Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At Tampa airport, Air Force dad meets baby daughter for first time

Ashley, 6 months, Christine, Isabella, 2, and Sgt. Shaun Prouty, back from a six-month deployment, meet Saturday at Gate E-65.


Ashley, 6 months, Christine, Isabella, 2, and Sgt. Shaun Prouty, back from a six-month deployment, meet Saturday at Gate E-65.

TAMPA — A dark-haired woman pushing a double stroller appeared at Airside E security Saturday morning nearly out of breath.

Two tiny girls reclined in the stroller. A blond woman bustled alongside, carrying bags and cardboard signs.

The dark-haired woman told the Tampa International Airport security officer, "My husband is coming back from his deployment, and he has never met his daughter. Can I go to the front of the line?"

Whatever had been important to the people in that line five seconds earlier suddenly ceased to matter. All that counted now was that this woman and her children get to the gate before her husband emerged.

Turns out his plane had arrived early. It might already be too late for the surprise.

• • •

My wife, Alisa, and I were in the line. Everybody made way. I helped the harried mother fold up the stroller so it would go through the scanning machine.

Later I learned her name and her story. Christine Prouty, 34, and her husband, Shaun, 32, live in Palm Harbor. Daughter Isabella is 2. On April 7, Shaun, an Air Force sergeant, left home for a six-month deployment in southwest Asia. Nineteen days later, Christine gave birth to their second child, Ashley.

Shaun had seen the baby in pictures and on Skype, but this would be the first time in person. Christine's friend Emily Sugar had come along to wrangle the girls and take photos.

My wife urged Christine to go ahead. Alisa said we would see their things through security and meet them at their gate.

"Thank you," Christine said. "Thank you." And she was gone.

• • •

Nobody at security knew how to unfold the collapsed stroller after it passed through the scanner. After struggling for a minute or two, we stood it on its end and rolled it through the terminal like a filing cabinet on a dolly.

Christine had told us Gate 65. When we got there, we could see he had made it. Shaun, a tall man in a striped polo shirt and a Buffalo Bills hat, had gathered his family in his big arms, right in the middle of the terminal.

Christine handed him his new daughter.

Their friend Emily took a photo.

Everyone around backed up a step or two, creating a perimeter around this intimate moment, as if to give it respect. We all did our best to keep from losing it. It was as if someone had pressed the pause button on the universe.

They gathered their things to go home, but first, the Proutys' friend took another picture. Shaun held a sign that his baby daughter had made for him with her mother's help.

"I waited my whole life to meet you."

At Tampa airport, Air Force dad meets baby daughter for first time 10/20/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 20, 2012 10:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn proposes $974 million budget for 2018

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn today proposed a $974.2 million budget for next year that would raise the city's property tax rate for the first time since 1989 and use the additional revenue to improve parks, expand fire service and prepare for looming financial challenges in the years ahead.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn presented his proposed $974.2 million budget for 2018 to the City Council on Thursday. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times (2016)
  2. A second chance at life, away from the game he loved

    The Heater

    Dylan Delso, a catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays' Gulf Coast League team, displays his scar at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. On June 25, 2016 Delso fell backward down a flight of stairs, suffering a nearly fatal head injury that put him in a coma for eight days. He's finally back on the baseball field after a miraculous recovery.
  3. Florida house where O.J. Simpson lived listed for $1.3 million


    MIAMI — What happened to the Florida home where O.J. Simpson lived with his children after his acquittal in the death of his ex-wife and her friend?

    O.J. Simpson explains his golf scoring to his daughter, Sydney, as he played golf on Key Biscayne in Miami in 1997. The house south of Miami where Simpson lived with Sydney and his son, Justin, until his 2008 conviction in an armed robbery involving two sports memorabilia dealers in Las Vegas, is on the market. [AP photo]
  4. Behind the lens: To capture an exhilarating moment, it's better to be lucky AND good


    Editor's note: Boyzell Hosey, our Assistant Managing Editor - Photography/Multimedia, shot this image while on a family vacation in Alaska. Below is his description of the shot.

  5. Council candidate James Scott sees a green future for St. Petersburg

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG — James Scott's central tenet is sustainability.

    St. Petersburg City Council District 6 candidate James Scott. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   TIMES]