The news of gunmen attacking to terrorize in Paris, bodies maimed, carnage flashed across the television, the Internet and radio – and a father’s gut churned with panic.
Terrorism crossed the ocean in less than a second Friday night. The terrorists had done what they intended. A father in Fort Mill stood terrified.
He wavered and grabbed at something strong that does not exist.
Because the oldest daughter, studying abroad, was right there in Paris when the bombs exploded and the guns roared and the blood spilled. She was so close that on a clear night, she could hear the chaos echo across that city.
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That father is me.
As the television coverage continued, and the death toll rose to 29, to 35, to more than 100. French and German soccer players in the Stade de France paused ever so slightly as explosions rocked the stadium.
And with his child abroad, the father – who would tear apart anyone who would dare to harm his child, whose birth caused his heart to ache with a love that has grown stronger every day – could do nothing.
CNN showed the police and the firefighters and tried to update the story with people near the scene. The young of the world took to social media to report the story from inside, and it terrified all who read it.
Chaos. Blood. Death. Fear. Terror.
Nine months before, the same daughter had been in the University of South Carolina public health building when a scorned woman shot a professor and then herself – making the father’s heart freeze with fear.
That was just 80 miles away.
Paris is an ocean away.
It is home to more than 2 million people, with tens of thousands of tourists and other visitors. The terrorists – who hate the freedom of the young to laugh and love and stride with carefree joy – went out with guns to maim and kill and take it away.
The guns aimed at France became guns aimed at the world – and guns aimed at Fort Mill.
The mother – the rock, always – worked the cellphone as the father hid his fear.
Finally, the daughter’s voice came over the phone from so far away. The miracle of technology.
The father’s face, frozen in fear, finally flushed.
The mother told the daughter to stay safe and be careful.
A daughter alive, a mother and father relieved.
But scores of other mothers and fathers will learn that daughters and sons, young and carefree, fell victims to terror.
The father held his chest with a heart that threatened to leap out of it, and thought of those fathers who will not hear the sound of a daughter ever again because of extremism over misguided religion that threatens us all, guns that threaten us all – and terror that, it seems, will not cease.