Jamie Langford McQueen’s unexpected reunion with her twin brother was equal parts long-awaited and emotional.
Thinking she was playing a Christmas wrapping game on the basketball court, Spain Park High School athletic trainer Jamie Langford McQueen fumbled around with paper, trying to wrap an item while blindfolded. She knew the gym was crowded with students and teachers on this school day in December, but she had no idea one of the most important people in her life she hadn’t seen in nearly two years was standing just feet away from her.
As she stood up and removed the blindfold, Jamie saw her twin brother, John Tyson “JT” Langford, standing in front of her. She fell to her knees, overcome with emotion. But she quickly returned to her feet as JT wrapped her in a hug. Painting a background behind them was an American flag held up by Spain Park students to celebrate the homecoming for JT, who had been deployed overseas in the United States Army for the last two years.
“Best Christmas ever!” Jamie posted to Facebook after the game. “Thank you to everyone who made this so special to me. I am the worst at being surprised because I nag until someone tells me, but I swear, I had no idea this was coming. My bubby is home for Christmas.”
She just assumed she was part of a funny game. The sight of her brother, right there in front of her, was immediately overwhelming. “I was like, ‘There is no way he is right in front of me,” she says. “I dropped straight to my knees because I was in such disbelief.”
Wrapping the best Christmas present ever
McQueen hadn’t seen her brother since he was sent to Alaska 18 months earlier and then deployed overseas. After such a long separation, JT wanted to show his sister how much he cared. Their mom told Spain Park’s head athletic trainer, Sara Lynch, about JT’s plans to come home early, and Lynch said, “Don’t worry, I’ll handle the rest.”
Sara recruited the help of Rachel D’Amico, Dawn Harrison, Fischer Harrison and Sarah Ashlee Barker to put together the surprise of a lifetime. “We talked and he acted like it would be a few more weeks before we would see each other,” Jamie says.
With her in the dark, the group got to work and set up the perfect distraction to get her to the school without being suspicious. “Honestly, I didn’t expect a single thing,” Jamie says. “Looking back on it, it was a little weird. There were some hints. I thought I was there for a Christmas game, which was normal because everybody knows I love Christmas.”
But after a tough day of work, Jamie was on the fence about wanting to even show up. “But everybody convinced me to stick around,” she says.
Soon after, she was blindly fumbling around with gifts, before then turning to a state of confusion when she was told to stand up and face a certain direction. That’s when the blindfold slipped off and with the vision of her brother, the bad day instantly became one of the best of her life. “I realized how loved I was by all of the people around here,” she says. “My love for them just feels reciprocated. I’ve only been at Spain Park since July, but have made great friendships. To feel like they could do something like that for me was extremely special.”
Rivalry turned to harmony
While the reunion was special, and the love between the twins runs deep, their youth featured a spirited sibling rivalry. “As twins, we were super competitive. We wanted to be the best twin that day no matter what we were doing,” Jamie says. “We were never super close growing up because of that, but we always had each other’s best interest at heart.”
Whether it was karate, playing cards or any other games, there was no love lost when they competed. “Usually it was sports,” she adds. “We both did karate, and I’d always try to one-up him on whatever color we were on and get to the next stripe.”
But eventually they grew out of that phase as they got older and realized what their relationship as not only siblings but twins meant to one another. “Once I went off to college, he hung around for a few years and we were super close,” Jamie says. “He would always come see me and come to my softball games. We were forced to reach out and make it a habit to be there for one another. That’s what became really important for us. We wanted to be there for one another.”
A supportive sister
Just as they had become extremely close throughout McQueen’s college years, it wasn’t long after that Langford decided to enlist in the military at the age of 22—a decision Jamie fully supported. “Honestly, I was super excited for him that he found his calling,” she says. “If that’s what he wanted to do, I wanted to support him. He was always that for me, so I wanted to be there for him. He was giving the greatest sacrifice to give up his life for our country. I can’t be selfish of that. I want to be super supportive of that.”
The two weren’t sure what that meant for their relationship, but it didn’t take long for the messages and Snapchats to start flowing. Jamie also adopted her brother’s dog and looked after him while he was gone, which helped with JT’s absence.
About a year-and-a-half after he enlisted, Jamie was set to be married in November 2018, which created a sad dilemma with JT unable to come home. Leading up to the big day, Jamie wasn’t sure she’d get to talk to her twin brother, but she was messaging him non-stop to work something out. Knowing that she at least wanted him there in spirit, she created a big cutout of him in a suit and made sure everybody knew that her brother was there in paper, even if not in person. “I wasn’t sure if I would get to talk to him, but I had a prop for him at the DJ stand to make sure if he was on Facetime, he was able to see everything and everybody,” she says. “I didn’t even care if I talked to him, I just wanted him to feel like he was there.”
Sure enough, the wedding planner was able to get him on the phone the day of the wedding, and he got to see a large portion of his twin sister’s big day. And then, for a brief moment as she was walking out the back door of the venue, she was shocked to see her brother’s face on the phone. “It was super brief, but I got to talk to him,” she says, beaming. “He told me, ‘I love my new brother and I’m happy for you.’ It wasn’t a long conversation, but I’m glad we got to say something to each other.”
It’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon
A little more than a year later, JT was surprising Jamie at that early-December basketball game. Throughout his three-week visit, the two hung out with family, saw friends, ate a lot of barbecue—Martin’s in particular is JT’s favorite—and just spent as much time together as possible. JT also got to be reunited with Daisy, the dog Jamie was watching while he was away. “They didn’t miss a beat despite not seeing each other for two years,” she says.
But then, Jan. 2 came and it was time for JT to pack up and ship back out. The two have since picked back up with Snapchatting every day, which brings some comedic relief when JT calls in some “funny outfits” because of the below-zero temperatures. “It was really hard to see him leave,” she says. “We don’t know when we are going to see him again, but I try not to worry about it too much. I focus on the time we spent because we got to make up for a lot of lost time.”