Violent storms moving through the southeast ruined Christmas for many from Texas to Georgia. This "wedge" tornado was seen ripping through Mobile, Alabama. David Saraceno and his family were driving down the interstate en route to visit family for Christmas when they were caught in the storm. He drove while his wife shot a video of the dangerous tornado that tore through Mobile yesterday. He joins “Starting Point” over the phone from Fairhope, Alabama this morning to share his experience.
On Christmas day, what could be a better gift than to have a son or daughter return from service overseas? And how much more special when it’s a surprise? Texas mom Debbie Giles received that ultimate gift when her son, U.S. Navy Fireman Apprentice Matt Giles, planned the ultimate surprise.
He sent his mom an oversized Christmas card that she was reading aloud to a friend on the phone when Matt came from behind and hugged her. A video of the surprise has gone viral with more than 70 thousand hits online. Mother and son join “Early Start” from Houston this morning to share their story.
“I wasn’t expecting it all,” Debbie says. “It was a total shock.” The happy mom also shares how the experience has been for the family, who hasn't been able to see Matt since March. "We spent last Friday with all of my children and grandchildren. We had our family get-together then. It's been wonderful having Matt home."
Alina Cho asks Matt what wish he would like fulfilled in the new year. "I guess if possible, I would wish my dad could actually stand up on his own. He could walk again," Matt says. "It's a big wish and it probably won't happen but he's made a lot of improvement and for him to improve as much he has from the stroke until now...I'm just so proud to have come home and seen that he's doing so well."
Debbie asks for something similar to her own experience for other armed forces. "If I had one wish, I would wish that all the military personnel can be home with their families through the holiday season."
Christmas is typically a festive time when many of us decorate our houses with lights, wreaths, inflatable Santas and more. But there’s always that house that takes it a little too far. One woman's display in Fountain Valley, California features 65,000 lights! The display cost $50,000 and took a month to install. And it has since sparked controversy among her neighbors. But it's in tribute to a man who died of cancer. This morning, we're joined by the Jan Stewart, the woman who owns the house and put up the display.
Stewart says she put up the lights in tribute to her late husband, Larry. “We had been looking at these lights for quite a while on the Internet; decided last year was the year that we were gonna do it,” Stewart says. “Unfortunately, he passed away in May. So, I decided to do it in his honor and this is the second year.”
The sentiment is not lost on everybody but some neighbors have complained and consider it a bit of a nuisance. “It’s only for another week or so and the display will be gone,” Stewart says. “I just don’t understand their attitude.” Stewart plans on doing it again next year.
Like a scene right out of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” thieves broke into an Oklahoma City family's home this holiday, tore open Christmas gifts and even knocked over their Christmas tree. The family says the thieves stole about $5,000 worth of electronics and a handgun. Oddly enough, while the real-life Grinches unwrapped the Graham’s gifts, they did not steal any of them. What they didn’t realize is that they were caught on tape by security cameras installed by the family just three weeks before. This morning, robbery victims Shawn and Casey Graham join “Starting Point” to tell their story.
Initially, Shawn thought that their dogs had torn up their tree for the candy canes, “but it was still too hard to believe that they did that.” The security cameras told the true story. Casey says she was “shocked and surprised.” “It makes you angry to see somebody going through your stuff and going through your home when there’s nothing you can do about it,” Casey says.
The robbers have not yet been caught, but the Grahams hear that authorities have great leads. Meanwhile, they say they feel fortunate. “There were homes that were completely cleared out or… robbed in person,” Shawn says. “We were lucky to not be there when it happened and that they didn’t make off with any more than they did.”
Celebrating Christmas at the White House is more than about lighting the national Christmas tree, a longstanding tradition. Each First Lady who comes to the White House brings with her a different style and set of traditions during the holidays. But they do get some help.
Coleen Christian Burke spent a year researching secrets of some of the most famous First Ladies when it comes to decorating the White House. Burke was even part of the 2008 White House decorating team, a long-time dream come true for her. The experience inspired her to write "Christmas With The First Ladies: The White House Decorating Tradition From Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama". She comes to “Starting Point” this morning to share some rare photos and talk about what goes into decorating the White House for the holidays.
“It’s an enormous undertaking,” Burke says about prepping and planning the White House Christmas. “And I like to say the First Lady is the Commander-in-Chief of Christmas. It’s her vision; we execute it, but it’s done with almost military precision.”
Burke explains that planning the White House Christmas theme begins in February or March of the year before. “And then a lot of work actually happens off-site where you’re pre-building and assembling everything,” she says. “Once the decorations are all put together, they are moved to the White House and there’s an enormous two-day install that goes on.” She describes it “like moving day at the White House.”
Christmas is right around the corner, a time for forgiveness for the family. But the holidays can be dramatic family occasions as well. The plot of director Ed Burns’ new film, "The Fitzgerald Family Christmas", shows just that family dynamic. It's a return to his Irish-American roots, as the film explores the complex relationships between siblings and parents, which tend to be heightened around the holidays. Burns wrote, directed and acted in this film, alongside co-star Connie Britton. He also shot the film in the neighborhoods where he grew up in Long Island.
"The Fitzgerald Family Christmas" is reminiscent of his directorial debut in "The Brothers McMullen", which was also written by Burns and starred him in it. It told the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island struggling to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity. Burns comes to talk about the new film and its connection to his first one this morning on “Starting Point”.
“It was a conscious decision on my part, 17 years later, which is scary,” Burns says, “to go back to that milieu, that world, and literally, a homecoming.” He says the way he shot the film, “the Fitzgerald’s live about 6 doors down from where the McMullens lived in Valley Stream, Long Island,” which is his own neighborhood.
“It’s not autobiographical,” Burns says, “but the Fitzgerald’s definitely come from the same world that I came from. They grew up in the same neighborhood, shaped by the same experiences, went to the same schools. So it was one of those screenplays that really poured out of me.”