CENTERVILLE -- It started as an average day for 11-year-old Abigail Wiggins.
The sixth-grader was sitting in her class Friday at Thomson Middle School, working problems on a computer, when it happened. Her mouth dropped. Abigail leaped from her seat, sprinting forward as she burst into tears.
Abigail had not seen her father for 9 months since he was deployed to Afghanistan. U.S. Army Spc. Joseph Wiggins surprised his daughter when he walked into her classroom.
His deployment was rough, and it was long. And Im happy to be home, Wiggins said. When he first hugged his daughter, it was a relief. It was amazing.
Abigail has been communicating with her father through an online calling system, but she wasnt expecting to see him Friday. She jumped into his arms, where she stayed for a few minutes before walking him to her computer to show off some of her work.
Were very, very close, Abigail said through tears. Im very, very happy.
It wasnt the only surprise for the family. Wiggins returned home on his fathers birthday. His parents, Ray and Patricia Wiggins, snapped photos as Abigail wrapped her arms around her father. They choked back their own tears.
This was the best birthday present ever, Ray Wiggins said.
This wasnt the first time their son deployed, and his parents breathe a deep sigh of relief every time he returns home, they said.
Ive worried every time hes left the country, Patricia Wiggins said.
It was a special day at Thomson Middle School. Earlier in the day, another student left early to be with his brother, who also just returned from deployment. In Abigails class, students and teachers gasped and smiled as she reunited with her father.
These are the moments and days we live for, Principal Walter Stephens said. You cant script anything better than this.
Abigail leaned her head on her fathers shoulder, wiping tears and then burying her face in his chest. Then, she grabbed his hand and walked him down the hall, excited to introduce him to one of her teachers.
Nine months is a long time, Joseph Wiggins said.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.