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. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions in county funding toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  2. Man injured when small helicopter crashes into Odessa home


    ODESSA — Firefighters and sheriff's deputies were investigating Monday after a small helicopter crashed into the roof of a house in northwest Hillsborough County.

    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  3. State investigation cites multiple failures in death of Largo child


    LARGO — It was sweltering in the bedroom of the Largo mobile home the day a child welfare case manager visited in July.

    Liz Rutenbeck, 24, poses with her son William in a Facebook photo. Baby William Hendrickson IV died while his mother was in jail after police said his father left ihim in a sweltering room.  A state investigation into the boy's death found multiple failures on the part of the child welfare system.
  4. 'Siesta Key' star punched in face, not sure who did it


    TAMPA —Alex Kompothecras, cast member on MTV's reality show "Siesta Key," tells police he was punched in the face outside a bar in Tampa's SoHo district.

    Alex Kompothecras, Juliette Porter, Pauly Apostolides, Madisson Hausburg, Chloe Trautman, Garrett Miller, Kelsey Owens and Brandon Gomes pose for a photo in Siesta Key in June before the debut of the MTV reality series Siesta Key. [
EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Senate health care bill would be disastrous for Florida


    The frantic effort by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something — anything — ranks raw politics over sound policy and threatens the health care of millions of Floridians. It is a desperate attempt to declare victory by shifting responsibility from the federal government …

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks in August in Doral.