The Robinson kids weren’t expecting their dad to come home for the holidays for another week.
They’ve been counting down the days until his anticipated Dec. 15 return. But in the meantime, Alexandra, Natasha and Aaron Jr., called “AJ,” went about their week normally Monday morning.
As far as they knew, their dad, Staff Sgt. Aaron Robinson, was still at the Qatar Army base where he’s stationed. Their mom, Jessica, told them she was on a short overnight trip for work. Their grandmother dropped them off at Charles Street School on Monday morning, where the day started with an assembly to recognize first responders and veterans in the school gym.
.@PalmyraProud’s Charles Street School had an assembly for kids to thank first responders and veterans. But it was also more than that. They also hosted a surprise reunion for three students, whose father, Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Robinson, is home for the holidays early from Qatar. pic.twitter.com/yDnsPn9b4A
— Gianluca D’Elia (@gianluca_delia) December 9, 2019
And that’s when it quickly turned into anything but a typical week.
“We have a special guest from the United States military,” Principal Christopher Tracey told the whole school, ushering in the Robinsons’ family members to file in from the hallway after students shouted out a thunderous “thank you” to local veterans, police officers, firefighters and EMTs.
At the end of the line was Aaron Robinson himself, in full uniform, returning home from Qatar a week early. He headed straight for the bleachers as his kids, in shock, rushed out of their seats to hug him.
“It feels great,” Robinson said of his return home. “I came home last night thinking all I want to do is see them. I had to wait until the morning, but it was well worth it. I missed every holiday this year, so it’ll be amazing to see them open presents and decorate the tree.”
Robinson was “hiding out” at a friend’s house Sunday night after his return to Jersey, until Monday morning’s assembly.
“It was really clever on the school’s part,” said Robinson, who has also served as a police officer in Edgewater Park. “They came up with the idea and I thought that was amazing.”
Jessica had planned the reunion with the school over the past couple of weeks with her son AJ’s kindergarten teacher, Lauren Quinn.
“I told them, ‘I’m not a great planner,’ and she said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it,'” Jessica recalled.
While the kids thought she was traveling for a business trip Sunday night, she was on her way to meet her husband so she could bring him to surprise the kids.
Neither the three kids nor any of their classmates knew what was about to happen that day.
Robinson’s oldest daughter, seventh-grader Natasha McGowan, said she was taken over to Charles Street from Palmyra Middle School and told she’d be standing in for her parents at the elementary school’s recognition ceremony because they weren’t around.
“I got taken out of math, and I was scared because I didn’t know if I’d gotten in trouble,” she said.
Robinson’s younger daughter, Alexandra McGowan, a fifth-grader at Charles Street, said she did a double take when she saw him walk into the school assembly unexpectedly.
“I was just over there with my teachers, and when I saw my mom, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “When I saw my dad, all that could come out of my mouth was, ‘That’s scary.'”
But it was a good kind of scary, she said — the kind where you feel caught off guard or see someone you know in a place you don’t normally see them.
After school, the family plans to make the most of Robinson’s time at home and start decorating for Christmas.
“I wish I could have seen them in the stands sooner, but once I saw them running up, I thought, ‘This is what I wanted,'” Robinson said. “There’s no better feeling.”
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