Identical Twins Separated at Birth Find Each Other 36 Years Later: 'Like Looking in a Mirror'

For 36 years, Emily Bushnell and Molly Sinert grew up not knowing the other existed — until a chance DNA test brought the identical twins back together

Emily Bushnell and Molly Sinert act like they have been best friends for a lifetime — but the identical twins, who were separated at birth, only just met a few weeks ago.

"It's crazy, I feel like I've known Molly forever," Bushnell, a law firm administrator, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.

Speaking with PEOPLE over Zoom, the pair sit on a couch belonging to Bushnell's mom, Sandy, in Manayunk, Pennsylvania, cradling matching coffee mugs in identical pink sweaters. As the twins, both 36, tell the story of their chance reunion, they share the same easy laugh and finish each other's sentences.

"Being with Emily is like looking in a mirror," says Sinert, a healthcare program manager.

Born in South Korea in 1985, the sisters were sent to separate foster homes as infants before being adopted by two American families unaware they were siblings.

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Molly Sinert and Emily Bushnell. Sunny Lee Photography

Bushnell was adopted by Sandy Schwartz Klein and Christopher Bushnell, both 66, and grew up with three older brothers in Yardley, Pennsylvania, a friendly suburb outside of Philadelphia.

Sinert, meanwhile, grew up as the only child of Merill, 67, and Marla Sinert, 65, in Winter Park, Florida, a busy city near Orlando.

Though hundreds of miles separated them, the twins had similar, idyllic childhoods: they were raised Jewish, worked as baristas in high school and took dance lessons as kids. Neither thought much about their birth family until their 30s.

"I knew I was adopted, but I had no real interest in finding my Korean family," Sinert says. "I grew up going to synagogue, this Jewish girl who was Korean, and I was a happy kid."

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Emily Bushnell's adoption photo. Courtesy Emily Bushnell and Molly Sinert
molly sinert
Molly Sinert's adoption photo. Courtesy Emily Bushnell and Molly Sinert

Bushnell and Sinert were driven to take 23andMe's DNA test for different reasons, but both felt something was missing in their lives.

When Bushnell's only child Izzy, now 11, turned 10, she asked to learn more about her mom's biological relatives. Earlier this year, following a health scare, Sinert decided to investigate any genetic diseases that could be traced to her birth parents. Bushnell had submitted a sample of Izzy's DNA at her request, while Sinert sent in her own.

In March, Sinert was surprised to receive a cheerful email from 23andMe predicting that she had a daughter. She and her husband, Stephen Ellis, 39, a pharmacist manager, have no children.

"I thought the test was a scam at first," Sinert recalls. Still, she decided to message Izzy, whose profile was linked to the results.

Bushnell, who manages Izzy's account (she and Izzy's father, Shawn DeAngelo, have split, but the three remain close), looked Sinert up online and found a recent video of her at a work event.

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The twins even wore similar dresses and hairstyles to their high school proms. Courtesy Emily Bushnell and Molly Sinert

"It was like watching myself," Bushnell recalls. "I was in complete shock."

The pair soon realized they were identical twins after comparing photos and birthdays. But they didn't want their first meeting to be over video — instead, they decided to meet at the Hyatt Centric hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on March 29 — their 36th birthday.

"I felt every emotion under the sun," Bushnell says of reuniting with her sister. "All I wanted to do was hug her."

For more on the twin's reunion, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

For Sinert, that first hug was relief "knowing we had the rest of our lives together."

"We have so much to learn about the lives we've lived," Sinert adds, turning to her sister and fighting back tears. "But I feel like you know me better than anyone."

Since their initial meeting, Bushnell and Sinert have quickly fallen into a sisterly routine, texting every day, trading clothes and planning trips together. Their families met for the first time in Pennsylvania last month. Though friends and family sometimes confused the siblings, Sinert says "time flew" on the trip.

"I've laughed more in the last couple of days than I have in a long time," Bushnell adds of being with her sister. "She gets me, and for the first time I feel like I can be me."

Bushnell and Sinert are still deciding if and when they want to connect with their birth parents. They've been speaking to other twins who were adopted from South Korea, and are also in touch with their adoption agencies to film a documentary about their experience with Seoul Broadcasting System.

"Knowing I have somebody to take that journey with is so special," Bushnell says. "It's the greatest gift."

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