A New Yorker met his grandchildren for the first time Friday in a joyful reunion with his long lost daughter whom he miraculously found through Twitter.
"I hope we can have a relationship now," said the 27-year-old daughter, Sarah Rivera, as the pair saw each other for the first time in 11 years.
Just weeks ago, Daniel Morales, who is homeless, was given a prepaid cell phone with a Twitter account, as part of a project by the organization Underheard in New York. The group gave four homeless men the devices and asked them to tweet about their lives.
Morales, 58, quickly attracted more than 3,000 followers. Soon after acquiring the phone, he decided to use Twitter to find Rivera, who is also currently homeless.
On February 23rd, he tweeted, “Hi thi is to let yo people know that in lookin eoq my daughter her name is sarah m rivera.” He also posted his phone number and a picture of his daughter at age sixteen.
Hours later, the daughter got a message from a stranger named Heather Cunningham on Facebook with a link to the picture and Twitter post. “When I first saw his picture and his Twitter status, I was like, no this can’t be,” Rivera said Friday as the pair reunited.
Rivera called Morales, and heard her father’s voice for the first time in more than a decade. They made plans to finally meet in Bryant Park on Friday.
Moments before Morales left to meet her, he told NBC New York that he couldn't wait to see Rivera again.
When Morales arrived at Bryant Park, he also met his grandchildren for the first time, Neveah, 4, and Akai, who is 1.
The group that made it happen, Underheard in New York, was created by three interns at the advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
The company challenged the interns to “do something good, famously.”
“We decided that we wanted to make people listen, and make a difference,” said Rosemary Melchior, one of the interns. “I don’t think we ever expected something this big. It just shows how big social media is.”
Morales and the three other homeless men who received the phones stay at the New York City Rescue Mission in Lower Manhattan.
Morales lost his Harlem apartment two months ago, when he could no longer pay his rent. He said he had to stop working as a security guard when he hurt his back in an accident.
Rivera stays at a domestic violence shelter in New York. She and her father did not say how they lost touch.
Morales plans to continue using Twitter, but can’t imagine gaining any more from the social media site than he already has.
“I gained my daughter back, who I haven’t seen in 11 years,” said Morales. “That’s all the payback I’ll ever need.”