It is a scene that can melt the heart of anyone who has one: Eleven-year-old Siri Jordan reunited with her father, Dan, at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport when he made a surprise return home from the war in Iraq.
And the replay of it may be enough to help Siri when she misses her father again, after he goes back to serve his country once more.
“I thought that it was very surprising,” Siri told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Monday. “I was wondering why he was here, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s here!’ ”
A white lie
Carefully planned by Siri’s grandmother, Joyce, the tearful reunion was captured on video by NBC affiliate KARE-11. Because military plans can change at a moment’s notice, Joyce Jordan didn’t want Siri to endure the disappointment of expecting her father and then not seeing him. So she told the little girl from Burnsville, Minn., that they were going to the airport to pick up a friend.
“I lied!” Joyce Jordan told Vieira. “[But] I think God’s forgiven me.”
In the video, which TODAY replayed, a shocked Siri sees her father approaching after waiting several minutes near the baggage carousel. Then the powerful reunion takes place.
“That’s Dad! That’s Dad!” Siri shouts while running for her daddy’s arms. “Oh my God! Dad, what are you doing here? Oh my God! You didn’t tell me!”
The emotions also got the best of Dan Jordan.
“I just wanted to come home to my little one,” he said.
Long road home
Sgt. 1st Class Dan Jordan has been a reservist with the National Guard for 25 years, and is currently part of the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade in Balad during his second tour of Iraq. He performs safety inspections of American combat units.
Jordan has not been home since June. But his unit provided him with an R&R opportunity this month, and he was keen to take the 12-day leave, knowing that he likely would face restrictions leaving in 2009.
Siri’s parents are divorced. While living with her mother, she has been able to talk or e-mail with her father just about every day. But her one repeated wish, particularly over the past few weeks, was for her father to come home.
While Jordan calls his daughter “resilient,” Siri has had nightmares of him getting hurt while overseas.
“I tell her we all hope that we will come home safe, but she knows that if I don't, I'll be up in heaven looking down,” Jordan said.
Until next time
Dan and Siri arrived in New York over the weekend for some quality time. Their weekend of sightseeing included a visit to Times Square, a trip to Ellis Island and a carriage ride in Central Park.
“We got to go through Central Park and the gentleman was very nice to take us around,” Jordan said. “She saw places where they filmed ‘Enchanted.’ ” There’s also a plan for the family to appear on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show before returning to Minnesota.
But soon enough, Siri’s father will have to go back to Iraq. After this return home, Jordan cannot return again until next June. He is promising Siri he will be back for her 12th birthday on June 13 — one day before Flag Day.
The tough months ahead may be somewhat eased by the Webcam connection Jordan is setting up, so Siri can actually see her father, in addition to communicating with him via e-mail or phone calls.
But when those transmissions aren’t quite enough for Siri, she can still think back to the memory of her father’s unexpected return and a special weekend spent in New York.
“[Dad] told me that if you feel upset, just do something to make you feel happy or look at a picture,” Siri told Vieira.