006, the long-lost sisters flew to Chicago for an Oprah Show taping and were reunited. Moments after meeting, they were walking through the airport, holding hands. "They had never met or seen each other before, but it was like an instant click," Diana said.
In memory of George, who passed away days earlier, the children and grandchildren of Virl, Tom, Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, Donny, Jimmy and Marie came together onstage for the first time to sing together. It was an emotional time for the family, but Donny said they felt like George and Olive were watching over them. "We believe we're an eternal family. We know that we will be with our parents again. We know it. We don't just believe it. We know it," Donny said. "It's so comforting for us to know that we will be together again."
The Osmonds gave George a final farewell by singing the signature sign-off written by Alan for the Donny and Marie show, a song meant to be a prayer to express the Osmonds' gratitude for their many blessings.
"May tomorrow be a perfect day, may you find love and laughter along the way. May God keep you in his tender care, till he brings us together again."
In 2010, genealogist Pam Slaton helped Linda find her daughter, Laura. It had been 42 years since Laura was born, and Laura flew more than 2,000 miles to meet the woman who gave her life. "It's like a validation," Laura said. "When your birth mother looks for you, it's a validation that you were never forgotten, and it heals a piece of you. It's a gift."
Watch their emotional reunion