HOUSTON, Texas -- A Houston firefighter opens up about being stolen shortly after birth and his journey to Chile to connect with the birth mother he never knew.
Before his journey, Tyler Graf said he was just an ordinary 38-year-old man with a wife and child.
"I was adopted by a very loving, caring family," Graf said. "I think it was just knowing that my story did start before I was adopted. So, it's kind of like missing the first five minutes of the movie."
After becoming a father, Graf tried to learn about his birth family. Suddenly, he got a call he never expected.
"That's when they sat me down and told me who I was, how they know who I am and what the true backstory really is," Graf said.
He had been stolen from his birth mother, who was told her son died shortly after birth.
The practice of coercive adoptions became widespread under dictator Augusto Pinochet's reign in Chile during the 1970s and 1980s. Thousands of babies were taken and trafficked around the world through a complex network that included hospitals, the Catholic church and the Chilean government.
Constanza del Rio said judges, doctors, midwives and social assistants were all involved.
American families, like Tyler's, said they had no idea the baby they had adopted had been stolen.
When Tyler's birth mother, Hilda Quezada Godoy, realized her baby she had laid eyes on in 1983 was actually alive, she could not believe it.
"I wanted to scream," Godoy said. "I questioned a lot of things. The thought of if he was loved, if he ate well, if he spent time cold."
Graf went to his birthplace, Chile, for the first time.
He met the sisters he never knew he had, along with the rest of his family.
Only for a moment, Graf was transported to a life that could have been.
"To be a good mother, it doesn't take a fancy house, doesn't take money. It's pretty simple. It's open arms and a huge heart filled with nothing but support and love," Graf said.