Although they’ve kept in touch for the past two decades, speaking every few months, they had never met in person until the Thanksgiving holiday last week.
About two decades ago, Gladys Hankerson of Delray Beach, Florida, was attempting to contact her sister in Maryland when she misdialed the number and heard a stranger’s voice on the other end. “At first, it was just like her saying, ‘Oh I’m sorry!’ and she’s really Southern, very hospitable, polite, very sweet, she’s like, ‘I’m so sorry, child!’ and then she hangs up real quick,” Mike Moffitt from Rhode Island, who answered the call, told NBC News about the beginning of a lasting, over-the-phone friendship.
Mike Moffitt from Rhode Island, who answered the call, told NBC News about the beginning of a lasting, over-the-phone friendship.
Hankerson, who is now 81 years old, repeatedly dialled 401 instead of her sister’s area code of 410 when she called Moffitt. CNN’s Moffitt, who resides in South Kingstown and is 47 years old, said, “It continually happened where she accidentally dialled the wrong number, but it eventually switched to just calling to say hi.” Eventually, he decided to prevent her from abruptly hanging up the phone and inquired about her identity and place of origin. Moffitt stated, “I was like, ‘Hey, if you’re going to keep calling, let’s chat,'” Moffitt said. “It was at first her misdialing. Then I think she just started calling, not misdialing.”
At the time, Moffitt worked in a call centre and stated that he did not mind being on the phone. Especially because speaking with Hankerson was a breath of fresh air compared to his typical phone calls, he said. As each was grieving the loss of a loved one, their phone calls were a source of solace for them both. Hankerson was divorced and had recently lost her son when she initiated communication with Moffitt. “During that time, I was downhearted, and he (Mike) felt my sympathy and everything — lifted me up,” she explained. Moffitt’s grandparents passed away around the same time, and Hankerson filled the void.
For Hankerson, Moffitt felt like family. She stated, “He’s a very nice person,” she said. “I love him to death.” Although their phone calls started as casual conversations, their friendship grew much deeper over the years. ” She had her son call at one time to let me know that somebody close to her passed away. He was like, ‘My mom just wanted me to call and let you know,'” Moffit said. “All of a sudden [our relationship] became not like a superficial check-in call… I understood what it meant to her.”
Although they have remained in contact for the past 20 years, speaking every few months, they had never met in person until Thanksgiving of 2021, when Moffitt decided to surprise Hankerson at her home in Delray Beach during a family vacation to Florida. “The reason we ended up meeting was because a drawbridge was up,” Moffitt said. “We waited 10-15 minutes at a drawbridge, and eventually decided to keep going. That’s when I realized we were 2 miles away from Gladys’ house.”Flowers in hand, he knocked on Hankerson’s door, and she welcomed him with open arms.
“I walked in and said, ‘Gladys, it’s Mike from Rhode Island!’ and she said, ‘Oh, my friend Mike! I’m blessed,’ and threw her arms up,” Moffitt said. Remembering the day she finally met her friend of over two decades, Hankerson said: “I said, ‘Mike!’ I froze. He made my day. Yes, yes. I hugged him, he hugged me and we took a picture. He’s very nice. In the world these days, you don’t meet too many nice people.”