After a year and a half of waiting, couple separated by U.S./Canada border closure reunites


(WIVB) – It’s a reunion more than a year in the making.

News 4 has followed the challenge that Mert Labounty of Buffalo, and Tammy Yonkers of Fort Erie have been stuck dealing with. The couple, who have been divided by the U.S./Canadian border during the COVID-19 pandemic, were finally able to be together Sunday night.

MORE: Lovesick couple separated by northern border closure, protests says ‘Families are essential’

“Every 30 days, you know, I’d go through this emotional rollercoaster where you get your hopes up in the beginning of the month that they’re going to open up the border on the 21st or 22nd, and then that time comes and they cancel,” Labounty said.

Like so many border families still separated by what the two governments have deemed non-essential travel, the couple had not been together in person for 18 months.

“We spent Christmas together over a computer monitor and an iPad, and birthdays – we missed both my birthdays,” Yonkers said. “We missed it all, for a year. And we’ve been right beside each other. That’s the worst part.”

They could wave to each other from across the river – and they often did.

They also spent many weekends protesting the ongoing closure from their respective spots on opposite sides of the Peace Bridge.

“We met a lot of nice people,” Labounty said. “A lot of families that are suffering, a lot of worse stories than ours. A lot of people getting sick and passing away, and they can’t get to their loved ones, and it’s terrible.”

Yonkers resorted to what many people have made the difficult decision to do.

She spent a lot of money and an entire day of traveling, driving from Fort Erie to Toronto.

“Toronto to Chicago, and then to Buffalo – 12 hours, for otherwise 30 minutes,” Yonkers said. “It would cost me, it would have taken me to drive from my house to his house. 30 minutes.”

Finally, after these many months, she landed in Buffalo Sunday night.

“I’m over the moon,” Yonkers told News 4. “I’ve been waiting for this day for months and months and months and months and months.”

“Seeing her just brings back all this hope and glory that I have for our future, and I’m just so happy to have the news here today to show everybody that true love is worth waiting for,” Labounty said.

The two will keep protesting for all the other families.

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