Morgan Heist, 19, who learned last week that her mother, Brenda, had surfaced in Florida after 11 years, said the news had made her recall the years of mourning when she assumed her mother was dead and she feared she had been killed.

"I ached every birthday, every Christmas," said Morgan Heist, a freshman at Montgomery County Community College. "My heart just ached. I wasn't mad at her. I wanted her to be there because I thought something had happened to her. I wish I had never cried."

Brenda Heist's mother, Jean Copenhaver, said Thursday that her daughter "had a real traumatic time" but was doing OK.

"She just said she thought the family wouldn't want to talk to her because of her leaving," Copenhaver said. "And we all assured her that wasn't the case."

Morgan Heist said she was not sympathetic, partly because her mother had a choice, unlike the family she abandoned.

"It's definitely very selfish," Morgan Heist said. "She clearly did not think of me or my brother or my dad at all with that decision. She thought of herself."

- Associated Press