The stage was set, the BBC camera rolling.
Ann Hunt, 78, had just flown into Orange County from England to meet the twin sister she discovered only a year ago.
Since learning about each other, Hunt and Elizabeth “Liz” Hamel have spoken mostly by Skype. But they wanted to look each other in the eyes and finally hug.
Within minutes, Hamel walked in the room. Liz had always known she had a twin.
On Thursday night, the sisters reunited for the first time since birth.
“How lovely to see you in the flesh,” Hamel said, embracing her twin sister for the first time.
“I’ve got a sister,” Hunt said.
The women seemed in awe of being together, saying that the last time they were together they were kicking each other in the womb.
They both have white hair, but style it differently. Hamel is a bit taller. She also claims to be older.
They have a slight resemblance. They’re most likely fraternal twins as opposed to identical, which means they shared their mother’s womb without sharing the identical DNA. A test is pending to be sure.
The twins were separated at birth in England and reconnected at the Fullerton Marriott with a little help from Nancy Segal, a Cal State Fullerton psychology professor and an expert on twins.
Studying twins helps psychologists better understand the role genes and environment play in human development, Segal said.
Segal is especially intrigued by twins who are raised apart.
“These are rare cases packed with human interest and scientific value,” she said. “This was a very unique opportunity.”
The BBC filmed the reunion and has been documenting their story.
Hunt and Hamel are the world’s longest-known separated twins, beating the prior record by three years, said Segal, who wrote about another set of twins who found each other when they were 75.
Hamel flew in from Albany, Ore., accompanied by her son, Quinton.
Hunt traveled from Aldershot, a town near London, with her daughter, Samantha Stacey.
When Alice Alexandra Patience Lamb, their mother, was 33, she gave birth to the twins in Aldershot. She was working as a domestic servant and made the decision to give up one of her girls.
“She found out she was pregnant and the birth father fled,” Hamel said.
Lamb decided she could only care for one child, so she gave away the child she thought would be more adoptable: Ann.