ST. PAUL, Minn. - Every family has a story, a defining moment that sets a path for all those that follow. The Yang family's moment happened almost 50 years ago.
Xiong Nhia Yang was just six years old when his family fled Laos in 1964. They didn't just leave behind a war-torn country. His parents had to abandon his teenage sister, Sua, who was injured by gunfire.
"My father said … Tell my sister, 'OK, right now I can do nothing for you. I really love you, but you stay here,'" Xiong Nhia said.
His parents promised to come back for Sua once they caught up with other families who were trying to escape. Xiong Nhia said his father tried to come back, but the threat of soldiers foiled his plans. His family escaped to the United States and France, but nobody knew what happened to Sua.
Nephews like Kao Thomas Yang grew up hearing about the heartache.
"They regret every day," Kao said of his grandparents.
Last year, Kao and his wife traced Sua to southern Laos.
"It feel like I fulfilled my void," Kao said.
But the void wasn't over yet. Not until brother and sister could reunite.
Years of waiting turned into minutes last Thursday as Xiong Nhia and Kao waited at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. An American Airlines flight was finally bringing Sua to her family.
Even in a packed airport, Xiong Nhia and Kao spotted Sua right away. Sua, now 70-years-old, is the spitting image of her mother.
"Is this a dream?" Xiong Nhia asked Sua as the two tearfully embraced.
Sua, who has six children of her own, says she always dreamed of seeing her family again.
"I never stopped. I just thought one day I would see them," Sua said.
Sua's parents are deceased, but she says seeing her siblings and extended family is a dream come true in itself.