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Bush Speaks at Olympic Torch-Bearing Ceremony

Aired December 22, 2001 - 08:17   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The fire from the Olympic torch is the night in the sky in Washington. We've been talking about this. The torch was carried yesterday through the nation's capital. This morning it's being taken to the White House before proceeding on its journey to Salt Lake City.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Let's see, do we -- oh, we've got the light picture. There it is.

PHILLIPS: Oh, we've got the light picture. There it is.

HARRIS: All right. The flame is there on deck and so is our Kelly Wallace. She's standing by -- hey, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Leon and Kyra.

You see that exactly, the Olympic torch has arrived here at the south lawn at the White House. I can't really see closely who is carrying that. Our understanding the torch would have been carried into the White House, onto the south lawn, by Elizabeth Anderson Howell. And she was definitely very much connected to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Her husband Brady was killed during the attack on the Pentagon.

And then what will happen here as Elizabeth Anderson Howell carries the torch to the south lawn, it will be handed, the president will take it and light an Olympic cauldron here at the White House. The president expected to deliver some brief remarks. And Leon and Kyra, White House aides saying the president, you know, wanting to focus on people definitely touched and impacted by the tragedies of September.

And after this event, the torch will be passed off to Eric Jones. He's a student at Georgetown University. Apparently right after the attack on the Pentagon he headed there to help, to help try and rescue any victims, to help with the recovery operations. And after working there, I believe, for four straight days, he drove up to New York City to volunteer there for 10 days there at the site of the former World Trade Center.

HARRIS: What a story.

WALLACE: So two people definitely involved here having the honor of carrying the torch into the White House and out as it makes its way to Salt Lake City -- Leon.

HARRIS: That's a great story. Now, is the president going to run with this torch at all?

WALLACE: You know, he, of course...

PHILLIPS: He's already running with the torch.

WALLACE: He's an avid jogger but I do not believe he'll be doing any running today. I think he will be hosting the ceremony, delivering some remarks and then he is going to shuttle and make his way to the presidential retreat at Camp David, where he will be spending the holiday weekend through Christmas and then on Wednesday, the day after Christmas, he and the front line heading to his favorite place, we understand, his ranch in Crawford, Texas, through the new year.

HARRIS: But, you know, Kelly, I'm surprised. I would imagine that, you know, the president would love to see or love to have transmitted across the country that image of him, you know, holding a torch aloft, you know, to sort of rally the, rally the spirit and whatnot, you know, just a couple of days before Christmas. I'm surprised he would turn down that opportunity.

WALLACE: Well, you know, that's a very good question, Leon. I'm not sure about that. You know, one thing this president does not like to do, as you know, he does not like to go out jogging on the streets of Washington out of a concern about inconveniencing residents of the nation's capital. So if he's going to go running, he'll often do it, obviously at the presidential retreat, on a treadmill here at the White House or often if he's spending the weekend here in Washington, he'll go to a military facility, a military base, and run there.

So that's one concern he has had. Maybe he'll surprise us, Leon, and be out in his running gear and take a job. But I don't think that was the intended plan.

HARRIS: Yes. Well, now one thing we wouldn't want to see is him running with it on the treadmill. That wouldn't necessarily be the best plan.

WALLACE: That could be a fire hazard. Yes, that's true.

PHILLIPS: Well, Kelly, we can see Elizabeth right now. I know you're having sort of a hard time, it's sort of a tough picture. But she is holding the torch and she's talking to some of the folks, I guess, and getting ready for this. Do you know -- she's actually warming her hands on the torch, which is a very smart idea.

HARRIS: It must be pretty chilly.

PHILLIPS: Yes, yes, it's cold out there. Well, you can tell, Kelly's all bundled up in her jacket. But Kelly, let's talk about how this came about and what made them decide to choose Elizabeth. Is this something that she came forward and said she wanted to do? What's the background? WALLACE: I don't know exactly how, if she approached the Olympic Committee or if Olympic officials certainly approached her. The sense we have gotten from the administration and even the events that happened at the Pentagon, I believe yesterday, definitely attribute and recognizing what the country has gone through since September 11 and really no better way to do it, according to aides, then really recognize those people who have been directly impacted by this.

In fact, Kyra, as you know, the president always does his weekly radio address on Saturday and that people will hear about two hours from now. The president will talk a little bit about accomplishments, bipartisan accomplishments of the year, but also sending a message as we approach the Christmas holiday and the new year to all those people who will be without a loved one because of what happened on September 11.

So you're likely to hear the president in his remarks, and obviously as the White House recognizing both Elizabeth Anderson Howell and also Eric Jones, really recognizing how people have been directly impacted. And also the president will say in this radio address how the community as a whole, the entire country has really sort of galvanized to help those in need. And Eric Jones, certainly, Mr. Bush will call attention to as an example, a college student who rushed to the Pentagon to help for four straight days and then headed to New York City to volunteer, as well.

Obviously there have been hundreds, thousands of people who have done the same and that's likely to be his message today.

HARRIS: You know, you talked about how people who are involved in this passing of the torch are folks who have been directly affected by what happened on September 11. I just found some information about what happened at the Pentagon, that ceremony yesterday, Kelly. I'm not sure how much you were able to dig up on that.

But the torch was actually carried to the Pentagon by Chief Petty Officer Bernard Brown. Now, he lost his 11-year-old son, Bernard, Jr. His son was actually on the plane that hit the Pentagon. And then Staff Sergeant Chris Braman carried the flame away from the Pentagon. And Braman was injured at the Pentagon the day of the attack because -- and he was in, he actually went in to try to save other people. He tried to save three. One of them actually survived. The other two, unfortunately, did not. And because of his injuries he was awarded the Purple Heart.

WALLACE: Yes, I was walking into the White House, Leon, and talking to a colleague about the story you're just mentioning, and I didn't have the details in front of me, mentioning the story of that one military official you were mentioning who carried the torch into the Pentagon and, you know, how not only was he affected by losing colleagues at the Pentagon, but losing his son, I mean how this tragedy hit that family in a double way. It's really incredible.

But again, a way to recognize those who are grieving and, again, those who helped, those who sort of tried to put their lives in line to help others. PHILLIPS: Well, Kelly, we got less than a one minute warning here. The president has stepped up to the podium. Check him out. He's got his cowboy hat and all. Do you think he's got his boots on, too?

HARRIS: You know he's got his boots on.

WALLACE: I bet he does.

HARRIS: I mean that's a no brainer.

WALLACE: He loves...

PHILLIPS: Here she comes. Here she comes, Kelly.

HARRIS: I can only imagine what she must be feeling right now. She runs with this torch up to the podium there where the president will be greeting her.

PHILLIPS: Elizabeth Anderson Howell, she's running up with the torch to greet the president there at the White House. It was her husband that was, Anderson Howell that was, or Mr. Howell, that was killed in the September 11 attacks.

HARRIS: Brady Howell, that's his -- Brady Howell.


HARRIS: Yes, he was killed in the crash at the Pentagon.

PHILLIPS: The president lighting the cauldron.

HARRIS: There's your postcard shot.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Once again, if you're just tuning in, we just watched Elizabeth Anderson Howell come into the White House with the Olympic torch, toss it off to the president there as he lit the Olympic cauldron.

Elizabeth lost her husband, Brady Howell, in the attacks that happened on September 11. The president is going to address us now.


It's the kind of morning we expect when we're honoring the Winter Olympics. This flag stands for the skill and dedication of friendly competition. I'm honored to take part in the 2002 Olympic torch relay and I'm really proud to welcome the Olympic spirit to America this winter.

I want to thank Mitt Romney for coming. Mitt, it's great to see you again and I know Utah is well represented by the chairman, Congressman Jim Hansen. Thank you both for being here.

I want to welcome all the members of the Salt Lake organizing committee and members of the United States Olympic Committee for being here, as well.

These men and women have worked tirelessly and long, long, long hours to make sure that our country is well represented when the world starts focusing on us yet again in February of this year. I'm really proud of the work you've done. You've brought a lot of honor to America and for that Americans are grateful.

The 2002 Olympic Games will officially begin when this torch reaches its destination in Salt Lake City. Its 13,500 mile journey will bring it through 46 states, carried by some 11,500 torch bearers. Each torch bearer's story is a lesson in citizenship and courage and compassion.

Two torch runners with us today were deeply affected by the attacks of September the 11th. Liz Howell lost her husband, Brady, in the attack on the Pentagon. Brady was fulfilling a lifelong dream by serving his country at the Pentagon. Liz left her native Utah to help Brady live that dream.

Her participation in the torch relay represents the strength shown by so many families after September the 11th and Liz, our nation prays with you during this holiday season. We pray for peace and comfort for you and your family.

Our other participant is a student, Eric Jones, who goes to George Washington University just a few blocks from the White House and the Pentagon. On September the 11th, Eric left the campus and headed to the Pentagon. He spent four days helping with the rescue efforts and then he traveled to New York and did the same. Before he left the Pentagon, Eric helped carry out a symbol of American pride, the Marine Corps flag. Last week that flag flew high above the earth on the space shuttle Endeavour.

On behalf of all Americans I thank these two torch bearers for their courage and for their compassion, for representing the best of our great country. I thank everyone who's worked so hard to make the Salt Lake City and the Games a memorable sight. I wish all our athletes Godspeed and continue to pray the lord's blessings for safety and security on our great land during the holiday season.

Thank you all for coming. May god bless you all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Little boy, said dad, someday you'll hear a cry shout out for joy and they will see the hero in thee. That you said I'd find if I just devote my heart and soul and mind. Little boy, said papa, I will be the greatest. Little boy, and everyone will watch and wonder how I got so far, how that lump of coal became a shining star. At last you're here and now your wish is coming true. And there are children who are dreaming watching you. Carry the flame with every step you take, carry the flame, what a difference you will make. Every time another child lights the way for those who come behind. Carry the flame.

No regrets, no turning back, no might-have-beens. You're not there yet, now's your chance to take your spot and see how far you go, stop trying this and you will never know. You'll take your place, desire burning in your eyes. But she's already won and that fire is your prize. Carry the flame with every step you take, carry the flame, what a difference you will make. Hold it high and let it shine, light the way for those who come behind. Carry the flame.

WALLACE: Well, quite an emotional moment there on the south lawn of the White House, the president comforting, obviously, Elizabeth Anderson Howell, who lost her husband Brady in the attacks on the Pentagon. And we can tell you we just saw Eric Jones, the college student who is carrying the torch outside the White House. He just carried it outside the northwest gate here, carried it along in front of the Pennsylvania Avenue here at the White House, and he is now en route.

That torch will now make its way to Baltimore as it continues its lengthy journey to Salt Lake City for the start of the Winter Games in February. We see obviously the choir continuing to sing, another really emotional moment. President Bush there in his role as commander-in-chief but also as comforter in chief, talking about how every torch bearer carrying the Olympic torch is a lesson in "citizenship, courage and compassion."

And he saluted Elizabeth Anderson Howell. You see her there smiling with the president. And also Eric Jones, who volunteered at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center to try and rescue victims and help with the recovery efforts. Both showing courage and compassion. So clearly the president trying to get that message out -- Leon and Kyra -- on this day.

PHILLIPS: Kelly, you listened to Mary Bonn Davis (ph) and the choir there singing the song, "Carry the Flame." Then you see this picture of the president with Elizabeth Anderson Howell. You see Eric Jones running out of the White House. And then I see you fighting the tears. We are...

HARRIS: She busted you, Kelly.

PHILLIPS: I'm telling you...

HARRIS: I wasn't going to do it, but she busted you.

PHILLIPS: ... we've got chills. We have really got chills. This is absolutely, what a beautiful thing to bring on our air today.

HARRIS: Hey, listen, Kelly, we felt it, too. We felt it, too.


HARRIS: Let me ask you, do you know how long Eric is going to be running with this, is he carrying this torch?

WALLACE: Another good question, Leon. I am not sure. I know he will sort of make his way and then I believe pass it off and it will make its route along, I think, at some point 95, the highway here, and then headed to the city of Baltimore, where it will be carried by someone else and then continue on. What the president said, what did he say, 13,500 miles through 46 states? It started where you guys are in Atlanta, Georgia and will end in Salt Lake City for the start of the Olympic Games.

HARRIS: That's a heck of a commute.

PHILLIPS: Kelly, tell me how, you cover the president. You cover all the hard news all the time. How does this make you feel, to be standing on the lawn there watching this?

WALLACE: Well, you know, I'm on the north lawn for the view I was watching. There's the president there with his cowboy hat saluting the crowd and getting ready to certainly head to Camp David for a holiday weekend. That is not...

HARRIS: That was not the president, just in case anyone was wondering. Kelly knows that was not the president.

WALLACE: We've got Jonathan Aiken getting a promotion on our air.

PHILLIPS: He was moved, too.

WALLACE: But I know I'm here at the north lawn and that event, of course, happening on the south lawn. So I'm watching, as you all are, on the television monitor. It was hard to see certainly the president and see his eyes, but you know guys, watching him, he is a very emotional man. In fact, yesterday in the Oval Office when some reporters, we were brought in to talk about the new presidential rug, he really showed some emotion at the top of his remarks when he talked about all the people who are going to be without loved ones, in fact, military families who will be without loved ones because their husbands, their wives are participating in the military campaign against Afghanistan.

And also at the end when he talked about sort of the vulnerability in the United States to domestic terrorism. So clearly he's an emotional man. I'm sure this was a really deep moment for the president and it really was hard to watch that torch, you know, carried into the White House and then knowing these stories of one woman who lost her husband and then this college student who obviously has helped out quite a bit was really something to see today. Back to you guys.

HARRIS: One last note here. Nice touch, I think, in President Bush mentioning the fact that Elizabeth Howell is a native of Utah, and that's where this flame is going to actually end up. So she actually gets to be part of this whole thing and she'll get to see it again back in her home state, as well.

WALLACE: Exactly.

PHILLIPS: Kelly, thanks so much for bringing this to us.

HARRIS: Nice job.

PHILLIPS: The courage and compassion was pretty awesome, especially at this time right now.

HARRIS: Way to go, Kelly.


HARRIS: All right. Take care. We'll see you in a bit.




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