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Father found; daddy lost

AHOSKIE – After spending the majority of her young life without the man responsible for helping to bring her into this world, Shannon Long had finally reconnected with her father.

That connection ended tragically July 4.

Charles Kirkland Jr. was one of four individuals killed Saturday morning on Ocracoke Island when a truck full of fireworks he was helping to unload mysteriously exploded. What triggered the 9 a.m. blast remains under investigation, but it is known that Kirkland died at the scene. Four others – Mark Hill, Terry Holland, Lisa Simmons and Martez Holland – were airlifted to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville and the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. Of that group, only Martez Holland survived.

Meanwhile, back in Ahoskie, Long grieves the loss of a man she called a father and a friend.

“This has been hard for me to deal with, especially under the circumstances of his death,” said Long who lives in Ahoskie with her husband, John, and young son, Billy. “I felt like I just got him back in my life and now this. It’s tough to deal with.”

Long, now 30, said it took nearly 20 years to establish a relationship with her father.

“Ten years ago I became my father’s friend,” she said. “Even absent for almost 20 years, biologically he could never deny me. I have his eyes, some of his nose and a lot of his fun loving spirit.”

After the divorce of her parents 29 years ago, Long said Kirkland moved back to his native Newsoms, Va. From there he gained employment with an electrical contractor that sent its workers to job sites from coast to coast.

“Daddy worked all over the country on some fairly large jobs,” Long noted. “He was a dreamer, always waiting for the next big challenge. Sadly, when I was small, I never understood this, but it is that quality that has made me smile the last couple of days.”

Waiting, hoping and praying to make a connection with her father, Long finally had that dream to come true.

“Children from broken homes always wonder, what if,” she remarked. “My father came home six months ago to make amends, to do the right thing, and finally fight his hardest challenge…that of being a Dad.”

Unfortunately, that happy reunion was short lived.

“I am very saddened by what has happened,” Long said, choking back the tears. “Although my selfishness wants to ask why, I cannot allow that. My father and my friend died July 4th but I do feel he was on the right track. He has met the Lord’s call with a smile.”

In February, Kirkland moved to Goldsboro where his father, the Rev. Charles Kirkland Sr. and mother, Vivian, reside. Despite the move, the reconnection between father and daughter remained intact….up until Saturday.

“Daddy always told me he’d never grow old,” Long said, adding that Kirkland would have celebrated his 50th birthday on July 23. “It’s nice to know he gets the last laugh.”

She closed by saying, “I miss you Dad; I miss what could have been for you, me and Billy.”

Funeral services were held yesterday (Wednesday) at the chapel of Howell Funeral Home & Crematory in Goldsboro. Graveside services will be held today (Thursday) at Hollywood Cemetery in Newsoms, Va.

See page 6A of today’s edition for the complete obituary.