1 person dead and 3 injured in Christmas Eve mall shooting in Colorado, police say

Colorado Springs Police Department investigators continue working the scene at Citadel Mall in Colorado Springs, Colo., late Christmas Eve after authorities said a fatal shooting occurred at the shopping center, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)

Colorado Springs Police Department investigators continue working the scene at Citadel Mall late Sunday after authorities said a deadly shooting occurred at the shopping center on Christmas Eve.Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette/APCNN — 

One person was killed and three others were injured during a Christmas Eve shooting at a mall in Colorado, police said, marking at least the second time in two days that gunshots rang out at a shopping center in the US as people tried to wrap up their holiday shopping.

Sunday’s shooting at the Citadel Mall in Colorado Springs happened after a fight broke out between two groups, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department.

There was a shooting on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023 at the Paddock Mall in Ocala.

Authorities issue arrest warrant for suspect in connection with deadly Florida mall shooting

Officers responded just after 4:30 p.m., as holiday shoppers were making their last-minute purchases during what was expected to be second-busiest shopping weekend of the year, behind Black Friday. The shooting in Colorado came just a day after shoppers at a mall in Ocala, Florida, were sent running for cover when gunfire broke out on Saturday. One person was killed and another person was injured, marking another example of how pervasive gun violence has become during day-to-day activities in the US.

In Colorado, one man was found dead in the mall, and two other men “suffering from at least one gunshot wound each” were taken to local hospitals in serious condition, police said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

A woman was also taken to the hospital with minor injuries, according to police.

The mall has been “cleared and closed,” the police department said. “There is no https://surinamecop.com known threat to the community at this time.”

Several people have been detained, police said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

Opinion: I criticized the war in Gaza. Then I was fired from my job as Santa

"This controversy has amplified the debate about how and whether we can talk about Israel and the Palestinian people without castigation," says Ken Dorph about being fired from his Santa gig.

Ken DorphLokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu/Getty Images

Editor’s note: Ken Dorph is a consultant who lives in Sag Harbor, New York. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.CNN — 

Last year, I was invited to be Santa at the Sag Harbor Cinema, the renovated art deco movie theater in the quaint whaling town of Sag Harbor, New York. For more than 30 years, I have been a resident of this small village; I have found that Sag Harbor’s whaling DNA and its feisty, independent character have suited me. From Betty Friedan to John Steinbeck, this small place has hosted an array of artists, intellectuals and independent thinkers.

Ken Dorph

Ken DorphFamily Photo

I loved being Santa and was told that I was a natural. I adored chatting with the little ones, and I fully inhabited the role. I always told them that Santa could tell that they were a very good girl or boy. I tried to be Santa for everyone. When the local rabbi’s young daughter was shepherded over to me by the elves, I told her that Santa loved everyone. We had a delightful chat. The eyes of Guatemalan parents widened when I spoke Spanish. The little ones however didn’t skip a beat: Claro, Santa speaks Spanish. Didn’t you see ”Miracle on 34th Street?

The local paper did a wonderful interview with me as Santa, with reporters asking silly questions, such as whether Santa had ever run into Krampus and what Santa’s favorite cookies were. The Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce later hired me to be their St. Nick as well. The Chamber Santa Claus flies into the Village, ringing the bell on the firetruck before meeting kids at the windmill.

The original Saint Nicholas, who bequeathed his name to our Santa Claus via the Dutch Sinterklaas, lived in present day Turkey. In Western cultures, our own Santa took that seed and mingled it with Nordic traditions, including the concept of Yule.

In the 1930s, Swedish-born artist Haddon Sundblom used his very Scandinavian face as the model for the famed Coca Cola ads, cementing the look. Of course, nowadays Santa could be Black, transgender, or Chinese, but that image is still the one that stares back at kids from their books. Santa is special, a kindly grandfatherly magician who answers kids’ dreams. That’s why I have so loved inhabiting this character.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Dr. Sally Kornbluth testifies during a House Education and Workforce Committee Hearing on holding campus leaders accountable and confronting antisemitism, at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Opinion: The conversation we can’t avoid about pro-Palestinian campus protests

But the spirit of Santa speaks to me for other reasons having to do with my own journey of cross cultural discovery and outreach. For decades, I have been in an unusual position. On one hand, I am emotionally attached to Jewish culture and deeply sympathetic to the desire for a Jewish state. I grew up in a housing project in Brooklyn that was overwhelmingly Ashkenazi Jewish. I was a Shabbos goy and knew neighbors who had tattoos from the camps. I went to Stuyvesant High School, and then to the State University of New York at Binghamton, both of which had sizable Jewish student populations. Jewish culture was and, in many ways, remains one with which I feel an emotional connection.

Then at 19, I went to Morocco. The trip was part of a junior year abroad that changed my life. I ended up spending years in the Arab world, first as a student then as a professional. I am fluent in Arabic and have worked throughout the Middle East, including being part of repair teams in nations broken by American weapons, including Iraq, Yemen, Syria, the Palestinian territories and Libya.

In the Middle East, I developed deep and abiding ties with the people from the Arab world. And given my experience in the region, I am often asked to talk about it. After the horrific Hamas attack and the devastating Israeli response, several friends and neighbors asked what I thought. On October 28th, I gave a talk at a local church in Sag Harbor entitled, “Palestine / Israel: What Gives?” to a full house. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

About a month later, I was invited to attend a lecture at the local synagogue — this time as an audience member — on the topic of “Answering the Tough Questions” about Israel. Given the intriguing title, I perceived the invitation as an olive branch. I thought, perhaps narcissistically, that I was specifically invited for my unique Middle East expertise.

People react from behind a gate as the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli strikes are laid on the ground at a hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, November 3, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Biden told me that a pause in the fighting will save lives in Gaza. Here’s why he’s wrong

I could not have been more wrong. The talk seemed intended to offer instruction on how to deflect tough questions challenging the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and its violence against the Palestinians, rather than inform. I confronted the speaker to counter what I considered inaccuracies in the presentation and when it was over, I shared how disappointing I found it. The talk was unhelpful and sounded to my ears like a propaganda session.

I pointed out that it did not remotely address the “tough questions” needed to help bring about peace in the region. The presentation seemed a missed opportunity to have real discussion, at a time when thousands of Palestinians were being killed by American weapons.

Several days later, I received an email from Sag Harbor’s Chamber of Commerce informing me that I was to hand in my fur-trimmed red suit, wide black belt and jingles: I was deemed to be too outspoken to be Santa. I was devastated. Not only was I sad for losing the chance to ride in the Village on the firetruck in all my jolly glory, but I felt thwacked in my bowlful of jelly for speaking out in another life, as another character.

[Editor’s note: The Executive Committee of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce said in a statement that Dorph was asked to step aside after he posted an “official-looking Chamber social media post” showing himself in the role of Santa without the approval of the group, and because of his recent actions in public forums. The Chamber pointed to its “long history of hosting a very simple meet-the-Santa, inherently free of any controversy through Santa’s anonymity.”]

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A journalist friend contacted the New York Times, and a reporter contacted me. After some agonizing — this is a small town, after all — I decided that I had to share what happened. The newspaper published the story, which was picked up globally. I’m happy to say that, since the story came out, I have been invited to be Santa Claus all over the United States and beyond.

Unsurprisingly, this controversy has amplified the debate about how and whether we can talk about Israel and the Palestinian people without castigation. I fervently hope that the ill will it has stirred locally will transform into good will.

I am a firm believer, from my work in my consulting practice — the business run by my https://clasicccop.com non-Santa self — that the more open and informed discussions we have, the more likely we are to reach the best solutions. I hope that even holds true for the allegedly intractable Middle East.

The tragic relationship between Israelis and Palestinians is not a hurricane or earthquake. It is a human-made problem, and it can have human-made solutions. Indeed, we humans are the only ones who can solve it.

Around 100 Airbus employees fall ill after company Christmas party

The logo of European multinational aerospace corporation Airbus SE is pictured during the 2023 Dubai Airshow at Dubai World Central - Al-Maktoum International Airport in Dubai on November 13, 2023. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Around 100 Airbus Atlantic employees fell ill after a Christmas lunch, according to a spokesperson for the European aeronautics company.Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty ImagesCNN — 

A holiday celebration for employees of an Airbus subsidiary in France took a turn for the worse earlier this month as dozens of employees became sick after a company Christmas party.

“Around 100 Airbus Atlantic employees were taken ill after contracting a food-borne illness after eating the company-organized Christmas lunch,” a spokesperson for the European aeronautics company said in an emailed statement to CNN.

The spokesperson did not specify the type of food.

Nobody at Airbus was rendered seriously ill by the December 15 incident, and all employees were back at work by the next Monday, according to the spokesperson.

Airbus Atlantic, established in January 2022, is a wholly owned Airbus subsidiary specializing in airplane seats. Airbus Atlantic has 13,000 employees in five countries, though the ill-fated Christmas lunch occurred in France.

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French health authorities are leading an investigation into the illness outbreak, the Airbus spokesperson said.

“This appears to be an isolated event and all employees are recovering well,” the Airbus https://masurip.org spokesperson added. “The health of our employees remains our primary concern and we are fully cooperating with the ARS health agency to identify the cause of the illness and ensure this cannot happen again in the future.”

Timothée Chalamet’s ‘Wonka’ is only semi-sweet

Timothee Chalamet and Hugh Grant in "Wonka".

Timothée Chalamet and Hugh Grant in “Wonka.”Courtesy of Warner Bros. PicturesCNN — 

More a product of practical commerce than pure imagination, “Wonka” turns out to be a quirky, intermittently tasty confection, featuring Timothée Chalamet as the young inventor/magician/chocolatier in a super-caloric origin story. The star gives it his all, including plenty of not-bad/not-great singing, in a film that’s at its best when leveraging the abundant goodwill of the 1971 classic.

Indeed, “Wonka” opens with quiet musical strains of “Pure Imagination,” and those catchy tunes from the Gene Wilder version eclipse the not-very-memorable new songs composed by Neil Hannon, which tend to rely on slightly groan-inducing lyrics, like Wonka singing to a young girl named Noodle (Calah Lane) that “some people don’t, and some people doodle.”

Hewing toward Wilder (and wisely not Tim Burton’s darker 2005 take with Johnny Depp), Chalamet’s Willy Wonka steps off a boat from parts unknown with little more than a song in his heart, near-mystical chocolate-making skills and, as he sings, “a hatful of dreams.”

Despite phones and old cars, the city where he disembarks has a Dickensian feel to it, including a boarding house run by an accomplished grifter played by Olivia Colman, one of the many members of English acting royalty who pop in, along with Jim Carter (“Downton Abbey”), Rowan Atkinson and Sally Hawkins, much like the Harry Potter series.

As for villains, they consist of a trio of businessmen who head the chocolate cartel and see the fresh-faced Wonka and his divine gravity-defying treats as a threat to their enterprise. The de facto leader is named, appropriately, Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), and their corruption includes assistance from the local police chief (Keegan-Michael Key).

Director Paul King oversaw the “Paddington” movies, which helps explain the rather inspired choice to feature Hugh Grant as an Oompa-Loompa, who holds a grudge against Wonka for an unintended slight. While much has been made of Grant’s casting, the now-diminutive character doesn’t arrive until halfway through the movie and “the little orange man,” as he’s described, gives the whole enterprise a big shot of adrenalin every time he shows up.

If Wilder’s Wonka was mischievously weird and a trifle mysterious, Chalamet’s take is more relentlessly upbeat, even in the face of crushing adversity, at one point channeling Blanche DuBois by saying that he has “relied on the kindness of strangers.”

Still, “Wonka” only sporadically conjures cinematic magic, and most of those moments owe an oversized debt to tying directly into the earlier movie based on Roald Dahl’s story, as opposed to carving its own path for a new generation.

First with “Dune” and now this, Chalamet has certainly become a key player in Warner Bros.’s efforts to breathe new life into venerable franchises, and this role arguably suits him better than the former.

Although mostly appropriate for a younger audience, the irony is “Wonka” will probably play best among those who feel the strongest connections to https://sayurkana.com/ a movie that premiered more than 50 years ago. Chalk that up to a movie that delivers some playfully clever elements but that, in terms of standing on its own, never entirely finds its sweet spot.

“Wonka” premieres December 15 in US theaters and December 6 in a several international territories. It’s being released by Warner Bros., like CNN, a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery, and rated PG.

‘Mr. Monk’s Last Case’ revives the germ-phobic detective, now that we’re all him

MR. MONK'S LAST CASE: A MONK MOVIE -- Pictured: Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk -- (Photo by: Steve Wilkie/PEACOCK)

Tony Shalhoub returns as Adrian Monk in “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie.”Steve Wilkie/PeacockCNN — 

Coming 14 years after the series signed off, “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie” – a movie version of the USA network show synergistically made for sister streaming service Peacock – not only reflects the passage of time but concocts a credible excuse for getting the gang back together. Funny, sentimental, and anchored as always by Tony Shalhoub’s “defective detective,” it’s a worthy follow-up that goes beyond just being a nostalgic exercise.

For starters, this 90-ish-minute movie incorporates the impacts of Covid, which, as someone notes, turned the rest of the world into a hand-sanitizer-using version of the title character. Told “Everybody’s you” now, Shalhoub deadpans, “They’re gonna hate it.”

Indeed, Adrian Monk is not surprisingly sort of hating retirement, engaging in long conversations with his late wife (Melora Hardin) and struggling to hold himself together. Fortunately, series creator Andy Breckman comes up with a credible and personal reason to bring him out of retirement, with help from the old crew, including Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine), Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) and former assistant Natalie (Traylor Howard), whose decision to move on is naturally treated as an act of betrayal.

As for the target, James Purefoy co-stars as a rocket-flying billionaire who might harbor few compunctions about eliminating somebody perceived as a threat to his pampered and privileged life. While hardly a novel idea (bad-guy billionaires have become a dime a dozen in TV drama), it’s enough of a reason for a guy who, as it’s noted, solved 140 homicides to bring his grand total to 141.

As with the series, the who– and howdunit aspects of the story remain secondary to the simple pleasures of watching Monk, with all his quirks and tics courtesy of his obsessive-compulsive disorder and various phobias, try to navigate simple things that most of us take for granted.

“Monk” was one of several detectives with a difference during his heyday, Sherlock Holmes with an extra helping of neuroses and elevated degree of difficulty. Shalhoub won three Emmys for the role, and if the TV movie still has a chance against splashier limited series, he might want to brush off his “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” tuxedo.

Creating a vehicle to reprise all of that is difficult as well, but “Mr. Monk’s Last Case” manages to make it look relatively easy. And while the https://kolechai.com title states (or at least implies) this is Monk’s goodbye, given how seamlessly Shalhoub and company slide back into it, Peacock might be well advised to keep a few extra gallons of hand sanitizer in reserve.

“Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie” premieres December 8 on Peacock.

They fell in love but lived on opposite sides of the world. Then they got separated for two years

Sebastian Fuchs and Denise Sung met by chance in a bar in Hong Kong eight years ago.

Sebastian Fuchs and Denise Sung met by chance in a bar in Hong Kong eight years ago.Denise SungCNN — 

When Denise Sung was growing up in Taiwan, she dreamed about meeting a man called Sebastian.

It all started when she read the William Shakspeare play “Twelfth Night,” a romantic comedy in which one of the protagonists is named Sebastian. Young Denise was swept up in Shakespeare’s story of shipwrecks, mistaken identity and romance, and the play stuck with her – but mostly it was because of the name Sebastian.

“I just thought, ‘Sebastian is such a beautiful name,’” Denise tells CNN Travel today. “I fell in love with that name.”

At the time, Denise had never met anyone called Sebastian. And then she went through the entirety of her teenage years and half of her 20s without ever encountering the name in real life.

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Until, aged 26, Denise Sung met Sebastian Fuchs.

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Denise had spent her adult life living across the world – hopping from Taiwan to the US to Australia to China. The result was close friends scattered across the globe, and in summer 2015, one of them – a good friend from Denise’s college days in Sydney – was getting married in Hong Kong and asked Denise to be one of her bridesmaids.

“I’d always say to my friends, ‘We’re just a plane flight away. If you really want to catch up, if there are any important events in your life, I’m literally a plane ticket away. I can always be there for you,’” says Denise.

So, true to her word, Denise booked a flight to Hong Kong for her friend’s wedding. When she arrived, Denise threw herself into the festivities and then – at the last minute – decided to extend her trip into the next weekend so she could spend more time with friends.

One evening, post wedding, Denise and two of her friends headed out in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong district.

“LKF, it’s a party district,” explains Denise. “You go there anytime any day of the week and there’s always something happening – there’s bars, there’s restaurants, it’s right in the center of Hong Kong, so you won’t miss it. Especially when you’re young, that’s where you go.”

Denise and her friends spent the night dipping in and out of bars, before ending up in a shisha bar.

“If you ask me what the bar was called, I really don’t remember,” says Denise, laughing. “There was a lot of alcohol.”

In the shisha bar, Denise and her friends sat in a corner, deep in conversation. The bar was pretty small and the various groups were crammed together, so when two guys on a nearby table turned around and started speaking with Denise and her group, it wasn’t a surprise.

The two men explained they were from Germany, visiting Hong Kong on vacation. Then they introduced themselves – and that was the moment Denise met Sebastian.

“That’s my favorite name,” Denise exclaimed, without thinking.

“It’s quite a popular name in Germany,” said Sebastian, surprised.

“I’ve literally never met anyone named Sebastian,” said Denise, staring at him.

Denise and Sebastian, pictured later on, hit it off right away when they met by chance one evening.

Denise and Sebastian, pictured later on, hit it off right away when they met by chance one evening.Denise Sung

In 2015, Sebastian was working on a post doctoral degree in Switzerland. He was on vacation in Hong Kong with a friend from his PhD days in Frankfurt, Germany. The day he met Denise happened to be his 31st birthday.

“We celebrated my birthday in a bar and then we happened to meet Denise and two of her friends,” Sebastian tells CNN Travel.

Sebastian and his friend hit it off right away with Denise and her group. They talked about their experiences of Hong Kong so far and how they’d ended up there. Sebastian’s friend led the conversation – “he’s a very easy, outgoing person,” says Sebastian – but while Sebastian was quieter, to Denise he was magnetic.

“There was certainly attraction at first sight,” she says.

“I can say definitely Denise also made a very good first impression on me,” agrees Sebastian.

But back then, Sebastian was looking, first and foremost, for “stability” in a relationship.

And while he liked Denise right away, it didn’t occur to him she might be the person who’d offer it to him, simply “due to the fact that we met so far away from home,” as he puts it.

As for Denise, she was a romantic who firmly believed “that there’s a next great love just coming around the corner.”

“In my 20s I was pretty outgoing, always going out and loved to meet new people,” Denise adds.

But before she met Sebastian, Denise felt she’d truly never had a “meaningful” romantic relationship. And right away, something about him seemed different.

Even on that first night, to Denise, meeting Sebastian felt a bit like fate – she hadn’t intended to be in Hong Kong that weekend and, it transpired, neither had he. Sebastian and his friend had originally planned to go to Bangkok, Thailand, only switching plans last minute. Denise also thought the fact they’d met on Sebastian’s birthday was “really cool.” There was, of course, the whole name thing.

And then it turned out Sebastian and his friend were staying in the same hotel as Denise.

“Out of all the hotels in Hong Kong, Sebastian and I, we happen to book into the same hotel,” says Denise.

She couldn’t help but feel that they’d been “put in the same place at the same time,” against the odds.

Sebastian is more of a logical thinker than Denise. His mind hadn’t gone down that same route. But he was still swept up in the excitement of the evening and found himself acting out of character. When Denise asked if he wanted to smoke a cigarette, he said yes.

“Until that point, I had never smoked in my life,” he says. “After that point, I also never again smoked a cigarette. But at that point, for some reason, I wasn’t daring to say no.”

Keeping in touch

Sebastian and Denise stayed in touch after that first meeting.

Sebastian and Denise stayed in touch after that first meeting.Denise Sung

Sebastian and Denise left Hong Kong with each other’s contact details saved, but no plans to meet again.

Without really thinking about it, or making any conscious effort, they stayed in touch – “just constantly texting and talking to each other,” as Denise describes.

It was a whole year before Denise and Sebastian met again. In summer 2016, Denise and a friend booked a trip to Europe, planning to travel to multiple destinations. In passing, Sebastian mentioned he’d be home in Germany during that period, so Denise decided to include Frankfurt in her itinerary.

While Denise was naturally outgoing, this decisiveness was out of character, at least when it came to her romantic life.

“In my early 20s, I was always very scared of putting myself out there, always thinking too much. You could say I wasn’t very comfortable in my own skin, always caring about how people think about me,” she says.

“In my mid-20s, my mentalities really shifted. I was like, ‘What is there for me to lose? I really want to get to know this guy.’ So I went to Frankfurt.”

Denise and Sebastian reunited in Frankfurt, then traveled to Munich. They also visited Sebastian’s hometown, where Denise met Sebastian’s sister.

Spending time together in Germany felt easy and fun.

For Denise, it was the fact that Sebastian was “honest and very sincere.”

As for Sebastian, he enjoyed showing Denise his home country, and seeing her in Germany made their connection feel more real.

“It was definitely very exciting to meet her again, after that vacation setting, now in my real day to day life,” he says.

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Committing to each other

Denise and Sebastian were sure they wanted to be together, but Sebastian was worried about the long distance at first.

Denise and Sebastian were sure they wanted to be together, but Sebastian was worried about the long distance at first.Denise Sung

A year later, in summer 2017, Sebastian visited Denise in California, in the US, where she was living and working.

It was then that Denise told Sebastian she was committed to him and to making the long distance work, longterm. During this conversation, Sebastian wavered a little bit. He didn’t know any long-distance relationships that had worked out. He wasn’t sure.

Denise struggled to understand this mindset.

“I told my Grandma about you,” she said. “And now you’re saying this is not going anywhere? You need to make a decision.”

Sebastian didn’t want to be with anyone else. He just worried about the realities of dating across continents with no end in sight. But Denise reassured him they would make it work.

“I just feel like, maybe because of my upbringing, I’m always in a different country away from someone,” Denise says today.  “And I do believe that. If you meet someone who’s right and a meaningful person to you, everything else is going to work out eventually.”

Denise’s certainty helped calm Sebastian’s uncertainty. He agreed he also wanted to try to make their relationship work. Looking back, Denise is proud of how she handled this moment.

“As a proud feminist, I think that in the modern time, there’s no reason men should be the ones initiating things,” she says. “I was very certain that he was into me. Otherwise, he would be seeing someone else, but I know that he wasn’t seeing anyone else. So I know that this is serious, he’s serious – but he’s just unsure how this is going to work out.”

Denise and Sebastian decided that going forward, they’d make sure they had regular scheduled meetups. They committed to seeing each other at least every two months.

From then on, they met up across the world and grew closer each time.

“We both love to travel,” says Denise. “We’d pick a city and spend our time there together. I became an expert in learning how to accumulate airline points.”

The long distance was made easier by Sebastian’s job, which afforded him plenty of vacation days, as well as opportunities to travel to the US for work.

“These circumstances helped us to see each other quite a lot, which some people might not be able to,” he explains.

Still, both Sebastian and Denise had friends who balked at the situation.

“I’d hear, ‘How is that a real relationship if you don’t live together?’” recalls Denise. “But it’s just people’s perspectives. For someone who has never been in a long distance relationship, they are someone who is used to having another person being with you, 24/7. And they think that’s what a relationship should be like.”

But Denise and Sebastian were, as Denise puts it, “making their own rules.” They’re both strong willed and have a strong sense of self which they brought to their partnership.

“I’ve always thought, ‘I want to go my own way, make my own decisions, what’s right for me,’” says Sebastian.

“I love myself a lot. So every decision I make I always put myself first – like what makes me happy the most, what’s the most healthy way for me, personally, mentally,” adds Denise.

During this period, both Sebastian and Denise made steps forward in their respective careers and had successes they attribute, in part, to the support of the other.

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Unexpected separation

Denise and Sebastian got into a pattern of meeting up across the globe.

Denise and Sebastian got into a pattern of meeting up across the globe.Denise Sung

In 2019, Denise and Sebastian took another step forward – Denise introduced Sebastian to her parents.

“I’m from quite a traditional conservative Taiwanese Chinese family, so culturally speaking, my parents are traditional in the sense that they feel like, ‘Don’t introduce me to any of your boyfriends, unless this is someone you are ready to marry,’” explains Denise.

When her parents did meet Sebastian, they “adored him,” says Denise. It was late 2019. The couple stayed in Asia into 2020 to celebrate Lunar New Year in late January.

It was around this time that Denise and Sebastian first heard rumblings of the pandemic. But when they said goodbye in January and flew back to their respective homes, they assumed they’d be able to reunite in the US in March as they’d planned.

But just before Sebastian’s departure date, the US borders closed.

“He had to cancel his flights. And that’s when we didn’t know when we were going to see each other next,” says Denise.

Suddenly, the “only a plane ticket away” attitude Denise had grown up with crumbled around her.

“That was the biggest challenge – because this is out of your control,” she says.

Over the months of separation that followed, Denise found herself thinking about her grandparents. They’d left China during the Chinese civil war and gone to Taiwan.

“They couldn’t return for about 15 years, they couldn’t go back to China to visit relatives and family at the time,” says Denise. “I remember when I was kid I’d heard about this story and I told my mom, ‘How is that possible?’”

While this was a very different situation, Denise understood for the first time that the ability to travel across the world to see Sebastian wasn’t guaranteed.

“It does make you feel like travel becomes a privilege – we didn’t take it as a privilege before,” she says.

As the pandemic spread across the globe and borders closed, Denise and Sebastian stayed in touch constantly, video calling and messaging. And, as time went on, they started talking about marriage.

https://ix.cnn.io/dailygraphics/graphics/20210118-travel-stories-callout/index.html?initialWidth=582&childId=graphic-20210118-travel-stories-callout&parentTitle=They%20fell%20in%20love%20but%20lived%20on%20opposite%20sides%20of%20the%20world.%20Then%20they%20got%20separated%20for%20two%20years%20%7C%20CNN&parentUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fedition.cnn.com%2Ftravel%2Fchance-encounters-opposite-sides-world-separated-reunited%2Findex.html

Prior to 2020, marriage hadn’t been on Denise’s radar, but the combination of missing Sebastian and realizing that if they were married, they’d have been able to more easily reunite, made her consider the prospect seriously for the first time.

Denise and Sebastian were separated for nearly two years. During that time they cycled between sadness, anger, frustration and relief that their situation wasn’t worse. They were grateful to be healthy and in stable jobs, and while they couldn’t be together, they’d heard stories online of other separated international couples in much worse situations – people who hadn’t met their children, people with partners in other countries who were seriously ill.

But Denise and Sebastian still struggled being apart, and not knowing what the future held.

Denise distracted herself by adopting a rescue dog, a decision she describes as “the best I ever made.” She made new friends at the dog park, friends who joked that she could have made Sebastian up entirely, given they’d never met him.

Sebastian put a lot of his energy into work. During his downtime, he played basketball with local friends, who helped him take his mind off missing Denise.

“Stuff like that helped me a lot to cope with it, but definitely I was looking forward to meeting Denise as soon as possible,” Sebastian says. “And we tried everything.”

Sebastian and Denise finally reunited towards the end of 2021 in Mexico.

“It was definitely a big relief to finally see Denise again,” says Sebastian.

They were both over the moon to see one another again. But it wasn’t, says Denise, as dramatic a reunion as you might imagine. Instead, it felt like no time had passed, and they slipped easily back into their dynamic.

“With him, I always feel so content. There’s not a roller-coaster of emotions,” Denise says. “I’m just so content with this guy and I feel at home when I’m with him. It’s very important to me, because I left home at a very young age. But with him, I feel like this is home.”

Sebastian proposed to Denise in Mexico. They were sitting on a cabana by the beach when he turned to Denise.

“I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” he said.

While the couple were keen to get married as soon as possible, they also wanted their loved ones to be there to celebrate with them, so they realized they’d have to wait – Denise’s parents currently live in China, where the pandemic travel restrictions only lifted this past August.

Once the Covid travel uncertainty subsided, Denise and Sebastian were finally able to set their wedding date: spring 2024 in the turreted Schlosshotel Kronberg, on the outskirts of Frankfurt.

They’re looking forward to celebrating with family and friends from across the world. Denise is particularly excited to introduce loved ones to Germany.

“I wanted to use this opportunity to show them the country I will soon call ‘second home,’” she says.

Two strangers moved into an apartment in Prague. Then they fell in love

Looking to the future

Today, Denise and Sebastian are planning their upcoming wedding.

Today, Denise and Sebastian are planning their upcoming wedding.Denise Sung

Denise and Sebastian don’t know exactly what the future holds, or where they might settle, but they’re excited by the prospects.

“I definitely want to pick a place that’s diverse,” says Denise. “If we have kids, I want my kids to be fluent in understanding all their different cultures – American, German and Chinese.”

Denise and Sebastian both enjoy learning about one another’s cultural backgrounds. Over the years, they’ve sometimes encountered some big differences in perspective, but they address these moments with a shared open mindedness and curiosity.

“The way we approach things can be quite different. But I think that that is something we can always learn from each other and understand,” says Denise. “We both equally respect each other’s culture and are equally curious to learn about each other’s culture.”

“That’s something that really unites us and which we have in common,” https://jusnarte.com agrees Sebastian. “Cultural difference never has been something that deters me, it’s rather something that attracts me.”

It’s now eight years since Sebastian and Denise crossed paths in the bar in Hong Kong. Today, Sebastian spends more time looking forward to the time to come, than reflecting on times passed.

“I’m not dwelling on how unlikely it was that we met each other,” he says. “I’m just happy it happened and look forward to the future we have together.”

Denise is excited for that future too – but she also remains struck by the unlikeliness of their meeting, and believes it was meant to be.

“I believe in the energy from the universe,” says Denise. “In Chinese language we have one word, it’s ‘yuánfèn’ – it basically means ‘fate.’ We often use that word when you see people from completely different sides of the world drawing together.”

“He is from Frankfurt. I grew up in the countryside in Taiwan. We were in different countries. And we met in a third country that both of us would not expect to be in at that place, at that time. You start to wonder. You question, if it’s not fate, what is it? And he happened to have my favorite boy’s name. Maybe I knew all along I was going to marry Sebastian.”

They met on a Greyhound bus on Christmas Day. They’ve been married for 60 years

Ruth Underwood and Andy Weller met when they both boarded the same Greyhound bus on Christmas Day 1962. They exchanged addresses, beginning a love story that's spanned 60 years and counting.

Ruth Underwood and Andy Weller met when they both boarded the same Greyhound bus on Christmas Day 1962. They exchanged addresses, beginning a love story that’s spanned 60 years and counting.Graphic by Leah Abucayan/CNN/Photos courtesy R WellerCNN — 

Ruth Underwood woke up with a start, and realized – to her horror – that she’d fallen asleep on a stranger’s shoulder.

It was the evening of Christmas Day, 1962. Ruth was traveling via Greyhound bus from her parents’ house in Olympia, Washington to her home in Seattle, Washington.

She’d spent a fun, festive day with her family. But Ruth was working December 26, and needed to get back in time. She was 18, it was her first job, and she didn’t want to risk being late.

“So I took the Greyhound bus and I got on, and I sat down in the first seat that was available, which was next to this good-looking young man,” Ruth tells CNN Travel today.

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“I promptly went to sleep and I woke up with my head on his shoulder.”

Still slightly bleary-eyed, Ruth blushed when she realized what had happened. She apologized to the stranger next to her, straightened her blouse and tried to regain some composure.

“Oh my goodness, I’m sorry,” she said.

But the man waved her apologies away, smiled and introduced himself.

This was 21-year-old Andy Weller. He’d been on the bus since Astoria, Oregon, and was heading to the military base at Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was stationed.

Andy had noticed Ruth as soon as she’d boarded the bus.

“I looked at her because I saw her beautiful red hair,” he tells CNN Travel today.

And he’d noticed when she’d fallen asleep on his shoulder. Andy hadn’t known what to do about it. Should he wake her? Was that rude? What if she missed her stop?

When the Greyhound reached Nisqually Hill on Interstate 5, not too far from Fort Lewis, Andy gently nudged Ruth.

“It took me a long time to even get up the gumption because I was shy,” he recalls. “I finally got enough nerve to say, at least, ‘Hi.’”

Over the next 20 minutes, as the bus traveled along Washington’s tree-lined highways, Andy and Ruth made conversation.

“We began to talk to one another,” says Ruth. “It was pretty frivolous. You know, ‘What is your name? And how are you doing? And where are you going?’ And just discovering that we were both headed back to our workplaces.”

There wasn’t enough time to go much beyond these introductions. But both Ruth and Andy enjoyed the conversation and each other’s company.

Then, the bus pulled up at Fort Lewis.

“This is me,” said Andy. He grabbed his bag and was about to get off, but then he paused.

“Shall we exchange addresses?” he suggested. Ruth readily agreed.

“So, as the bus stopped at Fort Lewis, I was giving him my address,” she recalls today. “The bus driver was a little annoyed. He says ‘I’ve got a schedule to keep up.’”

The two strangers parted ways, both hoping it wouldn’t be the last time they met.

Letters and uncertainties

Andy was a romantic. When he wrote to Ruth for the first time, he was already wondering if she might be “the one.”

But then he learned, via Ruth’s reply, that she was engaged to someone else – a man she’d known since childhood.

“He was in the Air Force. I hadn’t seen him or been around him for almost a year,” explains Ruth.

When Ruth met Andy, she still had every intention of marrying her childhood sweetheart. But she also had no qualms about giving Andy her address. There hadn’t been anything specifically romantic about their bus interactions, after all.

“He had asked for my address, and I thought, ‘Well, there was no harm in writing back and forth to someone,” says Ruth.

But Andy was less sure about the situation.

“I didn’t know where I fit in,” says Andy today. “I wrote her off.”

But then, out of the blue, Ruth’s fiancé ended the engagement.

“He broke up with me – which ended up being a very good thing,” she says.

Her ex-fiancé, it turned out, had met someone else.

Ruth was more shocked than upset. She remembers walking into the living room of her Seattle apartment and sharing the news with her roommate. Her friend’s response was pragmatic.

“She said, ‘You’re not going to just sit here in the apartment and do nothing, and be grumpy and gloomy,’” recalls Ruth.

The roommate suggested Ruth could go out with some of the men they knew in Seattle. Then Ruth’s friend remembered the man from the bus – Ruth should write to Andy and tell him she was single, Ruth’s roommate insisted.

“She said, ‘If you don’t pick up a pen and write to this fellow that you got that letter from, I’m going to have these others guys come and take you out every night.’” recalls Ruth.

“Well, I wasn’t a going-out person. Every night, that didn’t suit me. So, I wrote the letter.”

“So she did,” says Andy. “And so we got together.”

“We corresponded for quite a while,” says Ruth. “We always looked forward to the letters.”

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In letters sent back and forth, Ruth and Andy grew closer.

“We shared the things we enjoyed doing and shared the goals we were trying to achieve,” says Ruth.

A few weeks into their correspondence, Ruth told Andy she was thinking of moving back to Olympia, Washington, where her parents lived.

Andy suggested he could help Ruth move – it would be an opportunity to see her again,  and see if their epistolary connection translated to real life.

“I went over there,” says Andy. “I knocked on the door, she opened it. The rest is history.”

Their chemistry was apparent right away. Almost immediately, Andy asked Ruth what she was going to be doing on August 22.

“How should I know?” said Ruth. “Why?”

“Well, I thought we could get married that day,” said Andy.

“No way,” said Ruth, laughing.

I went over there. I knocked on the door, she opened it. The rest is history.

Andy Weller

But as they boarded another Greyhound bus together – this time traveling from Seattle to Olympia – Ruth felt more and more sure that she wanted Andy to be part of her life.

This certainty was only confirmed when “almost halfway between Seattle and Olympia, Andy began singing to me,” says Ruth.

“He sang to me most of the way back and serenaded me.”

From then on, Andy would come to visit Ruth in Olympia whenever he could. And whenever they were apart, Andy and Ruth continued their letter-writing correspondence.

“We saw each other every weekend, so much of our letter-writing consisted of what we did during the week, and how we were missing each other,” recalls Ruth.

On weekends, Andy would borrow an army buddy’s car, pick Ruth up and they’d head to Squaxin Park on the city’s waterfront.

“We’d hold hands and walk together and talk together,” says Andy.

“I just got to know him,” says Ruth. “And I liked what I saw.”

They fell in love on a Greyhound Bus 35 years ago. They’ve been together ever since

An unorthodox proposal

Here's Ruth and Andy, pictured in 1963.

Here’s Ruth and Andy, pictured in 1963.R Weller

On July 4, 1963, Ruth and Andy were spending the holiday together when Ruth suddenly handed Andy a thick white envelope.

It was a wedding invite. Andy stared at Ruth in shock.

“I was wondering if she was marrying the other guy,” he says, referring to Ruth’s ex-fiancé.

“I started reading it. And of course, I was kind of distraught at the moment – until I got down to the part that said that she was marrying me.”

Ruth had the idea when she was alone one day, during the week, thinking about Andy and the idea of a future with him. He’d mentioned marriage again a few times.

“I got to thinking, ‘I really do love this man.’ And so I went to the printers and I had wedding invitations printed up,” recalls Ruth.

Ruth had no idea about the wedding venue or really any of the details. But she knew when it would take place. There was no question about it – August 22, the date Andy had suggested on their second meeting.

When she handed him the invite, Andy was overwhelmed, then delighted. He hugged Ruth tightly.

And a couple of months later, on August 22, 1963, Andy and Ruth got married in Olympia, Washington, at the church Ruth attended as a child. Ruth took Andy’s name, becoming Ruth Weller.

The couple extended the wedding invite to all the local churchgoers. They expected about 100 guests, but in the end numbers were closer to 200 – all the people who’d watched Ruth grow up wanted to be there to toast her and Andy.

Thanks to the ballooning numbers, on the day, Ruth realized they didn’t have enough wedding cake for all their attendees. They had to scramble to find more.

“We had all kinds of different kinds of cakes,” recalls Ruth.. It worked out, and was a special celebration.

Two strangers fell in love on a plane on Christmas Day

Growing together

Ruth and Andy were excited to begin married life together. But they were both very young, and their first few years together were a learning curve.

“Neither one of us had really dated a whole lot – like I said, I was engaged to another young man, but I had not dated many other young men,” says Ruth. “And so we basically did grow up together during that time.”

The couple were also both busy with their jobs. Ruth worked for the state of Washington, Andy left the army and also started working for Washington state, in the licensing department.

The couple realized that they have, as Ruth puts it, “very different personalities.” But they had a similar way of looking at the world and felt like a team from the beginning. It was “magic”, says Ruth.

That first Christmas, the anniversary of their meeting, the couple celebrated by going to the 88 cent store together, to do their Christmas shopping.

“We were just married and things were tight,” says Andy.

They giggled as they walked around the store, buying small gifts for their loved ones. It was their first time giving gifts as a couple, and felt special.

Then, they got together with their family.

“We always had a close family and just had lots of fun and fellowship with one another,” says Ruth. “My parents loved Andy.”

https://ix.cnn.io/dailygraphics/graphics/20210118-travel-stories-callout/index.html?initialWidth=582&childId=graphic-20210118-travel-stories-callout&parentTitle=They%20met%20on%20a%20Greyhound%20bus%20on%20Christmas%20Day.%20They%E2%80%99ve%20been%20married%20for%2060%20years%20%7C%20CNN&parentUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fedition.cnn.com%2Ftravel%2Fchristmas-day-greyhound-bus-chance-encounters%2Findex.html

In time, Ruth and Andy had three children. They moved from Olympia, Washington to Yakima, Washington.

They loved being parents.

“Andy’s a wonderful person. He’s attentive. He’s always been there for us, his family, in every way,” says Ruth.

“She was always there with the children, guiding them, directing them,” says Andy.

“But has it always been easy? No,” says Ruth.

Ruth and Andy’s daughter Joanne was born with Maffuci syndrome, a rare bone disorder, and needed a lot of extra care when she was young.

“She grew up to be a very brilliant young woman. She was a 911 dispatcher for several years. She gave us a lovely grandson,” says Ruth.

Joanne sadly passed away a few years ago.

“We’ve been through things like that – that a lot of other people don’t have to face and don’t have to figure out how to get through,” says Ruth. “It is true that I believe that it’s made us stronger in one another.”

Over their decades together, Ruth and Andy have supported one another through the hard times and cheered each other on during the good.

The key, says Ruth, is “when you find the one that’s the right one, hang on tight.”

“Yes, you have to go through hard times,” she says. “But remember, you go through good times, too. And those are the ones that you hold on to and that you keep close to you. And you remember. Those are the things that keep you going.”

She was a Pan Am flight attendant, he was a pilot. Their inflight meeting sparked a 50-year romance

Feeling thankful

Here's a recent photo of Ruth and Andy, who've been married for over 60 years.

Here’s a recent photo of https://kueceng.com Ruth and Andy, who’ve been married for over 60 years.R Weller

Over the decades, Ruth and Andy began to associate their love story with one particular song, “I Say a Little Prayer,” first recorded by Dionne Warwick in 1967, and later released by Aretha Franklin the following year.

Andy would often sing the lyrics to Ruth. The song still resonates with them both today, as they regularly give thanks for one another’s presence in their lives.

“It is a little unusual to meet someone on a Greyhound bus that you’ve never met before and make a connection,” says Ruth. “Actually it’s a miracle that would happen, even – two total strangers come together and end up being married to one another. And being married for as long as we have.”

This past August, Ruth, who is now 79, and Andy, who is 82, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Their wedding anniversary is an important day to them both – but so is Christmas Day.

Every Christmas Day we reminisce. We look across the table and know what the other’s thinking.

Ruth Weller

“Every Christmas Day we reminisce,” says Ruth. “We look across the table and know what the other’s thinking.”

This Christmas, the couple will celebrate the day with their loved ones by their side. Ruth and Andy remain close to their family, which now numbers four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

“I love being alive and seeing all our grandchildren growing up and their families, and their great-grandchildren,” says Andy.

“It’s absolutely wonderful,” says Ruth. “Their hugs are just so important to us, especially at this age.

“We are looking forward to being together this Christmas, 61 years after we first met,” she continues. “I’m sure we will reminisce, laugh, joke, and be teased about our chance meeting those 61 years ago on Christmas Day, 1962.”