‘Katrina Girl’ rescued by Air Force para-rescuer to follow him into military service

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 3:25 PM

Lashay Brown, 3, hugs Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Maroney, as she is relocated to the New Orleans International Airport on Sept. 7, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina flooded her family's home.
U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Veronica Pierce

When then-Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Maroney received a tight hug and brilliant smile from a 3-year-old Hurricane Katrina survivor whom he plucked from a rooftop with her family, he expected that he would never see her again. 

Nearly 12 years after the sweltering September 2005 day that he said goodbye to the grateful child, they have forged a bond so strong that the girl, LaShay Brown, plans to follow Maroney’s footsteps into the military. 

LaShay, 14, of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, also had Maroney escort her to her JROTC ball Saturday night at Bay High School. 

“It would be nobody else that could bring me here, and it would be more special to him,” LaShay told WLOX in Biloxi

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Maroney credits that long-ago hug from LaShay with “rescuing him.” The para-rescuer, who was battling PTSD at the time, was a week into his rescue mission in New Orleans when he was lowered from a helicopter onto a roof where two parents and five children, including LaShay, had been stranded for days. 

Maroney, now a staff sergeant, recalled the rescue in 2015 for the Air Force Times, which was among dozens of publications that helped him find the little girl whose grin had stayed with him for a decade. The girl, whose name he never got, seemed fearless that day, he told the Times. 

As her mother cried on the helicopter, LaShay rubbed her back to comfort her. 

“It’s OK,” Maroney recalled her telling her mother. “We’re safe. Don’t worry.”

When the helicopter dropped off the family at the airport, which was being used as a staging area for evacuees to be moved out of the broken city, LaShay wrapped her arms around Maroney’s neck and hugged him in a moment captured by an Air Force photographer. 

That photo, which ended up on everything from military coins to Burger King place mats, represented for many the strength and resilience of Katrina survivors. It made its way into Mahoney’s heart, and it accompanied him on subsequent tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he said it gave him hope during difficult moments. 

“If not for her hug and smile that day, my life would probably be a lot different,” Mahoney told WLOX

As the 10th anniversary of the deadly storm approached in 2015, Mahoney, who had since become a master sergeant in the Air Force Reserve, began trying to find the little girl. Thanks to a viral campaign people called #FindKatrinaGirl, he and LaShay were reunited on an episode of the television show “The Real.” 

Since then, Mahoney has become close to LaShay and her family. His encouragement led her to join the JROTC at school, so it was natural for her to ask him to escort her to the ball. 

“I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family,” Mahoney told People last week. “They mean as much to me as my own.”

His guidance also led to LaShay’s decision to join the military after graduation. Maroney supports that decision, he told People. 

“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” Maroney said. “I think she understands service, and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”

World’s largest Starbucks to set up shop on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

Published: Thursday, April 27, 2017 @ 7:37 AM

Starbucks will open a Reserve Roastery in Chicago in 2019.
Starbucks

Chicago’s swanky Magnificent Mile will soon have a mega jolt of caffeine as Starbucks announces plans to open the world largest coffee shop of its brand.

The chain announced this week that it will open Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Chicago in 2019, WMAQ reported.

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The North Michigan Avenue business will be four stories tall and will be a “full sensorial coffee environment dedicated to roasting, brewing and packaging its rare, small-batch Starbucks Reserve coffees from around the world,” according to a press release from Starbucks.

The 43,000-square-foot Starbucks will open in the building currently holding a Crate and Barrel at Michigan Avenue and Erie Street.

It is the third roastery in the U.S. The first is in Seattle and opened in 2014. The second is scheduled to open in New York City next year. There are roasteries planned for Shanghai, Milan and Tokyo.

Check your change jar for rare penny worth up to $85,000 

Published: Wednesday, April 26, 2017 @ 7:23 PM

A rare coin, the 1943 copper wheat penny, also known as the Wheat Cent, is worth a pretty penny these days, selling for up to $85,000 at auction.

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That’s according to the online coin value service CoinTrackers, which said the pennies are so valuable because so few were made and they were released by mistake.

The Wheat Cent is made mostly from copper, but steel versions were issued during World War II, CoinTrackers said on its website. Because the 1943 coin was mistakenly minted of copper instead of steel and released, its value skyrocketed.

>> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here

Coin experts have suggested the mistake occurred when copper plates were either tested or left among the steel plates from 1942, KTRK-TV reported.

A penny worth $85,000 may sound astronomical, but consider that in 2012 a 1943 Lincoln penny sold for $1 million at auction.

 

Firefighters rescue woman clinging to top of crane

Published: Thursday, April 27, 2017 @ 8:02 AM

A woman is rescued from a downtown Toronto crane early Wednesday, April 26, 2017. Some streets in the downtown core were closed as dozens of construction workers and commuters gazed skyward to watch police and firefighters try to rescue the woman who got stuck atop the tall construction crane. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/AP

A woman in Toronto can thank firefighters for getting her down from a precarious perch.

She had climbed a construction crane but then needed firefighters help getting down.

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When rescue crews arrived, she had been clinging on to a steel cable for at least four hours, The Associated Press reported.

Crews strapped her to a firefighter who rappelled, bringing her safely to the ground.

Officials do not know why the unnamed woman decided to climb the large crane, without the aid of safety equipment, in the middle of the night. She faces a mischief charge for her death-defying climb, The AP reported.

United Airlines changes policy after man dragged from plane

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 10:31 AM



Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

United Airlines will no longer allow crew members to bump passengers already on board flights after facing heavy criticism for its removal of a Kentucky physician earlier this month.

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The policy change came after video surfaced on social media of officers with the Chicago Department of Aviation dragging Dr. David Dao off Flight 3411 after he declined to relinquish his seat to make room for a crew member.

Dao’s attorney said last week that the confrontation left Dao with a broken nose and a severe concussion. Two of his front teeth were knocked out and he was hospitalized for three days.

>> Related: United passenger suffered broken nose, teeth while being dragged from plane

The change was outlined in an internal email on April 14, The Associated Press reported. Crew members are required to make “must-ride bookings” at least an hour before the flight is scheduled to leave, according to the AP. The airline previously allowed crew members to make bookings until the time of departure.

A spokesperson for United confirmed the policy update to NPR, saying it “ensures situations like Flight 3411 never happen again.” 

"This is one of our initial steps in a review of our policies in order to deliver the best customer experience," the spokesperson told NPR.

>> Related: Delta will now pay passengers up to $9,950 to give up seats

United is not the only airline that has adjusted its policies in the wake of the dragging incident.

Delta Air Lines updated its financial incentive policy to offer up to $9,950 to passengers who volunteer to give up their seats on overbooked flights. American Airlines changed its conditions of carriage and said it would not “involuntarily remove a passenger who has already boarded,” The Washington Post reported.