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Identical triplets turn heads at North Carolina legislature

The three grew up in Rocky Mount, attended a Christian school, then UNC-Charlotte, then Georgetown.
Credit: (Josh Shaffer/The News & Observer via AP)
Nicholas, Zachary and Benjamin Osborne are three identical triplets who grew up in Rocky Mount and spent a life doing everything together, now including interning for N.C. Senator Jim Burgin.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Around North Carolina’s state legislature this month, the most compelling conversations revolve around the identical Osborne triplets, who are always together, work for the same state senator, sometimes answer in unison and often can be distinguished only by the pattern on their ties.

At age 27, Nicholas, Zachary and Benjamin have lived a life as an inseparable trio, and the puzzled stares they draw around the General Assembly only boost their pride at living as a 1-in-200-million rarity.

“We don’t view each other as three different people,” said Nicholas.

“Our greatest achievement is we’re triplets,” Zachary agreed.

All law students at Georgetown University, all interns for Republican Harnett County Sen. Jim Burgin, they stress that they come as a package deal.

“If we aren’t accepted at the same time,” said Benjamin, “it’s their loss.”

But as lifelong honors students, who consume world news for three hours each day, whose hobbies include walking for 15 miles around Washington, D.C., and critiquing its architecture, no one has yet passed on the chance to take all three.

“They do draw attention,” said Burgin, who was reminded of The Borg, the “Star Trek” aliens linked by a hive mind. “If one of them has been thinking something, the others intuitively know it. I tease them: ‘If I stick one of you with a pin, all three of you would say ouch.’ ”

The three grew up in Rocky Mount, attended a Christian school, then UNC-Charlotte, then Georgetown — always taking the same economics, political science and history classes — also Chinese. Academic advisers have warned of the impossibility of following identical schedules, to which they have replied, “Just watch us.”

“We lack experience being alone,” said Zachary.

“Being normal is overrated,” said Nicholas.

“Like we’ve ever been called normal ...” Benjamin added.

Ask if they ever switch places with each other and they seem collectively taken aback by the question.

“We’ve never done that,” said Benjamin. “We don’t like to deceive people.”

“I think we’re tricky enough,” added Zachary.

Ask who’s the smartest and they again recoil. Always, they collaborate. They commiserate. They share. Though on this topic, Benjamin brings up the time, as undergraduates, when he and Zachary received 97% grades on an assignment when Nicholas earned a 92%.

“I got an A,” said Nicholas, slightly defensive.

“I think it was a 94,” said Zachary.

“It was an A,” Nicholas repeated.

Ask them the biggest advantage of triplet life and Nicholas replies, “The fact that you always have someone with you.”

But Zachary adds that the question can’t be answered any more than a non-triplet could name the best part about having two eyes. When it’s fundamental to your life, it just is.

They don’t mind the attention. As the three walk around Washington, people stop their cars, get out and ask for a picture.

“It makes us feel special,” Zachary said.

Having spent their internship doing research for bills — Benjamin also fixed Burgin’s wall clock — they remark on the kindness shown by everyone they meet, regardless of political party.

And the three are traveling to Oxford for a summer of study, where they relish the chance to soak up old buildings and British culture they admire.

“We’re overwhelmed by it,” Zachary said. We watched ‘Harry Potter.’ Now we get to go to Hogwarts.”

Expect identical Facebook pictures of Magdalen College, of a 13th-century pub, of the dark-wood libraries where the Osborne triplets will pore over wisdom of the ages. Together.

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