Samantha Riddle, 29, grew up in the Dover area with her sister Tara Riddle, 43, and their mother. The twins were raised by their own mother in Pennsylvania. Parents’ relationships were strained, preventing the sisters from ever really knowing each other.
It was the youngest who finally took matters into her own hands. In 2021, Samantha Riddle had three children of her own, and in the midst of a global pandemic, any decades-old family drama seemed to be of little importance.
“I think it was being stuck at home and having more time,” Samantha Riddle said. “But also just the feeling that something was missing, you know. Who are they, where are they? Where would we be in life if we grew up together?”
Two days after paying for some information from a people search website, she found the twins on Facebook.
That quickly evolved into a group chat and FaceTiming and then plans for the twins to come to Delaware.
Shannon and Shawna were born right after their mother turned 18, Shannon said, later taking her surname Wanner. Their mother was never married to their father and the couple split when the twins were around 4 years old, according to Shannon.
It was not an amicable split, and the twins only saw their father twice between their parents’ split and his death. The last time was when she graduated from high school in 1996, a few months before Paul Riddle’s death.
“That was a little difficult to process,” Shannon said. “But at the time we still thought he didn’t want much to do with us, so we just moved on.”
After making contact with Samantha and Tara Riddle, the twins learned of another connection they were unaware of. Samantha and Tara had a sister who died in infancy, and her parents named her Nicole Marie.
Nicole and Marie are Shannon and Shawna’s middle names.
“I think they wanted to show that we will always be part of their family,” Shannon said. “Had she survived, we would have a way of knowing that even if we never met, there would always be a connection.”
Meeting in person for the first time
Shannon recently flew from her home in Texas to Shawna’s home in Connecticut and the two drove to Delaware. They were anxiously waiting to meet their half-sisters in the car park of La Tonalteca in Dover, flowers in hand, watching the road.
When Tara and Samantha arrived, they were joined by their mother, Dawn Hanna, and Samantha’s 6-year-old son, Bret. There were gasps and shouts of joy as hugs were exchanged.
“I’ve held you before,” Dawn said as she hugged Shawna. Bret joined his mother in embracing his new aunts.
Although they had only just met, the connection was obvious.
“We all got into a very simple, very comfortable place very quickly,” Shannon said.
The sisters’ similarities became apparent over the weekend. All four are compulsive hair twisters. They have a similar sense of humor. And to their great relief, in this age of polarization, most of their political and religious views coincide.
“It’s very surreal,” Shawna said.
The four went together to get matching tattoos – Celtic “sister hearts”. They went to a Renaissance market. Mostly they just hung out and caught up.
“We had to talk a lot to learn about the other side of our family,” Shawna said.
After the twins returned home, she was nervous that the relationship would end.
“Like it was a flash in the pan,” Shawna said. “But no. Memes are shared. jokes are told. We still talk about everything. And that’s what I was hoping for.”
Shannon and Shawna are already planning to return to Delaware for a family beach vacation this summer. The sisters’ children – six in all – look forward to getting to know each other.
“I definitely feel like my life has changed tremendously,” Shannon said. “I didn’t realize until now what I was missing.”