Holiday Hopes: Persecuted in Egypt for their Christian faith, a family starts over in Tarpon Springs12/18/16 Human Interest
TARPON SPRINGS — "I have a present for you!" the boy called to his mom. He bounded off the school bus and jumped into her arms. "It's in my backpack. And it's real."
In their tiny apartment, the first-grader set his Ninja Turtle backpack on the sofa, then stood beside the Christmas tree that filled the front window.
This is Andrea's first Christmas tree. It's the first one for his mom, Amal Mikhail, 42, too. In Egypt, even those who were brave enough to have Christmas trees hid them away from windows, so no one would know they were Christian....
08/31/14 Human Interest
He got the letter in July, at his mom's house in Seminole. She never would have believed it. ¶ Not after everything that had happened. ¶ Dakota Rockwell, 20, had applied to the University of South Florida as a long shot, hoping — but never dreaming — he would be accepted. ¶ Then the admissions office emailed. He could start in August, in the business school. ...
The congressman's widow couldn't stop crying.
Curled in the corner of her leather couch, clutching her new Yorkie, Camo, she sat alone in her immaculate townhouse. Love songs from the '70s wafted from the kitchen radio. Outside the doors, the sun slid toward the sea.
That evening, the first Sunday in July, was dragging on like so many others. Ten months after her husband died, she still expected him to come home....
Democrats failed to find a candidate to challenge Republican David Jolly for the congressional seat long held by the late C.W. Bill Young, but they may have one lined up for 2016: Beverly Young, the congressman's widow who campaigned for Jolly earlier this year.
“I am absolutely going to run against David in 2016. I’d do it now if I could. If I’d known that the Democrats wouldn’t put anyone up on that ballot, I’d have been there myself this time. I thought they had a candidate. I wouldn’t have been ready. But I would have run anyway," Mrs. Young said Tuesday night in an interview. She is angry about the way Jolly fired her late husband's congressional staffers and feels he has turned one of her sons, Patrick, against her....
She had hoped to decide by January. Then she said summer, which turned into September. All year, she had agonized: Should she run for governor again?
Finally, with time to launch a campaign running out, Alex Sink broke the news last Friday: She would not try in 2014 for the job she almost won in 2010.
Instead, she would continue to work with entrepreneurs through her Florida Next Foundation and support candidates "who I believe share my vision."...
03/02/13 Human Interest
PLANT CITY — The queen was late.
By the time she pulled into the new RaceTrac, hundreds of people already packed the parking lot for the grand opening.
The high school marching band was tuning up, the Budweiser Clydesdales were huffing in their harnesses, and the queen's court was waiting beneath a balloon arch. The four teen girls wore what the queen wore: ruffly red sundresses, white jackets with strawberry sequins and the mandatory lipstick they called "old lady red."...
10/04/11 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — They pulled into Lot 6 just before 10 a.m. Parked in the middle of Row M, under a little live oak. The only circle of shade on that side of Tropicana Field.
From the back of the SUV, they unloaded a plastic table, five canvas camp chairs, four coolers and a Weber grill. The game wouldn't start for four hours.
Tim Capps and his buddies were Tuesday's first tailgaters....
10/03/11 The Heater
Jeff Hausinger wore a dark blue Rays cap, Todd O'Donnell wore a light blue Rays visor, and Hausinger steered his silver Infiniti SUV out of his South Tampa neighborhood and onto Gandy Boulevard on Monday afternoon just after 4.
ST. PETERSBURG, said the sign, 14 MILES. The speedometer went from 60 … to 70 … to 80.
Big night for Tampa Bay sports. The Rays had a game against the Texas Rangers in the baseball playoffs in St. Petersburg at 5. The Bucs had a game against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football in Tampa at 8:30....
09/06/11 Human Interest
SARASOTA — Her grandma made grits that morning. Her mom tied white bows on her braids.
Natalia kept telling them, "I'm going to be famous. I'm going to meet the president!"
That day, Sept. 11, 2001, the president of the United States was coming to her class at Booker Elementary. Natalia Jones-Pinkney and 15 other second-graders were going to read him a story.
"I remember being so excited, driving into school," said Natalia, now 17. But when her mom pulled up in the car circle, Natalia wouldn't get out. "There were all these big horses and dogs and men with guns." ...
09/02/11 Human Interest
It was just a small show of tenderness and sacrifice. But I can't stop thinking about that moment on the midway.
I was in Tennessee reporting another story when I saw it. It was Saturday morning and the county fair was opening early for kids with special needs.
When the gates parted at 9 a.m., hundreds of families flooded through. Some children ran, pulling their parents toward the rides. Others made their way on crutches and walkers. Many were in wheelchairs. ...
08/19/11 Human Interest
For a few minutes, the school bus sat outside the old farmhouse. The driver looked out, waiting for someone to come. The girl in the front seat sucked her fist and stared through the window. • The driver honked. He couldn't just open the door and let this child into the afternoon sunshine. Who knew what she would do? Or how far she would go? • He honked again. A man in work boots hurried from the far pasture. "I'm coming," called the man, Bernie Lierow. • The doors opened and Danielle Lierow, 12, stepped out onto the gravel. • "Hi, Honey," Bernie said, as an aide handed him Dani's backpack. "What did you do today?" • Dani shuffled her sneakers. Didn't answer. Then she reached out and grabbed her dad's hand — a meaningful gesture for a child who, it seemed, would never connect with anyone. • "Pick up your feet, Honey. Walk," he kept saying, steering her up the drive. "You're doing great."...
08/10/11 Human Interest
FORT PIERCE — The boy pressed his nose against the museum case, staring at the World War II diving mask and guns. "Is that the real stuff?" he asked. "Is that what the Navy SEALs used?"
His dad laughed. "Oh, they got newer stuff now, buddy."
"But those are real, right?"
Joseph Thomas, 4, had been begging his parents to take him to see "the SEAL stuff" for months. But they kept driving by the beachfront museum, promising him "another day." ...
07/26/11 Human Interest
Rose Woodworth stood in the center of a weedy parking lot off Fifth Street, surveying what was left of her life:
A wooden coffee table. A plastic dish drainer. Three Southern Living cookbooks.
Everything was strewn around the asphalt. Off to one side, she kept the things she wanted to take with her: Blue flowered sheets. Red Huffy bicycle. A portrait of Jesus, drawn by a friend....
07/22/11 Human Interest
Welcome to the Orlando area, home of fairy tale princesses and killer whales, where knights joust at buffet banquets and tourists talk to animated turtles and even the power poles are shaped like giant mouse ears.
Here, believers stroll the Bible-based paths of Holy Land theme park while partiers revel at Pleasure Island; shoppers flock to one of the world's largest outlet malls and time-share owners come from all around the world. ...
06/21/11 Human Interest
TAMPA — The princess was gone, but her dresses were supposed to travel the world, keeping her legacy alive.
They were going to inspire girls, help raise money for charity and honor the memory of Princess Diana.
After Tampa entrepreneur Maureen Rorech Dunkel bought 14 of Diana's evening gowns in 1997, she talked about international exhibits, museum showings, a series of children's books. She even planned a $35,000-per-couple champagne fundraiser at Britain's Kensington Palace....