Salvadoran father reunited with son after 20 years
CANTON EL CERRON, El Salvador (AP) -- For 20 years, Tomas Avelar
thought his wife and four children had died in El Salvador's civil war.
But on Tuesday he tearfully embraced his eldest son, 26-year-old Michael
Kennedy who is living with his adoptive family in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
"A long time of not seeing you, son. I'm very happy," Avelar said to the
had named Jose Fredi years ago.
Salvadoran government soldiers found Jose Fredi, then 5, hidden in a cave
a clash in the northern province of Chalatenango in 1981, near the start of the
12-year civil war that ended in 1992 after leaving more than 75,000 dead.
Avelar, now 50, was a leftist guerrilla. He said his wife, Rosa Melida
killed by the army and he later learned that his children had been hidden in a
"They killed her and they took (the children), that's how I lost them,"
said, using a handkerchief to dry his tears during the reunion in the yard of his
small house 40 miles north of the capital, San Salvador.
The local Association to Search for Disappeared Children, which hunts for
children who vanished during the war, said Michael and three sisters,
8-month-old Elizabeth, 18-month-old Santos Catalina and 3-year-old Maria Delia
were taken by troops to San Salvador.
Jose Fredi was put up for adoption. In March 1984, he was adopted by William
and Diane Kennedy of Washington, Pennsylvania.
"He is part of my family, and I have done my part," said William Kennedy.
is important that he knows his father, his sisters and his real country."
Michael, who works at a restaurant in Johnstown, said he remembers little
"Only images come to me; I don't remember much," he said. "But for me to
here beside my father is a dream come true. I don't know what will happen from
now on, but I promise that I will always be close to my father."
The association used DNA testing to identify Jose Fredi.
Father Jon Cortina, the Spanish priest who directs the association, said
is trying to find the sisters.
Maria Delia was apparently adopted by another U.S. family and Santos Catalina
by a Swiss family. Elizabeth probably was kept by a military family, he said.
He said the association so far has identified 203 children since May 1995.
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.