Tia Weber, from Georgia, center, is sworn in by Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick during the naturalization ceremony in U.S. District Court. At left is Hesham Moris Ibrahim Youssef of Egypt.
They were strangers trying to communicate on the Internet. He was from someplace called Perrysburg. She, from a country named Georgia, formerly part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
They spoke different languages. Their cultures were foreign to each other. Their life experiences: a world apart.
Those differences drew them closer.
On Thursday, that couple — Tom and Tia Weber, who married five years ago — took another step that makes them closer.
Mrs. Weber was among 29 people who took the oath of U.S. citizenship during a naturalization ceremony held Thursday at the U.S. District Court in Toledo.
“I’m so excited — I love my new country — I’m so happy,” Mrs. Weber, 39, said after the event concluded.
Her sentiments were echoed by many of the other new citizens, who celebrated by sharing hugs and tears of joy with family, friends and even strangers gathered at the courthouse.
The new citizens included people from 18 countries.
“A few minutes ago we were citizens of different countries,” U.S. District Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick told the new citizens seated in front of him during the ceremony. “Now, we are united as one.”
Keynote speaker Misha Jacob-Warren, whose grandparents emigrated from Lebanon and Ukraine many decades ago, shared how her family made sacrifices, and took advantage of educational opportunities to better their lives.
“This is the American dream,” said Ms. Jacob-Warren, a law clerk to U.S. Magistrate Judge Vernelis K. Armstrong.
A “dream” is how Tia Weber described her journey.
Six years ago she “met” Tom Weber, 57, in an Internet chat room. They conversed online for six months before Mr. Weber flew to Georgia, unannounced. She answered the door wearing a nightgown.
“I needed to see if she was real,” Mr. Weber said of that moment 5½ years ago. “She was.”
New U.S. citizen Rima Adel Abu-Hamdan of Lebanon holds her son, Adam Abu-Hamdan, 2, while her husband, Maher Abu-Hamdan, follows behind them after the ceremony in District Court.
The couple married five years ago. Tia Weber and her now 16-year-old son, Levan, arrived in Perrysburg three years ago. Mrs. Weber’s newfound citizenship automatically applies to her son because he is still under the age of 18.
“It’s so amazing,” said Mrs. Weber, referring to the educational opportunities her son has discovered in the Rossford schools. “The teachers have helped us all along the way.”
Levan Weber still finds the experience hard to believe.
“I didn’t take it seriously at first,” Levan said, referring to when he first learned that his mother had met someone on the Internet. But he’s glad his mother found someone who makes her happy. Someday, he hopes to make his mother and new father proud.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do [as an adult],” Levan said. “I just want to do good.”
The new Americans and their native countries are:
Brazil: Mirvat Mohamad Jarouche, Liliane Oliveira Pinheiro
Canada: Nishant Krishan Puri, Rashmi Puri, Vidhit Krishan Puri, Brenda Lynn Smart.
Dominican Republic: Lizandra Flores, Clara Gomez
Egypt: Mira Ezzat Naguib Guirguis, Samah A. Hassan, Hesham Moris Ibrahim Youssef
El Salvador: Marisol Evangelina Quintanilla Molina
Georgia: Tia Weber
India: Virender Krishan Puri
Indonesia: Martin Ginting
Iran: Shadi Zahedi
Israel: Sameeh Nafeth Hasan
Jamaica: Lurline Verna Laidlaw
Japan: Yoko Brenneman
Jordan: Osama Jawdat Al Souqui, Ragheb Akram Assaly, Rana Ibrahim Assaly
Lebanon: Rima Adel Abu-Hamdan
People's Republic of China: Ling Cheung
Peru: Piero Antonio Poletti
Romania: Carmen Ana Beatrice Cioc, Sorin Cioc
South Korea: Kwangmi Kim Bae, Sung Chul Bae
Contact Federico Martinez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.