LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — It was cold in Lansing on that November day, rain spitting off an on.
But the Herrera’s were inside; in a warm, private room at Reno’s North, where they gathered for a surprise party unlike any other.
It was an ordinary event to any passerby — just your typical birthday party — if they didn’t know the backstory.
The Herrera family was reunited last summer after being separated for more than 40 years. And it all happened because of the hard work of the youngest Herrera sibling, Josie. She started the search alongside her brother Philip for their four lost siblings in honor of mother Magdalena, who passed away in 2015.
Josie created a TikTok that magically found it’s way to their sister Maria, who commented “I’m right here sis, I’m right here.”
Maria was raised with her brother Jerry. A short time later, they were able to find their brother Martin, which meant five of the siblings were reunited.
Not long after they met for the first time, the family came into the 6 News studio, where we had a sit down and heard about their epic meeting.
So when Josie’s 40th birthday rolled around in November, Martin decided to honor his sister with a surprise party, and invited 6 News to tag along.
Maria, Jerry, Martin, and Philip anxiously awaited for the baby of the family to walk in. Martin said in the short time he’s known his sister, she’s never been on time once, and that turned out to be true again. After what felt like an eternity, Josie slowly strolled into the private room the Herrera’s had rented out at the local bar.
“Suuuuuprise!” the whole room chanted, as a confetti guns popped off. Some confetti eventually ended up on the pizza, which youngest brother Philip was forced to apologize for.
Josie had a smile from cheek to cheek as she went around the room and thanked everyone for being there.
“I was just shook honestly, I didn’t expect that,” Josie said.
Although it was Josie’s birthday, that wasn’t the topic of conversation. That honor belonged to the eldest, Janie Lou, the last missing Herrera sibling.
Since they met in the summer, the five youngest Herrera siblings had been working tirelessly to connect the family tree, and they finally had a major breakthrough.
The siblings were able to locate Janie Lou through the court system, and found out she’s now named ‘Melanie.’ The siblings had talked to her over text message, but none of them had met in person.
“She said she’s nervous,” Josie said.
“I’m just glad I’m not the oldest now,” Maria joked.
The first time we met with the Herrera’s, Martin was the quiet one. To be fair, he had just met his new siblings a few days prior. But this time around, he was taking the bull by the horns.
After everyone settled in, Martin asked to give a toast, and called for everyone to grab a drink. Martin talked about how they got there because of Josie and Philip.
“45 years, we made it back, because of you two,” Martin said.
Every single one of the five siblings in the room had tears in their eyes. As Martin was speaking, you could see him edge his way towards the counter. At first, I couldn’t tell what he was doing, but then the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day came on.
Chills ran down my spine. Rise Up was the song Josie had chosen to attach to the original TikTok that led to them all being reunited.
All eyes were on Martin as he pointed towards the door.
“Ma’am… Brothers… Sister… Welcome home… Your sister….”
The Herrera’s raced towards the door and embraced in a group hug. For the very first time, all six Herrera siblings were reunited.
Emotions spewing out, gator tears streaming down everyone’s face. It was the moment they had waited their whole lives for.
“It was amazing. It’s just, you know, finally to be with you guys, just that feel, it felt great,” Melanie, the final sibling to be reunited said.
“Words can’t explain how I feel right now. It’s very emotional,” said Philip.
Melanie said she could barely work up the courage to go into the restaurant for the reunion.
“My heart was racing. My stomach was in knots and then, you know, the closer it got the worst, it got. At one point I’m like, I can’t do this,” Melanie said.
But once she did, it was all worth it.
“I feel like the last piece of the puzzle was placed on the jigsaw,” Philip said. “My mother loved jigsaw puzzles by the way. I just feel complete. There’s nothing more that I want.”
“Now that we have found her, she can see how much she was loved and we wanted to find her. That was a goal,” Martin said.
“I didn’t want to do this at the beginning, you know, and ever since they found me, it’s been an amazing ride. I wouldn’t turn back for nothing,” said Jerry.
It’s hard to describe, but all five Herrera siblings just had this belief, this feeling that just wouldn’t let them quit.
“I never gave up. Every night I spent at least three to four hours on my computer looking for her,” Maria said.
So what’s next for the Herrera siblings? Melanie says a lot of family events, because there’s no getting out of them now.
Be sure to watch both Part 1 and Part 2 of the stories in the video players above. And if you want to hear more from the Herrera family, you can watch the original story we did below.