After 20 years apart, a North Texas woman and her homeless brother finally reconnected at the airport on Christmas morning.
Her brother had become addicted to hard drugs and alcohol and was living under a bridge in Hawaii the last few years, until he made a phone call that he hopes will change his life.
Sarah Blanks was at the airport hours before sunrise on Christmas Day, waiting for the brother she hasn't seen in 20 years. The two haven't even spoken on the phone in about a year. But now he's on his way home.
"It means a lot. It's hard to explain. It's a comfort. It's a peace. It's knowing that your family is together. It's a good feeling. Especially on Christmas," Blanks said. "He'll be with his family on a day that's so special."
Roger Thompson tried to make a better life for himself in Hawaii decades ago. He worked in lighting on movie sets, helping create classic films like Jurassic Park and Godzilla.
But then he became addicted to hard drugs and alcohol.
"I worked in the film industry. And in Hawaii it went flat for quite a while. And unfortunately that's how I dealt with it. My fault, totally, no one else's but mine," Thompson said. "I found myself living on the streets in Waikiki, under the Ala Bridge, and simply just living day to day."
Thompson was living under that bridge when social workers found him this Thanksgiving. They gave him a bed at Hawaii's emergency shelter and offered to help him reconnect with family through a phone call.
Thompson decided it was finally time to sober up and start a new chapter, and he called his sister in Plano.
"We didn't know where he was or even if he was safe. We didn't know until just before Thanksgiving. That's when we got a call. And from that point on it's been our endeavor to try and get him home, to the best place he could be, as quickly as possible," Blanks said.
After an all-night flight back, Thompson gave his sister a Christmas hug for the first time in decades.
"It's like the best Christmas present ever. It's very special. And it's just special to be back," said 64-year-old Roger Thompson at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. "It's been a long time since I've been around family."
With some help from Hawaii’s emergency shelter — called the Institute for Human Services — Blanks will work to find her brother a steady job early next year.
Thompson said he's an Army veteran, and he hopes to contact the VA and see if his expertise in lighting and his union membership from Hawaii can land him a job in North Texas.
"There's a lot I want to catch up on, and I just want to hit the ground running," he said.
And he hopes that after life on the streets, he can start a new chapter here in Texas — this time clean, sober, and happy.
"When in a situation like mine, you will most likely avoid speaking with members of your family because of embarrassment and wanting to avoid them having a burden on this homeless situation," Thompson said in an interview last week with Hawaii's Institute for Human Services.
"But it just takes one phone call to discover that this is not the case. I think that's important for others to know."
Photo Credit: NBC 5 News