I Finally Met the Woman Who Held My Dying Son
Five months after Carlo was killed, Collins's deployment ended, and she returned to the States. The transition to the life she'd had to leave behind was difficult, as it is for so many service members. Though Collins had been able to video-chat with her family while she was overseas, her youngest daughter, Reagan, 2, wasn't sure who Collins was at first. The family would gradually heal, but Collins felt like her work in Afghanistan wasn't done.
Christine Collins: I thought about Carlo a lot. When I looked back on that day, the images of him were so vivid. I could see the tattoos of his children on his arm. And I wondered: What was his family going through? Did they worry about how he died, if he was alone or in pain? I'd remember the promise I made to my family before I went to Afghanistan: that I would give 110 percent of myself to everyone cared for there. If I was going to be away from them for a year, I had to make that time as meaningful as possible. It was, but there was more I needed to do. I had to find some sense of closure. I had to find Carlo's family. I found the name of the town he lived in online, so I did a little more digging and came up with the phone number for a Jennifer Robinson. Was she his wife? Maybe a sister? I had no idea. When Jennifer answered the phone, I froze. I didn't know how to say who I was and why I was calling. Finally I found my voice. "I'm Captain Christine Collins, and I was in the Air Force stationed in Kabul," I said. "I'm calling about Carlo Robinson. Do you know him?" Jennifer began to cry, and soon I was crying, too. All the emotions of that day when I'd tried so desperately to save Carlo came tumbling out. "I was one of the nurses who took care of Carlo," I explained. "I wanted to let your family know that we did everything we could to save his life. I wanted his children to know that he was a brave man, and that he did not die alone. I was with him the whole time. I held his hand and stroked his face. I told him it was going to be okay." I took a breath and then asked, "Who are you to Carlo?"
Jennifer Robinson: "I'm his mother," I said. I almost couldn't believe what was happening. When Carlo was flown back to the U.S., there was a mix-up at the airport, and the wrong body was sent to the funeral home. It was a painful experience that made me question what's true and what isn't. But when Christine described Carlo's tattoo I knew this was real. God had answered my prayers. I couldn't be with Carlo when he died, so God chose Christine to comfort him. Her team did everything they could to keep him alive.
Christine Collins: We talked for a long time that day. We're both mothers, in different stages of our lives, but we are mothers who love our children. We formed a bond in the most unlikely situation. I told Jennifer that I would always be there for her no matter what. I wasn't physically close to her (I'm in Virginia), but I assured her I was only a phone call away. And one day, I said, I would meet her and Carlo's children.