Kidnapped at 5, Luo Chang tried hard to preserve his memories. They and Google Maps led him to his parents 23 years later.
A Chinese man kidnapped as a young boy located his birth parents 23 years later using Google Maps and a misty memory of bridges from his boyhood.
Kidnapped from a small town in Sichuan province when he was 5, Luo Gang was abducted on his way to kindergarten, according to RT.com. Taken hundreds of miles from his home, he was then adopted by a family in Fujian province.
Though Luo did not remember much about his hometown, he tried to preserve the few memories that remained. He saved his one possession from his early childhood for several years: a red sweater, embroidered with a white swan, that his mother had knit for him. But that too was lost, at the age of 13, when his home collapsed.
Through the years, Luo kept hope alive that he would one day find his true parents.
"Every day before I went to bed, I forced myself to relive the life spent in my old home," he told Fujian’s Strait News.
Luo, now 28, remembered a home in front of a small river and two bridges — the only landmarks he could conjure from his hometown. More than two decades later, it was these two bridges that helped him find his parents, when he identified the crossings using an online mapping tool.
Luo started the process when he shared his story on a Chinese website that helps reunite families with missing children. Someone responded with contact information for a family whose son had been snatched 23 years earlier in Sichuan province. They lived in Linshui County, north of Ping Xinqiao, the person told him.
Using Google Maps, Luo looked at close-up images of the area. Soon, he found the two bridges he remembered seeing as a child.
Luo, whose name at birth was Huang Jin, was soon reunited with his parents — as well as a sister whom they adopted after giving up hope they would ever see him again. A paternity test confirmed he was the couple’s son.
Cases of child abduction and trafficking are common in China, where an estimated 76,000 families lost a child last year, according to the report. Many victims are boys who are sold to families in search of a son.
It is not yet clear whether Luo's adoptive parents will face criminal charges.