Talk about a Happy Meal. While his wife, NBCLA TV overnight assignment editor Jacki Wells Cisneros, craved KFC, Gilbert Cisneros wanted island barbecue – and he won. Big.
Bringing home their takeout dinners after a day of serving on jury duty, Gilbert also bought 10 lottery tickets at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in Pico Rivera, Calif. Now he and Jacki are digesting the fact that they have won their state's $266 million Mega Millions jackpot, the eighth-largest such jackpot in the game's history, according to the lottery Web site.
Their winning numbers: 9, 21, 31, 36, 43, with the mega number 8. The odds of this happening? One in 175,711,536, claims the lottery site.
Gilbert's immediate reaction? "We're going to church. I'm going to thank God."
And while the two – sitting in the NBCLA studio – were receiving the congratulations of Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira on Thursday's Today show, Jacki was also asked by her NBC colleagues in New York, "Why are you at work?"
"To be on the Today show," replied Jackie matter-of-factly.
'I Just Screamed and Cried'Tracking how Jacki went from working the graveyard shift to being in a position to purchase the station, NBCLA reports that she was on the job at 2 a.m. Wednesday when the news moved on the wire that the winning lottery ticket was sold at L&L in Pico Rivera – and Jacki's news producer Jeff Evans remembered that she lived in the town.
Waking up her husband Gilbert at home, Jacki demanded he retrieve the tickets from L&L. By the time Gilbert "was reading the fourth and the fifth number … all of a sudden he said, 'I think we won,' " says Jacki. "I just screamed and cried."
Gilbert told her, "It's 2 in the morning … calm down, calm down." But she couldn't. Her legs were shaking so much she thought they'd buckle.
Jacki made Gilbert repeat the numbers again and again, Gilbert recalls, saying, "I told her to stop yelling, we want to be anonymous, I don't want anyone to know – but so much for that."
In fact, the initial Los Angeles Times story on the fantastic win does not carry the winners' names, other than to say she is an NBC employee.
The couple said on Today that they plan to buy a house – "We don't know where. We're like kids in a candy store," said Jacki – and give to their church and alma maters.
Sweetening this happy ending even more, Gilbert had lost his job only recently.