Carrie Coon’s Adopted Sister

This quote caused me to go looking for more information because we watched Oliver Stone’s Salvador last night. Here is what I found thanks to LINK> Pound Pup Legacy – exposing the dark side of adoption.

Carrie Coon had just turned 3 in 1983 when adopted sister Morena, 4, joined her family. From the beginning, the two girls were very close — and together they made a charming pair, with Morena the dark one and Carrie the fair one, both pretty girls with long, straight hair. Morena was one of several hundred young children from El Salvador who were adopted by Northeast Ohio families in the early 1980s. That was when the Salvadoran civil war was at its height.

In the summer of 2000, Morena’s younger sister, Carrie (who was then 19), traveled to El Salvador, hoping to make contact with the biological family that her older sister could not remember. The war in El Salvador ended in 1992. And within a few years, the biological parents of some of the children who had been stolen for adoption during the conflict came looking in the United States. By that time, most of the adopted children were in their teens. Carrie was 16 then. Morena was 18.

75,000 people were killed in the El Salvador civil war. Morena was not one of the children who learned they had been stolen. John and Paula Coon, who also were raising three sons, had orphanage paperwork that included the names of Morena’s biological mother — Rosa Sanchez — and her father — Flores. By that time, they also had located Morena’s older sister, who was adopted and living in Sacramento, California. Both girls are lucky to have survived. Morena says today she would love her family members to know she is OK and to know they are OK, if they also survived. “It would be kind of hard to put them in my heart now,” she said. “I mean, they always have a place there — the way I think they are. But to find them, it’s like meeting a perfect stranger.”

Morena in 2000 was 21 years old and in the Navy. She was serving on the aircraft carrier John Fitzgerald Kennedy stationed at Mayfield, FL. She understood her sister Carrie’s interest in finding Morena’s Salvadoran relatives. It was for that reason, that Carrie joined a group of 55 Ohio students — including many Salvadoran adoptees — who traveled to Santa Tecla, El Salvador, as part of a medical mission to an orphanage there. The orphanage was located in Ahuachapan, near where Morena’s birth family came from. The group was led by Dr Harvey Tucker of Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Akron. Morena said that Carrie, “. . . just wants to know for herself what kind of people they were. I just know that’s the way she is. We are very close.”

Carrie remembers how frightened Morena was when the two girls were preschoolers together. “She was really possessive of her toys. I remember I wanted to hug her, and she would run away because she was afraid of me.” Over the years, Carrie became more and more interested in Morena’s Salvadoran background. She recalls their parents taking them to see the 1989 movie Romero about the Salvadoran archbishop who was assassinated during the war in 1981. The film included some graphic scenes of the war and its violence. “My parents never really held us back from those things,” Carrie recalled. “. . . When I saw the movie, and just the violence there, I was fascinated by that society and how those people have so little, compared to what we have here.”

Carrie and Morena’s parents told their children that Morena had been rescued from a dangerous place, where she had been so poor she had had to sell candy on the streets. “It was pretty frightening,” Paula Coon recalled. “We went (to adopt Morena) on the weekend after the U.S. Embassy was bombed — in July of 1983.”

In elementary school, Morena didn’t always blend in. “People would say, ‘Is she your real sister?’ because we don’t look alike,” Carrie said, describing her sister’s dark-skin, her dark hair — the features she got from her Mayan ancestors. “A lot of people didn’t know what adoption is, and where El Salvador is.”

The teen-age years were hard for Morena. She was a senior in high school when publicity surfaced about the Salvadoran children being stolen for adoption here. It caused a crisis with her adopted family. “Morena has never said, ‘You’re not my real mom, you’re not my real dad,’ ” Paula Coon said, “But she was becoming disruptive in the family.. . . Morena had more baggage than the average teen-ager.” Though it was hard for her to accept her older daughter’s distancing behavior at the time, Paula Coon said, “Carrie always knew and understood what Mo was going through. Carrie said to me, ‘I have talked to other kids like Morena — and they’re having the same problems.’ “

Morena was able to return to being on good terms with her family. During her time in the navy, she called home from the base “almost every day.” And, although Morena does not retain any of the Spanish language that she spoke as a toddler, her sister Carrie became a Spanish-language major in college. Carrie was excited about her trip to El Salvador because it was a place she had always imagined, ever since she and Morena became sisters. “We take everything for granted here,” Carrie said. “I have always wanted people to understand about her (Morena), where she came from. I thought this would help me understand her a little bit better.”

Want to add this from an adoptee – I carry the life long burden of being “ya know she’s the adopted one”. I let it define me for so many years. I was and am just a kid, grandkid, a person, who happens to have been adopted. Took me a very long time to figure that out. It stymied a lot of my younger years.

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