Feb. 13, 2003 -- When Rick Gabe and Sandi Allen started dating, Stevie Wonder was topping the charts, Jimmy Carter had just been elected president, and the nation was in full bicentennial swing.
The year was 1976, and Rick and Sandi were high-school sweethearts in the Los Angeles area. He had a slick James Dean haircut, and a love of Motown and muscle cars. She was the girl next door, with a shy smile and a wild streak.
Their first kiss was at Sandi's brother's house, with music playing on the jukebox. Rick gave Sandi one of his favorite 45s, Smokey Robinson's "Baby, Baby Don't Cry," and signed it with his name.
The couple dated for a while, but then went their separate ways. They would not see each other again for 27 years — until last month.
Separate Ways, Separate Lives
Within a year of their break-up, Sandi was married to another man. They ended up having two children and moving to Las Vegas, but their marriage ended in divorce in 1995. Sandi, now Sandi Mierow, says the 13-year marriage was "pretty tough."
By then, Rick was living in Tennessee managing a muffler shop. He had been married twice and had four children, but both marriages ended in divorce. Part of the reason, he says, is he never felt the same spark with anyone that he had had with Sandi. "I'd like to have a wife one day where that was there," he said.
Searching For Each Other
All along, Sandi had kept the record Rick had given her. After her divorce, she decided to see if she could find him. Her first few efforts met with no luck, but then her teenagers Jason and April joined the hunt. The teens helped their mother sign up on a Web site that reconnects lost friends and lovers, MyFamily.com.
The Web site came up with 38 matches for "Richard Gabe." The site's staff sifted through them until one day Sandi got the call she had been waiting for. "We found him,!" the Web site's staff told her. "We've spoken to him. And he is so excited — and he's single!"
It turned out that Rick had been searching for Sandi at the same time she was searching for him. "Miracles happen," said Sandi's son Jason.
The Big Day
Primetime decided to bring Rick and Sandi back to their California hometown for a reunion.
On the day they were to meet at a local hotel, both of them were as nervous as teens going to their first prom. "Just mentioning his name does butterflies in my stomach," Sandi said.
Sandi tried on half a dozen different outfits before deciding on a black suit with a yellow blouse. "Is he as nervous as I am now? Did he sleep at all?," she wanted to know. Her knees were shaking uncontrollably.
"Have I changed to him? Has he changed to me? I know the way I felt. Did he feel the same about me?"
Rick was just as nervous. "I can't sit still," he told Primetime. "I can't. I pace. I'm not sleeping. True story. Two Tylenol PM didn't work. It's the honest truth."
"I just want her to put her arms around and look me in the face. I can handle the rest of it, I think, after that. I hope. Maybe not ... I hope that she has the same feelings that stuck with me."
In Each Other's Arms Again
When the time to meet finally came, Rick paused outside the door for a moment, dozens of roses under his arm. "Can you hear my heart?," he asked the camera operator.
Then he took the plunge and went in. The two former sweethearts walked toward each other and hugged in a long embrace, broad, slightly bashful smiles on their faces.
"It was Rick. The same old Rick," was the first thing that went through Sandi's mind.
"It was overwhelming, absolutely overwhelming." Rick later told Primetime. "When I looked into her eyes, they were doing exactly what they used to. They were looking right back at mine."
It had been 27 years since they saw each other, so the first thing they had to do was catch up. They fired rapid questions at each other: "Where do you live?" "How old are your kids?" "Did you get married?"
Then they settled into the couch, showing each other pictures of their kids, and listening to the Smokey Robinson song that had been their favorite. Sandi had kept the record all those years, through thick and thin.
The biggest question of all was, Is the spark still there?
"It's there. It's very scary. It's wonderful," said Sandi.
"I cannot explain what is going through me right now. It is amazing... almost cruel to humanity," said Rick.
It is too soon to tell whether the long-lost lovers will resume their relationship, but in the two weeks since their reunion, Rick has called Sandi every day, every hour on the hour.