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Thanksgiving Shopper Revel in Black Thursday; Marissa Alexander Released from Prison; Police -- Sisters Were Imprisoned in House of Horrors; Another Capsized Boat Survivor Found; Pope to Visit Israel in May; Happy Thanksgiving from U.S. Troops; New Video of Twister Hitting School; Survivors of Deadly Twisters Give Thanks; Survivors of Deadly Twister Give Thanks; Therapy Dog Lifts Spirits with Big Licks; Hero Cop Recounts Life-Saving Move; CNN Heroes 2013

Aired November 28, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is November the 28th. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, and welcome to the program today.

If you just so happen to be in your PJs still, or if you're knee-deep in sweet potatoes and stuffing, you're late. You're late to the sales, that is. This is becoming a new Thanksgiving Day tradition, heading out to the big box stores to take advantage of Black Friday sales a whole day early.

Some are calling this Black Thursday, and let me tell you, not everybody is happy about it. But with this year's short holiday shopping season, we're just 27 days away from Christmas. Retailers and consumers are embracing the "ka-ching" factor.

Our CNN correspondents Nick Valencia and Kyung Lah are taking in the "ka-ching" factor. They're braving the crowds this morning.

Nick, you're at a Kmart store just outside of Atlanta that's now been open for, what, about five hours or so, by our clock. Doesn't look like there's a lot of crowds behind you. What does it feel like?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, there were a lot of crowds here earlier this morning. About 30 people lined up outside. They were here when we got here about 6:00 in the morning. They busted through that door.

And it was cold out there, Ashleigh. It felt like about 17 degrees, but that didn't stop them. I talked to the first guy in line. He got here at 11:00 p.m. last night. And he said he's here for the deals.


VALENCIA: Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, Kmart, one of a handful of retailers open for business on Thanksgiving.

Are you guys ready for it?

BILL BONSOR, KMART MANAGER: I think so. Yeah. Yeah, we're excited about it. VALENCIA: For those who think it's something new, Kmart has been doing this for over 20 years. More retailers have followed suit, and that's no coincidence, according to the National Retail Federation.

KATHY GRANNIS, NATIONAL RETAIN FEDERATION: Shoppers still want to shop on Black Friday and get those amazing deals, so e don't expect black Friday to ever lose its luster. But there is a new player in town. And Thanksgiving is certainly giving Black Friday a run for its money.

VALENCIA: Of the nearly 140 million people expected to shop this holiday weekend, nearly a quarter will hit the stores Thanksgiving Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm out here to get some great deals, man.

VALENCIA: Outside of Best Buy in Florida, tents were in place more than a week in advance of the sales. Just how serious are they? This man brought a generator to run his many electronics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know they do it every year, and every year I say the exact same thing. It's just crazy.

VALENCIA: Crazy is one word for it. Angry is another.

On, more than a hundred thousand people petitioned Target to stay closed for the holiday writing, quote, "Families should be more important than corporate greed or materialism. And because it's the right thing to do."

Back at Kmart in Mableton, Georgia, store manager Bill Bonsor says working on Thanksgiving is no bother. For him, it's about meeting the customer demand.

BONSOR: One thing to understand this year is that we have one less week for shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas than we do -- than we did last year.


VALENCIA: And the big demand here at Kmart were the TVs. People came in crowds. They sprinted over here. Kmart is trying something a little different this year. They're going to be open for a straight 41 hours. It's a lot longer than usual.

Let's throw it over to Kyung Lah. She's in Burbank, California. How are things looking over there, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've been open two hours here, Nick, and it's pretty busy. Take a look at some of these other registers. You can see that people are lining up, they have wads of cash and they are buying electronics and toys.

But even among the shoppers, there's also that same debate on whether or not it's actually worth it to brave these crowds on Thanksgiving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's something about Black Friday. Your integrity?

LAH: These Chicago-area cousins don't care about the mayhem. In fact, they thrive on it every year, using shopping apps and meticulous planning to save on toys for their young kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What, eight hours of shopping?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, it was all night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, eight hours or so.

LAH: Seriously, all night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was worth it.

LAH: Kwasniak (ph) spent $960, half of her budget, saving a thousand dollars on gifts, enough to make her want to dance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, yeah, the jig had to happen and I would do it again if I got a deal like that.

LAH: Not a laughing matter to Victoria Caruso, who's seen enough of the fighting and doesn't want any of it, even if it's literally a pillow fight.

VICTORIA CARUSO, ONLINE SHOPPER: I think they're crazy. To them, it's a sport. Lacrosse is a sport. Black Friday is not a sport.

LAH: She shops all online. Sure, she gives up on some of the deals, but savors her serenity.

CARUSO: The savings aren't worth the bail money.


LAH: But it apparently is for people who decide to wake up early on Thanksgiving morning. You saw how full that lady's cart was.

Not huge crowds, Ashleigh, but we are seeing shoppers come out on Thanksgiving morning.


BANFIELD: I'm still not processing that video that I just watched of those people and whatever it was, pillows, blankets. I couldn't even see. It was like fur flying, Kyung. It's awful. Awful. Anyway, good luck on your assignment today out there. I'm glad you got your safety water all set up beside you.

Kyung Lah in Burbank, California, for us and Nick Valencia in Atlanta, thank you.

Some of the stores may be packed today, but don't let that fool you, because according to a brand-new poll from the University of Connecticut, only 7 percent of Americans plan to go shopping today. And that compares with 90 percent who say they plan to stick around with the pumpkin pie and the football instead.

And even as more and more stores are throwing open their doors on Thanksgiving, many potential shoppers think the idea is actually a deal breaker for them. The same poll found 49 percent of respondents actually disapprove of the idea of stores opening today, while only 16 percent approve and 34 percent -- meh. I think that's an official vote, meh, spelled M-E-H.

Some other news that we're following today, as well. Marissa Alexander is out of prison and she's home with her family this Thanksgiving. You might remember her, the Florida mother of three. She was serving 20 years behind bars after firing a gun, a warning shot to scare off her husband who she says had been abusive.

Her case has raised questions about Florida's controversial stand- your-ground law. In September, she was granted a new trial overall of this. And just last night, a judge released her to home detention on $150,000 bond.

You are looking at some incredible video of a "house of horrors" where a man and woman allegedly imprisoned three sisters for approximately two years. Police say the girls' mother and their stepfather tormented the girls with loud music night and day. That Arizona couple was arrested Tuesday after two of the sisters escaped and ran to a neighbor's house.

The Coast Guard has rescued another survivor from that Haitian migrant vessel that capsized Monday off the Bahamian coast. The man was on a small island, and he was 13 miles from the spot where that overloaded sail freighter capsized and killed about 30 people. Officials have rescued 111 survivors, thus far.

Israeli sources say that Pope Francis will make his first visit to Israel in May of next year. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to attend an official invitation -- or, extend, rather, an official invitation when he meets the pope at the Vatican during a trip to Italy. And that's planned for next week.

Throughout our hour today and all day long, in fact, here on CNN, a little something special for Thanksgiving, because while we're all giving thanks for what we think is important, we're also going to be hearing from some of the very brave United States service men and service women, tens of thousands of them, troops who are away from their families and friends this Thanksgiving.

And some of them are on their third or fourth tour of duty and they're in some of the most world's most dangerous and inhospitable places, like, for instance, Forward Operating Base Apache in Afghanistan.


FIRST LIEUTENANT THEODORE YANG, UNITED STATES ARMY (PH): First Lieutenant Theodore Yang (ph), Delta Company, 1-8 Cav, I just want to say to all the people at home, happy Thanksgiving. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: First Lieutenant Yang from Mason, Ohio, we thank you. Thank you very much for your service.

All right, talk about feeling extraordinarily thankful today. Take a look at this video as a tornado barrels through a school gymnasium. Remarkable to think of the power of that storm. We're also going to take you live to the victims of this storm system to see how they are coping on this holiday so soon after the devastation.

And have you seen this video? A therapy dog for tornado victims finding a little victim of his own and really making a very special day out of it.

We'll show you that video. Take you there live, next.


LIEUTENANT COMMANDER RICH LAWRENCE (PH): Hi, I'm Lieutenant Commander Rich Lawrence (ph) with the NATO Role 3 MMU here at Kandahar Air Field.

I'd like to give a shout-out to my family, Christina and William. I'd like to say, happy Thanksgiving, and I love you guys, and I'll see you soon.



BANFIELD: On this Thanksgiving, many people in the Midwest are thankful just to be alive, because they are the survivors of the deadly storm system that produced dozens of tornadoes in that region.

We've got dramatic new video to show you what happened when a tornado ripped through a middle school in Lafayette, Indiana, November 17th. The reason the cameras were rolling is because they are motion sensitive and operated just before that tornado hit, the bright light coming in because the roof is gone. You can see the debris. You can see school supplies flying across the gym, through the hallways and cafeteria.

Here is the good news as you watch that destruction, why no students? Thank God, it was a Sunday when this happened. Even if it had been a weekday, you can rest assured that students would have been taking cover. But who knows how good their cover would have been when you look at that roof coming in like that. Just unbelievable.

You'll also remember parts of Illinois suffered damage from that storm system, as well. Eight people lost their lives. Two-hundred-some-odd people were injured, hundreds of homes injured, damaged or destroyed and some of them just gone, nothing salvageable at all.

Twenty-four twisters in all touched down in the state. The city of Washington, Illinois, was one of the hardest hit areas. Many survivors are coming together today to give thanks and to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.

Our Ted Rowlands is there. It's been over a week. I'm looking at the damage behind you. While it may not be in the news, these people are still suffering. How are they dealing with Thanksgiving Day today?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Ashleigh, it's a stark reminder of what happened, because for many of us, being at home is such a big part of Thanksgiving.

Whether it's your home or your grandma's home or relatives, it's sitting around, watching football, watching the Thanksgiving Day parade or LEGAL VIEW with Ashleigh Banfield. It's about being at home, watching -- and just being in a place. And they have no home.

And this is -- while they've been working on adrenaline for the last couple of weeks, figuring out what they're going to do, going through what's left of their home, today is -- bam, it hits you like just a brick that they don't have homes. And they had a great event here in Washington yesterday. Hundreds of families got together and had a meal.

Take a little listen to what some of them had to say.


LINDSAY DUBOIS, TORNADO VICTIM: You realize what's truly important and that it's your family and your loved ones and your community. And we just can't be more thankful for everyone being safe.

JEFF SILTMAN, TORNADO VICTIM: The community's just been huge, the outpouring of all our church family, family, friends. I could go on with endless stories.

GOVERNOR PAT QUINN (D), ILLINOIS: So many people have come forward as volunteers here in the past 10 days. It's so inspiring.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Ashleigh, there's more events are going on later today. People are getting together on Thanksgiving to eat together. The bottom line is, as you said it earlier, a lot of them really do feel thankful they are alive. When you look at the destruction, it's absolutely amazing. Only one person in Washington died.

There were -- a couple hundred were injured. All of those people are out of the hospital, though. And so there is a lot to be thankful for them, even though they have a long road ahead.

BANFIELD: You know what, Ted? I think -- correct me if I'm wrong -- what I'm hearing behind you is the sound of chainsaws. Clearly, this is no day off for people who are still just trying to -- it's unbelievable, still behind you 10 days later, the destruction.

Have you seen a lot of people out there? Are they getting the help that they need? ROWLANDS: Yes, they are. And the volunteers that have volunteered from Chicago and the neighboring areas, it's amazing. There's a number --- when you drive into town, if you need help clearing, call this number.

People are helping out. And you're right, that is a chainsaw. It's a family over there. It's a day off from work, but like you say, it's not a day off for them, they're going through the rubble looking for things and putting their lives back together, making decisions: are we going to stay? Are we going to rebuild? All of that, you know, those are the tough decisions they have to make in the next few months.

BANFIELD: All right. I'm just going to throw this out there because I know that people who are watching probably want to help as they're giving thanks for their loved ones and their families as they do. is always a great place to go if you want to -- if you feel like in a Thanksgiving in a really particularly giving mood.

Ted Rowlands, thank you. Please wish the people you come into contact there our best on this Thanksgiving Day.

Thank you, Ted.

ROWLANDS: Sure will.

BANFIELD: All right. And Happy Thanksgiving Day to you as well, Ted.

Fellowship and food are not the only things that are helping Illinois tornado survivors. This one is going to warm your heart, this therapy dog. Let's just take that in for a minute, will you? Just look at that.

Yes, you are a special therapy dog. Kissing a little boy as though they're long lost buddies. Black lab, adorable. Oh, and it's not over. There he goes. No, no, no. Nobody escapes the kisses and licks from this little guy. Hopefully that will uplift your spirits. I don't know what it is, just something about a dog, loving people, that brings a smile even to those who have been the hardest hit by these things. So thank you as well for your service. I wish I knew his name. I'll have to work on that. Listen to that laugh.


BANFIELD: Oh, that's great.

All right. So moving on here, literally, with moments to spare, one officer had to think fast. This New Jersey cop did just that. We showed you this video yesterday on the program, putting himself directly in harm's way, helping that person out of the vehicle, clearly unconscious.

And look at the vehicle. So you probably want to know what's going through his mind at that very moment. And you're about to find out, because you are going to hear from him. He spoke with us. You'll hear all about it, next. STAFF SERGEANT MARTINEZ (PH), U.S. MILITARY: My name is Staff Sergeant Martinez (ph) from San Antonio, Texas. I just want to say Happy Thanksgiving to my family, my husband. I miss you. The kids, I love you, I miss you. I'll be home soon. Mom, dad, brother, sisters, I'll be home soon from Gardez (ph) City.


BANFIELD: Happy Thanksgiving to you once again. We're so happy that you're watching us today and enjoying hopefully your family and friends. Today we're especially thankful for something even bigger than all of us, our heroes. Like the police officer in some incredible video I'm about to play for you. We showed this to you yesterday for the first time.

This is Scott Krissinger of Cape Maine, New Jersey, the police department there. Here he is, regular day on the job, pulling a man from a burning truck. And then if that weren't enough, he goes back. Yes, charges right back towards a flaming truck to open up the passenger door to see if there is anybody else inside. The smoke comes billowing out. He has to cover his mouth but still goes back, looking for someone.

Got it. Safe. Got everyone out and saved that person. He was on CNN's "NEW DAY" this morning and he talked about what was going on inside his head as all of this was unfolding.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any fear, any hesitation at all?

OFFICER SCOTT KRISSINGER, RESCUED MAN FROM BURNING TRUCK: Started thinking in the back of my mind I wanted to get away from the truck as soon as I could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you thinking right how? You're opening that door. You're looking in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not knowing if the car would blow up, by the way. I mean, you don't know what's going to happen.

KRISSINGER: Yes, when I opened the door, I didn't know what to expect. I couldn't really see anything, I just reached in my hand in and I felt him and I just pulled him out.


BANFIELD: Yes, I don't know whether I would have been thinking much either, Officer Scott Krissinger, thank you for what you did.

By the way, the officer says that the driver is in critical but stable condition at this point and does say that he hopes one day to meet him. And I hope that we get to see the video if that happens because that's going to be one remarkable reunion. And, again, Thanksgiving, all about people like you. As we enter the season of giving, we here at CNN are preparing for our own holiday tradition. And it's one we're not only very proud of, but I think it's getting some pretty big traction out there. I don't know. Just saying.

CNN Heroes, an all-star tribute, and it's the celebration of the Top 10 Heroes of the Year, and their extraordinary work helping others. When I say extraordinary, that ain't no hyperbole. These people are really amazing. This program's going to air on Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And our own entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner gives us a preview of the star-studded gala.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's that time of year again, when giving back to others is in the air, hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper, this year's annual Heroes event is packed with emotion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

TURNER (voice-over): And unforgettable moments.


TURNER: A night when Hollywood's brightest stars come together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shines a light on people that don't do it for the light.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is for people to get excited about. It kind of makes your jaw drop.

TURNER (voice-over): To shine a spotlight on 10 remarkable people who are changing the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is like the Academy Awards for good people.

TURNER (voice-over): Like a great-grandmother who used her life savings to turn a bus into a classroom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get on the bus, everybody. CNN Hero Estella Pyfrom.

TURNER (voice-over): And a woman who started a drill team to keep kids off the streets.


TURNER (voice-over): Turning the tables on a traditional awards show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not the only hero in this room and none of us, as heroes, stand alone.

TURNER (voice-over): CNN Heroes puts these everyday people center stage.


TURNER (voice-over): It's a star-studded event with a few surprises.

And the heroic ending that you don't want to miss.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: 2013 CNN Hero of the Year...

TURNER (voice-over): A night to gather together to celebrate the human spirit.


BANFIELD: So there is so much more after the announcement of the big one, the CNN Hero of the Year. Don't miss the incredible act of generosity that brought the audience to its feet. It's happening on Sunday night.

Let me tell you, when I say no one in the room expected this, I was there. And I'm here as living proof to tell you, we were all absolutely gobsmacked, the star-studded tribute at 8 o'clock on CNN.

For the 12th year in a row, U.S. troops are sending Thanksgiving messages from Afghanistan to their loved ones back home. But when are they coming home? Many were supposed to be home next year. But now that could change. Questions about when our troops can come home from Afghanistan, that's coming up next.

SERGEANT MAJOR BARRETT (PH), U.S. MILITARY: I'm Sergeant Major Barrett (ph), and I represent Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And I want to say what's up to my family and wish them a happy Thanksgiving, Eric (ph), Aaron (ph), Mara (ph) and my chocolate lab, Buddy (ph).


BANFIELD: Welcome back to "LEGAL VIEW". I'm Ashleigh Banfield. On this Thanksgiving Day, we all have something to be thankful for, don't we? And one of the most important, perhaps these people on your screen, the American men and women who are serving in the Armed Forces.