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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Aired August 14, 2003 - 18:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Senator, thank you for joining us.
Let me ask you the question that Mayor Bloomberg posed earlier. Where were you when the lights went out?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Well, John, I was in my offices in midtown. And I was having a meeting with all of my summer interns, who are finishing up their time with me. I had about 50 of these terrific young people. We were in a room in the lower floors of the office building where my office is.

And we were talking about issues. And they were reviewing their summer for me when we had the lights go off and then had word that we should evacuate the building. So very calmly, we went out to the sidewalk in front of our office and continued our discussion for about 30 or 40 minutes and tried desperately to get information in those first few minutes.

But you know, New Yorkers are so terrific. Everybody was calm. Everybody coming out of all of the office buildings, all up and down Third Avenue, where my office is. You know, they were standing there talking on their cell phones, trying to figure out what was going on. And it became clear that we'd had this massive power outage, which, when we finally get the power back on, we're going to have to figure out why the provisions that were supposedly in place to prevent this didn't work, but right now everybody's just trying to do their best to help each other and get themselves home.

KING: And Senator, we heard the mayor saying they're still trying to find out what happened. Nobody in New York thinks there was terrorism involved. Everyone in Washington is telling us they do not think -- do you have any sense from your conversations with, whether it's city state, or federal officials, as to what happened?

CLINTON: Well, John, I think, first and foremost, it is absolutely our understanding now that this is not terrorism, that there was some mechanical failure, overload. We're not sure where.

Our best understanding right now is that whatever did happen to start these cascading outages began in Canada. The Niagara Mohawk system is a huge system that serves southern Canada and the northeastern United States, all the way over to Ohio into New England and certainly, you know, down into New York City.

This is the preliminary information, but, you know, a lot of us are going to want to know a lot more and get some specifics as to whether, you know, this is something that could have or should have been avoided.

We haven't had a very hot summer. We've had a pretty cool, wet summer here in New York. And I'm not sure why the first hot day would create this kind of reaction.

But nevertheless, right now we're just focused on people getting home safely, taking care of each other, and traffic lights are not working so driving very carefully. And then, there will be plenty of time to try to figure out why this happened and what we need to do to prevent it.

KING: Was your first thought, Senator, because of the world we now, unfortunately, live in, "Oh, my God, more terrorism."

CLINTON: You know, I tried not to jump to that thought, John. I just wanted to get information. You know, I was worried. I had all these 50 young people with me. I wanted to get them out of the building as we were asked to evacuate and get outside and then try to take stock of what was going on.

Clearly, it crossed my mind. It had to cross anybody's, especially those of us in New York. But we were able to get through to some officials, both federal and state, and we were able to get some feedback from the city.

Originally, we thought there had been some kind of fire or accident at the Con Ed station down on 14th Street. That, apparently, is not the case. So we were given that information. And like everybody else, we were just trying to, you know, figure out what did happen. And then from my position, of course, I feel a responsibility to try to make sure we know what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again.

KING: And Senator, if you'll forgive me, if I could ask you to help us and play traffic reporter, where are you? You're trying to make your way home, I understand. Where are you physically, and what's the scene around you?

CLINTON: Well, I went up the West End Avenue as opposed to trying to get on the West Side Highway, which was totally gridlocked. And I'm about to get out of the city and be able to make my way back home.

But people are really behaving well, John. I just want to reinforce that, once again, New Yorkers have risen to the occasion. They are performing, you know, with a lot of calmness and strength and industriousness.

I heard Wolf Blitzer talking, as I was waiting to talk to you, about some of the efforts that people are making to get folks out of elevators. We still have some people in elevators and in subways. But all of it is proceeding very well. And, you know, so far we don't have any word of any problems or fatalities, and that's the way we want to keep it.

KING: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, we thank you for checking in with us.

If you learn any more tonight about how this might have happened or any other potential fallout ramifications, please check in with us. We hope you make it home safely and that the lights are on in Chappaqua.

CLINTON: I appreciate it.

KING: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Thank you very much, Senator.

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