Jillian Sobel considers her life to be a story of "hope, joy, optimism, and San Francisco State University" she tells in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle about the miracle that is her life. On May 27th, at the age of 31, Jillian Sobel graduated from San Francisco State University. In 1984, at this same university, she was born and left in a box in a laundry room. There she was left for hours, with her body temperature dropping and her life slipping away when miraculously a student named Patrick Coughlan walked in and noticed the box moving. He yelled to the other student in the room who, in another miracle, just happened to be a nursing student studying newborn care. This student was named Esther Raiger and it seemed like baby Jillian was meant to live.
The city soon became fascinated by this baby's story and many lined up to adopt her. Sam and Helen Sobel were the lucky ones and Helen stated in the interview that she knew immediately "this was our baby." This was not the end of Jillian's struggles though. School was difficult for her. She developed a learning disability and depression by age 12. She transferred to many different high schools finally settling on a boarding school in Costa Rica.
When she was 22, Sobel was working at a clothing store when she showed her friends a scrapbook dedicated to the story of her birth. In it they saw a quote from Esther that said "when I'm 41 she will be 20. I wonder if we'll ever meet again." This prompted Sobel to write to Esther and the two of them met in what was described as an "emotional experience." Next, Sobel decided to reach out to her biological parents. She wrote a letter to her father first, who replied back saying he would fly to California. She also met her biological grandparents at the same time. Her mother was a little more complicated. She wrote her a letter to thank her for life and told her she was now taking classes at San Francisco State. From this she only received a friend request on Facebook, but after no contact Sobel eventually unfriended her. Just recently, she realized that some messages on Facebook are hidden. She eventually found one from her mother from over two years ago stating, "I have something to tell you. I'm very proud of you and thank you for being you."
And she should be proud. Jillian has now graduated and has a job at a production company following her graduation. As she walked across the stage everyone was there: her adoptive parents, her biological father and his parents, and Esther. Now it is time for her to make an impact on San Francisco.
Photo Credits: Connor Radnovich, The Chronicle