My youngest daughter readied for the 10th grade Thursday morning on the first day of school. She’s 15 and needs no father for anything except to make the pancakes. No walks to the school bus stop anymore.
I sat in my 1998 Buick before the bus arrived and cried. My daughter is growing up and can handle a bus stop walk.
I thought of my other two oldest daughters abroad on the trip of a lifetime.
I drove to work around 7:30 a.m. and then to rural Catawba outside Rock Hill to interview people sickened and appalled and disgusted by terrorism in Charlottesville, Va.
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Then a new shock came -- in a news blast on the car radio, terrorism had hit Barcelona, Spain. That’s where my daughters are.
Terrorism got close to my family again.
In 2015, my oldest daughter was in Paris during a study-abroad semester when more than 100 died and so many more wounded. It took a while to find out she was safe. Before that she was in a University of South Carolina building when there was a murder-suicide.
Thursday seemed to be worse. My two daughters were in Barcelona.
The radio said dozens dead and injured. The news brought up on my cellphone said Las Ramblas was the scene of the attack. That’s where my daughters would likely be sightseeing.
I pulled over. I threw up on the side of Lesslie Highway.
I pulled out my cigarettes and lit one. An excuse, blame the smoke for the tears in my eyes.
My wife, who is the Rock of Gibraltar, sent a text and asked if I’d heard about Barcelona. I work in news. Have I heard?
I am no rock; I shook. I lied because I’m a coward.
It took only minutes, but through the wonders of cellphone technology my daughters sent messages.
“We are fine” the text said.
There is no better feeling in the world than being a parent of children — alive.
My older daughters are grown. One just graduated from the University of South Carolina with honors. The next will graduate next year with honors. They are like their mother - achievers.
I closed my eyes and my two daughters in Barcelona were small and I was walking them, holding hands on each side, to the school bus for the first day of school. Their mother had braided their hair and their eyes shone and their dreams were limitless.
I was the rumpled guy who could not believe the incredible joy of being a parent.
Just Wednesday evening, York County Public Defender Harry Dest had told me that becoming a father was what showed him what it meant to feel love larger than yourself.
That joy is universal.
Thursday I found my solace in my two older daughters being alive. The news rolled in later Thursday that ISIS, terrorists of radical Islam, had killed again. This time in Barcelona.
Parents in Spain did not breathe relief.
They breathed in the smell of death and destruction, and saw the blood and closed their eyes to broken dreams, and wailed. Those who hate had killed somebody’s children.