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CNN SUNDAY NIGHT

Rescue, Recovery Continues In New Orleans; Interview with Gov. Kathleen Blanco

Aired September 11, 2005 - 22:00   ET

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


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN SUNDAY NIGHT. Searching for life and the smell of death, we go out with rescue and recovery teams scouring the streets, now the waterways of New Orleans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't telling a dying man you're not going to give him CPR unless he asks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: Governor Blanco's call for help - did the way she ask for help hurt the relief effort? A CNN timeline, the call, the communications, and the president's response.

And remembering the victims of 9/11. The ceremonies and the bond now forming with Katrina victims. These stories and a lot more next on CNN SUNDAY NIGHT.

But right now, let's start with the mission critical developments. A change of tactics for New Orleans police. Emergency workers will still go door to door to check on people and let them know they're violating evacuation orders, but they won't force people to leave.

Each day, we're getting a more accurate picture of the destruction. Mississippi officials say the storm wiped out 5,000 homes in Biloxi alone. Of the houses still standing, some have running water, but it might not be safe to drink.

But the water is safe in some parts of southeast Louisiana. State health officials lifted orders to boil water in some parish systems. Testing showed the water does not contain unsafe levels of bacteria.

But there are still a lot of people far away from home. The Red Cross and state officials guess there are about 374,000 people in shelters and hotels and homes across 34 states and the nation's capitol. Most are in Texas.

Now an embattled president visits an embattled region again. With his job approval rating hitting record lows, President Bush arrived in New Orleans today. It's his third trip in more than a week. He is going to overnight on the U.S.S. Iwo Jima.

Tomorrow, he tours New Orleans. Dana Bash is traveling with the president.

In the meantime, there are still people trapped in their homes in New Orleans. So they say in their homes, they stay there, surrounded by filth, filthy brackish water and a whole lot worse.

Karl Penhaul was with one of the efforts to get to those people, to get those people to safety. And he joins us right now live.

Karl, what was this day like?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, in many parts of the city, you can see that the flood waters aren't dropping. You can see the tide mark on the side of the house. And the waters have dropped in certain areas.

But an area that we visited today, up close to Lake Pontchartrain, still has between 8 and 12 feet of water there. We went out with one of the department of homeland security recovery teams. And this is what we saw.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PENHAUL (voice-over): It's been two weeks since disaster struck. And in some places of New Orleans, water's still up to the rooftops.

This department of homeland security recovery team sets off into the floodwaters. Their mission...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, we're just going through houses where we received the 911 call for emergency.

PENHAUL: So what we're acting on now are the 911 calls from two weeks ago?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

PENHAUL: As we try to navigate down flooded streets and through front yards, we run aground on top of the fence. The waters are around eight feet here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of the homes have now been searched. The roof of the houses, you see those "X's" on top, the top is the date when that house was secure.

PENHAUL: This, rescue teams, smashes these gutted windows, making inside for signs of life or the smell of death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The top number is anybody with rescue live. And the bottom number is receives (INAUDIBLE) cannot attend.

PENHAUL: Castillo and his men have been in New Orleans since the Tuesday after the storm. He's haunted by the images he's seen.

COL. JUAN CASTILLO, FEDERAL PROTECTIVE SERVICE: As old as I get, the emotions become stronger when you see what you see. You know, it's - when you think about it, if you're doing the job, it doesn't bother you, but because you just go on and on and on. But like I say, when you get back and you reflect on it, and you think about what you saw, you know, the little babies, the pregnant ladies, the elderly, people dying in line just to get into the helicopter.

You know, people getting beat to death.

PENHAUL: Castillo has seen death and destruction before. He was a Marine in Vietnam. But he just can't believe this is happening in the United States.

CASTILLO: As a young 18-year old Marine, and when you're told to, you know, do what - you know, those are not the questions why. It's just to tour the high type of situation and kind of become catalysts and you're hardcore, and you're charging. And you're trying to survive and all that kind of stuff.

But this, this is the motherland. You know, this is home. These are our people.

PENHAUL: As we motor back to dry ground, rescue teams cut their way into another attic. Here, like in many other districts of New Orleans, the mayor's nightmare predictions of 10,000 dead don't seem to be materializing.

CASTILLO: Less than expected. We just came across one yesterday, you know, body floating in the water, but I don't - prior to that, I mean today we haven't found anything.

The next threat is, you know, when this water level gets down, you know, to you know, almost nothing. What you're going to find there, you know?

Maybe people that tried to get out and didn't make it out on the bottom.

PENHAUL: So there could still be bodies on the ground?

CASTILLO: Definitely, definitely. How many, you know, who knows?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PENHAUL: So it's like the recovery workers say, so far, they found fewer dead bodies than they expected. But as those water levels drop, they do expect that the death count could rise, Carol.

LIN: All right, Karl Penhaul under very difficult conditions out there in New Orleans.

All right, well once again, these are some of the scenes that the president may be seeing tomorrow as he travels around New Orleans and of course seeing the recovery efforts and the hard working souls out there, trying to find the living and the dead.

CNN's Dana Bash is traveling with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This third trip to the hurricane devastation nearly two weeks after Katrina hit is the latest attempt to show the president's presence on the ground, in hopes of erasing criticism his initial response was sluggish.

Amid continuing sniping between the White House, state, and local officials, the president was greeted by the husband of the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor. He continued on with Mr. Bush to the U.S.S. Iwo Jima. Docked in the city and now command and control center for the federal relief effort here.

Bush aides note scathing criticism the president was too slow to get help to the victims of this massive disaster is chipping away at what became his biggest asset after September 11th. Leadership in the time of crisis.

So on this fourth anniversary of the terror attacks, the president paid a visit to New York firefighters in New Orleans to help with recovery.

Here, a photo-op in front of a fire truck New Orleans donated to New York four years ago. And they've now given back.

Then a meet and greet with firefighters from all over the country, including some 400 from New York, all combining efforts and living together in a makeshift headquarters just outside New Orleans, along with their mascot Louis, a Dalmatian rescued from an abandoned destroyed home.

(on camera): After sleeping here on the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, the president will get a briefing from top military commanders, and then take a tour of downtown New Orleans, his first since most of the city flooded nearly two weeks ago.

Traveling with the president in New Orleans, Dana Bash reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Well, the governor of Louisiana toured Houston's Astrodome, where thousands of people are still homeless. She thanked Texas for taking in so many of their neighbors. And she told the evacuees she sees signs of hope that New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana will be able to rebuild.

But quietly, the governor has been talking to her staff about the first days of this disaster. Why did Governor Blanco have so much trouble getting federal help for Louisiana? Well, we did our own investigation of what she said and how it lined up with the White House's story and found an extraordinary communications breakdown. That story in about 10 minutes.

And today, Americans are coming to grips with the scope of Katrina, but we are also remembering 9/11. It has been four years since the terrorist attacks. Of all the memorials, perhaps the one in lower Manhattan was the most poignant. CNN's Mary Snow reports from there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peter Victor Genko, Junior.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One by one, they read the names.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my brother, Lieutenant John A. Kreshe (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my sister Candace Lee Williams, American Airlines flight 11. I love you.

SNOW: This year, siblings of the 2,749 people killed four years ago honored their loved ones at the World Trade Center site.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jimmy, you're always in our hearts and forever on our minds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we just wish we'd do anything to have your big bear hug and your big booming voice just to hear you one more time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My brother Carlos Villo (ph), I miss you so much. He was my baby brother.

SNOW: Thomas Petty and Adrian Foran read the name of their big brother Phil, one of the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11.

ADRIAN FORAN, BROTHER KILLED ON 9/11: It's good to hear someone recite your brother's name, but it's nice to be a part of that and say it yourself.

(BELL RINGING)

SNOW: Four moments of silence marked the time suicide hijackers crashed planes into the twin towers. And when the towers subsequently collapsed in the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it should be clear to see...

SNOW: There was music and there was poetry. Readings by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, governors, and mayors.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: We come to keep a promise, to remember those who died, not just as names or as part of a larger number, but as individuals whose lives still burn bright.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: Katherine Mansfield wrote movingly of the unbreakable bond shared by brothers and sisters. "Bless you my darling, and remember you are always in the heart. Oh, tucked so close, that there is no chance of escape of my sister."

SNOW (on camera): The politicians spoke only briefly. It's been a tradition each year to keep politics out of the ceremony. It was family members who strayed from the script.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Bush, do the right thing. Bring our troops home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our family would like to thank the men and women in our United States military for their courage and their conviction to life, liberty, and the pursuit of those who threaten it.

SNOW (voice-over): Divided in opinion, but united in their pain, a pain reflected in two small pools, where the towers once stood. For so many, ground zero is their only gravesite.

After 4.5 hours, all the names were read. It's just the flowers and the memories that remain.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Well, the Dalai Lama spread a timely message of hope in Idaho today. He also took time out to sit down with our very own Larry King. More from the Buddhist leader coming up.

Also, a big week on Capitol Hill. Confirmation hearings begin for Chief Justice nominee John Roberts.

And the stars were out in Houston tonight, as the biggest and brightest from the NBA lend a helping hand to the victims of Katrina. You're watching CNN SUNDAY NIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: The $10.5 billion Congress passed for hurricane relief evaporated in less than a week. So they rushed through another $52 billion aid package.

The money is going to FEMA, the very same agency that's accused of incompetence. So why not just bypass the government and cut a check directly to the victims? That's our talk tonight.

Syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington is an author and has a masters in economics from Cambridge University. She joins me tonight.

Arianna, what do you think? Doesn't it seem to make a lot more sense just to cut a check by our math, it calculates out to about $20,000 per evacuee?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, Carol, the truth is that we're discovering a massive problem of poverty in New Orleans. Even before the hurricane, one in four citizens of New Orleans lived in poverty.

So here we're dealing with problems that cannot be solved with just a $20,000 check. We are dealing with people who have no homes, no jobs...

LIN: Right.

HUFFINGTON: ...most of them not (INAUDIBLE)...

LIN: So the point is the government can funnel all this money to a bureaucracy that seems to eat it up like candy, or give money directly to the people, maybe allotted for housing, transportation, job search, something that can just give them a start, rather than this thing ballooning into a $200 billion for the taxpayers, which is what's being anticipated right now.

HUFFINGTON: Well, you said the magical word, give them a start. Give them a start is one thing. But unfortunately, that $20,000 could be everything that they were going to be given.

And you know, Carol, that already, the $2,000 per evacuee that FEMA promised on Wednesday, they retracted that promise on Friday. And they said that only those evacuees who are in San Antonio, in Houston, in Texas basically are going to be given them, and not the rest of them. The rest are to have a bank account, or an address where the money could be sent.

LIN: So what are you saying?

HUFFINGTON: So there's a tremendous amount of disorganization. Even some that was announced with such fanfare, with Mike Chertoff having a conference call with all the governors, was withdrawn two days later.

So you're absolutely right. There have been tremendous inefficiencies in the way that government has handled this problem, but this is a moment for all of us, Carol, to make a real commitment to solving the massive problem of poverty that we have uncovered in New Orleans.

LIN: Right, but you don't solve the massive problem by just continually throwing money at it. I mean, is there a bottom, you know, is there a bottom for the taxpayer? And if you do just cut a check directly to the evacuees, then you've given them a start. You've given them the responsibility for starting their own lives so the handout is not from the government. And then everybody can get on with their business.

HUFFINGTON: Well, Carol, first of all, it's not a question of throwing money at the problem. It's a question of establishing national priorities. And I think there are millions of Americans who don't think that cutting taxes and perpetuating the tax cuts the president has given at this moment of national crisis, the higher priority...

LIN: Oh, but that's not what I'm talking about.

HUFFINGTON: And it's all connected.

LIN: Well...

HUFFINGTON: It's all connected. LIN: But let's talk about what's going to help these victims the most. I mean, do you think, or are you suggesting that these evacuees are not capable or responsible enough to make that decision, to take the lump sum and start their lives as they see fit?

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely not. What I'm suggesting is that this is going to take a huge effort, both from the public sector and from the private sector. We've already seen an enormous outpouring of generosity from the private sector. It's going to be an effort that's going to last for years. And it's not going to be solved by giving a check right now for $20,000. It's going to involve a lot of infrastructure building.

LIN: Right.

HUFFINGTON: In their own lives and in local communities.

LIN: But then, are you talking about a storm welfare system then?

HUFFINGTON: No, what I'm talking about is recognizing the massive problems that these people are going to be facing in terms of where are they going to live, how are they going to adjust in their new communities?

Remember, they're predominantly African-American. They're relocating in communities which may be very strange to them, compared to...

LIN: So you want them to have the support system? It's not just a matter of cutting a check?

HUFFINGTON: Exactly. They need - absolutely, you've got it.

LIN: OK.

HUFFINGTON: It's not a matter of just giving them a check and saying good-bye, I wish you well. That's not the way our nation behaves.

LIN: All right. Thanks very much.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you.

LIN: Arianna Huffington, you know, we're going to give our viewers the last call on this. Last call question tonight, should the government cut one big check for each victim of Hurricane Katrina? Give us a call at 1-800-807-2620.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: As questions continue to be asked about the response to Hurricane Katrina at all levels, it's becoming increasingly clear that state and federal officials were not speaking the same bureaucratic language. How that played out in discussions between the governor of Louisiana and the White House may have contributed to the delay and deployment of federal troops.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LIN (voice-over): As Hurricane Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast, a Category 5 storm, Governor Kathleen Blanco sent a letter to President Bush, asking him to declare a state of emergency in Louisiana.

That was Saturday, August 27th. Her letter did not include a request for military assistance. Governor Blanco's communications director Bob Mann said later, "We always assumed that the troops were prepositioned and ready to roll, but they were not."

The governor's office says that hours after the hurricane made landfall on Monday, August 29th, Blanco spoke with President Bush and assumed her request would get the state federal troops.

DENISE BOTTCHER, PRESS SECRETARY TO GOV. BLANCO: And she said we need your help. We need everything you've got. The governor genuinely felt at that time she had asked for help.

LIN: But she did not appeal for federal troops specifically. And her press secretary says she didn't feel she needed to.

BOTTCHER: You don't tell a dying man you're not going to give him CPR unless he asks.

LIN: On the evening of Tuesday, August 30th, the governor's office says Blanco ordered the commander of the Louisiana National Guard to request additional military assistance from General Russel Honore. By Wednesday morning, the situation at the Superdome and Convention Center was rapidly deteriorating. Governor Blanco was in Baton Rouge in between network TV interviews. In a conversation transmitted over the satellite, the governor and her press secretary discussed what she said in a prior interview about the looting.

BLANCO: I said we're not tolerating - we're asking for more military presence. But I mean, and I'm saying (INAUDIBLE).

I really need to call for the military. I should have started that in the first call.

LIN: Sunday, we asked for an interview with the governor to find out why she expressed that regret if she felt she had already asked for troops. CNN's Gary Tuchman was provided an interview with her press aide, who said the governor realized she should have been more precise in her call to the president.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now on Wednesday in that TV interview between the interviews, she - I guess she was talking to you, right?

BOTTCHER: She was talking to me. TUCHMAN: OK, she said, "I really need to call for the military. I should have..." What was your remembrance of that quote?

BOTTCHER: I want you to call for the military, I should have made that clear in my first call to the president.

LIN: The governor's office says that right after the interview Wednesday, Blanco called the White House to appeal for federal troops. President Bush was not available. Instead, she spoke to homeland security advisor Francis Townsend. A senior administration official says that's when troops started moving.

Two days later, as arguments swirled about who was responsible for the breakdown of law and order in New Orleans, Miles O'Brien spoke to the governor on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about that request for federal troops, 40,000 federal troops. When did you make that request? Was it on your first phone call to President Bush?

BLANCO: OK, my first phone call or my first conversation with President Bush was asking for all federal fire power. I mean, I meant everything, just send it. Give me planes, give me boats...

O'BRIEN: But did you specifically ask, governor, did you specifically ask for troops? Did you ask that the Pentagon deploy troops because that is a very specific request that a governor needs to make of the federal government?

BLANCO: We had troops being deployed. We had the first wave of troops being deployed at the level of 12,000. But before we even got to 12,000, I asked for 40,000.

So you know, I saw that...

O'BRIEN: When did you make that request, though?

BLANCO: ...of capacity. Miles, I'm lost...

O'BRIEN: When did you make that request? OK.

BLANCO: I don't even know what today is.

O'BRIEN: On Wednesday morning...

BLANCO: I made that request perhaps Wednesday.

O'BRIEN: When you spoke...

LIN: The White House confirms that it was only on Wednesday that the governor made a specific request for federal troops. And a senior administration official tells CNN National Guard troops were the best option anyway, because they had law enforcement powers to deal with looting.

Looking back Saturday night, Governor Blanco admitted there were missteps. She insisted on all sides.

BLANCO: Did I ask the president early on for help? Yes, I did. I asked him before the storm came, because I know what a storm can do to my state. And I know that we need help.

He wanted to help. We both got caught in trying to make a bureaucracy work on something bigger than it ever had imagined it would have to work on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: So what is becoming clear is that the misunderstanding, then assumptions, were also very large, slowing the response to Hurricane Katrina and its victims.

Coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, CNN conducted its own investigation of that communication. We are glad to bring you that story. We've also got much more on the recovery efforts. And also, a heroic story about a return of favors, you might say, from the New York City fire department, back to the brethren in Louisiana. That story coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Turning now to the headlines tonight and tomorrow. Thirty- eight years after it began, the Israeli occupation of Gaza is finally over, two weeks ahead of schedule. The Palestinians will use some of the abandoned synagogues as community centers, and demolish others.

The president of Iraq says his country won't suffer if there is a drop-off in U.S. aid. President Jalal Talabani tells CNN the U.S. has every right to cut back on spending in Iraq in order to direct more resources to hurricane relief efforts.

The alert level at Mt. St. Helen's has been raised to orange, indicating a high likelihood of volcanic activity. Geologists are monitoring the growth of a new lava dome inside the crater, but they say it is not likely to be life-threatening.

And Roger Federer won his second straight U.S. Open tennis final today. Federer beat 35-year-old Andre Agassi in four sets, to keep his record in tournament finals a perfect 23-0. It's Federer's sixth Grand Slam title.

Whether you see it as just another confirmation hearing or a crucial debate on the future of America, it begins tomorrow. John Roberts was first tapped to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, but now, with the death of William Rehnquist, Roberts is in line to become the next chief justice. Bob Franken has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In less than two months, John Roberts has been nominated to be on the Supreme Court not once, but twice.

BUSH: I am pleased to announce that I will nominate him to serve as the 17th chief justice of the Supreme Court.

FRANKEN: Roberts had clerked for William Rehnquist, the man he would now replace. He was originally nominated to fill the seat of Sandra Day O'Connor.

The president believes that because Roberts' record is well-known now, he'll be quickly confirmed, particularly with his pleasant demeanor that should smooth over any rough spots.

But skeptics charge that Roberts' personality masks a hard-core conservative, out to undo civil rights and abortion rights.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The burden is on Judge Roberts, to show that he is within the mainstream of America.

FRANKEN: As a prospective chief justice, Roberts will have to finesse even more probing questions than when he was named to succeed Associate Justice O'Connor.

EDWARD LAZARUS, SUPREME COURT LEGAL ANALYST: Democrats are going to argue that there's a higher threshold for someone who is going to come in and be chief justice. But at the end of the day, they're still going to have the same information available that they have now. Roberts is going to be still just as impressive as he was before.

FRANKEN (on camera): Barring any surprises, a full Senate confirmation vote on Roberts could come in plenty of time for Chief Justice Roberts to be at the Supreme Court when its new term begins October 3rd, while Associate Justice O'Connor still waits for her replacement.

Bob Franken, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: After 9/11, help came to New York from across the country. The people of Louisiana raised $600,000 for a pumper to replace one of 35 New York City fire trucks destroyed on 9/11. It's stopped by the White House on its way to New York in 2001. It's called the Spirit of Louisiana. And now that truck is on its way back. The fire chief of Gonzales, Louisiana, Butch Browning, is on the phone to tell us more.

Chief Browning, good news to see the Spirit of Louisiana back home.

FIRE CHIEF BUTCH BROWNING, GONZALES, LA: Hi, Carol. I'll tell you, it is so -- so moving and so ironic to -- as we reflect on September 11th, 2001, and the great citizens of Louisiana built the fire truck to give to the citizens of New York as a Christmas gift after that tragedy, seeing that truck on the streets of New Orleans today, protecting the people of Louisiana -- we never would have thought that would have occurred. LIN: Well, Chief Browning, the president made the presentation tonight, but I heard you had to turn down the president. You were working.

BROWNING: Yes, we are. We're trying to get back to my job here in Gonzales. As you can appreciate, we've been overwhelmed the last two weeks, assisting fire departments in the area and getting our own city back to normal. So, I was unable to make that, but I'll tell you, it's just so moving to see the New York firefighters here in Louisiana, as they say, paying us back for what we did just several years ago.

LIN: And several years ago, I mean, that effort -- you were collecting pennies from little kids, trying to contribute to help the folks in New York City. Engine 283 really became a symbol of a brotherhood, a brethren that you firefighters share, with the loss of New York City. How does it feel to see it today?

BROWNING: Yeah, that was (INAUDIBLE) after. That was a fire truck built with Louisiana money, with Louisiana hands. We have a giant manufacturing plant here in Louisiana for air and fire apparatus. So this truck is actually part of Louisiana that we brought up there to New York, and we never would have dreamed that this truck would be coming back. It's mighty ironic, that it came back as a symbol with the New York firefighters. And of course, the relationship that we've built with the New York firefighters over the past few years, they were the first to call to offer help to our department, other departments in the area, because we're friends. I mean, typically friends live next door. We have friends that live 1,000 miles away in New York City, and I'll tell you what, you know, the good Lord has really blessed us with those folks.

LIN: You bet. Chief, what are you seeing out on the streets? I mean, we saw a couple of really horrible warehouse fires just this past week. What is it that you're battling out there?

BROWNING: Well, I think what their -- the main battle they're having in the New Orleans area is the lack of infrastructure, the fact that their water systems and things like this are not working. That's really hampering the firefighters on the ground. There is a good contingent of firefighters in the New Orleans area and surrounding areas that are there to battle fires, but the lack of a water system and things of this nature is really hindering them, to say nothing about the destructed buildings, the building collapses that just occurred, and of course, the floodwater is hampering access to buildings.

LIN: Chief Butch Browning, Gonzalez, Louisiana fire chief, we wish you well. And now you got an extra truck and a few pairs of hands from New York City to help you out, out there in the field.

BROWNING: Thank you, Carol. And Louisiana will rise. It's because of the great people of our country that are coming to our aid. We certainly appreciate it.

LIN: We can hear it in your voice. Thanks very much, Chief. An all-star lineup is also raising money for Katrina's victims. Today, about a dozen NBA players traveled to Houston, Texas to comfort evacuees and play in a charity basketball game. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): NBA superstars roll into town on a mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

GUTIERREZ: Three-time world champion Kobe Bryant. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade. New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury. And two- time NBA champion Sam Cassell, here just for these families.

KENNY SMITH, CHARITY GAME ORGANIZER: We have to show that they're not on an island by themselves, that people care.

GUTIERREZ: Retired NBA World Champion Kenny Smith spearheaded a massive relief effort.

SMITH: It's a lot of phone calls. My phone bill will be expensive, but it was well worth it.

GUTIERREZ: Smith called on an all-star lineup of friends to donate cash, and he brought them to Houston for a hurricane relief game to raise money for the Red Cross.

But there was one gifts he delivered that can't be measured in dollars.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up, man? (INAUDIBLE).

DWYANE WADE, MIAMI HEAT: When we were outside walking in, I mean, that's when it's kind of touching, and once you get in there, I mean, you see everything.

KOBE BRYANT, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: I feel like it's important for everybody here to know that they're not alone. We're here. We're here. Doesn't matter, you know...

GUTIERREZ: With their sports heroes at the shelter, these kids get a break, if only for a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heavenly father, we thank you...

GUTIERREZ: But it was the players who told me just how much they're getting out of being here.

STEPHON MARBURY, NEW YORK KNICKS: You come here, and the kids see you, and you can see that they're fine, it gives you a peace inside of your heart. Because I know my heart has been in pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you wake up another day, it's hope. And that's what they got on their faces, hope.

GUTIERREZ: Smith says that's what it's all about, saying it was his father Bill who inspired him to do it.

SMITH: I think this is the biggest basketball game ever played. Ever played.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): Why?

SMITH: It's more than just jumping.

GUTIERREZ: (INAUDIBLE)?

SMITH: It's about the people that at this time, can't help themselves. There has never been a game this big. Ever.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Houston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Well, it's not been quite two weeks since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and you can bet that when we hear there's another hurricane in the Atlantic, we're going to pay attention. CNN's Jacqui Jeras tracking that hurricane, Ophelia. Jacqui, it was really comforting to see all the help that's on its way to Louisiana, but now, we need some help on the way to the East Coast.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Potentially. We'll see what happens here. This has really been a big waiting game with Ophelia. We still think it's going to be making landfall, but we keep pushing this back as the storm system has really been stalled off the coast. It's been almost a week, believe it or not, that we've been keeping our eye on this system. It's a hurricane today, packing winds of 75 miles per hour. The location, 245 miles east-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina. It's been drifting a little bit off to the west today, so it is making a little bit of progress, but we expect it to move generally in that direction extremely slowly, but likely for the next 24 hours.

New information today has been that tropical storm warnings have now been issued from the South Santee River, heading up towards Cape Lookout. The hurricane watch has been in effect for at least a good day and a half now for Edisto Beach, extending up towards Cape Lookout.

Hurricane watch means hurricane conditions in 36 hours are possible. Tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are likely in 24 hours. That's because tropical storm force winds on this thing go out about 160 miles from the center of the storm.

There is your latest forecast. Track showing that it's going to be shifting off to the west, and then taking a turn on up to the north, maybe brushing towards the Outer Banks. At the earliest, it looks like sometime on Wednesday -- Carol.

LIN: All right. Keep us posted. Thanks, Jacqui. Still to come on CNN SUNDAY NIGHT, remembering the victims of 9/11. How survivors of that fateful day are paying tribute. And the Dalai Lama shares his thoughts on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Hear what he has to say in a story you will only see on CNN.

And don't forget our "Last Call" question. Do you think the government should just cut one big check for each victim of Hurricane Katrina? Give us a call at 1-800-807-2620. You're watching CNN SUNDAY NIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: A message of hope today to the people who survived Hurricane Katrina. From Idaho, the Dalai Lama says the outpouring of support from around the world is a sign of human compassion.

Now, in the last hour, CNN's Larry King talked to the Dalai Lama. Now, CNN's Sibila Vargas looks at his first trip to America since 2003.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They came by the thousands to Sun Valley, Idaho, for the chance to hear from Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

DALAI LAMA: From today, I think you should quarrel less. You should fight less.

VARGAS: The Dalai Lama's message of compassion and healing was timed to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He also talked about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, counseling survivors of both catastrophes to temper their remorse.

DALAI LAMA: There is too much sorrow, too much anger, too much frustration. There will not be -- your close friends who passed away, will never return. So the more sadness, more frustration brings more suffering to yourself.

VARGAS: He was invited to Idaho by a personal friend, investment executive Kiril Sokoloff, who viewed the speech in historic terms.

KIRIL SOKOLOFF, INVESTOR: I believe that today was a tipping point of compassion in the world, and that we will look back and say, yeah, that's when it happened.

VARGAS: This was the first of several public appearances for the Dalai Lama here in Idaho. In the coming days, he'll address business leaders and thousands of school children.

Some of these kids participated in aerial welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We made a kite so that like, the Dalai Lama -- to meet the Dalai Lama and to show him that, like, that we care about him. VARGAS: The affection many feel for the Buddhist leader was evident. That feeling, shared by Willie Nelson, who performed a concert Saturday to benefit the Tibetan Children's Fund. He got a private audience with the Dalai Lama.

WILLIE NELSON, MUSICIAN: That's a picture of he and I together there, you know, so. This is -- yeah.

VARGAS: You guys look like you had lots of fun.

NELSON: We were -- yeah, we laughed a lot, and I think that's why, you know, why everybody else likes him so much.

VARGAS: The Dalai Lama's sense of humor belies his serious message. Implicit in his remarks is the challenge to everyone to be a better person.

DALAI LAMA: This century should be the century of compassion.

VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN, Sun Valley, Idaho.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: And then, only on CNN, the Dalai Lama spent an hour with our very own Larry King, talking about how it is to recover from a major disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DALAI LAMA: I think, firstly, the September 11th event, that is man-made disaster, and our current sort of disaster, that is a natural sort of event. So I think -- I think in both cases, it is the immense sort of suffering (INAUDIBLE) those people on the spot, is that they really suffer much. So now, I think very important, at this moment should not lose hope. And in some cases, I think people now lost everything. Now, these people must build -- rebuild their new home and prosperity of future -- new future. So now here important is self-confidence and should not give up your effort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: Words of inspiration. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Finally tonight, an estimated 9 million people flock to New York's ground zero every year, but for now, there is little for visitors to see, to learn about the historical events of September 11th. The fence that surrounds the site has some panels of information, but there is no museum or a memorial, at least not yet. Now, a group of 9/11 community members is trying to fill the void, as we hear from CNN's Paula Zahn.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Lee Ielpi is doing something he's done every day for four years: Reliving September 11th, 2001.

LEE IELPI, FATHER OF 9/11 VICTIM: I usually start right here.

ZAHN: Today, he's teaching others how to talk about what happened at ground zero.

IELPI: At this point, I say to them, let me explain to you what these towers were like. I point to 1 Liberty, which is right here, and I tell them, if you look at this building, you have to double this building to equal the size of one tower.

ZAHN: On this anniversary of the attacks, Ielpi is launching tribute tours of the World Trade Center site, given by those who know it firsthand. Ielpi spent nine months on the pile, the debris and human remains left by the collapse of the Twin Towers. A retired New York firefighter, he came looking for his son.

IELPI: It's nice to be able to talk about my son Jonathan and the other people.

ZAHN: Jonathan Ielpi was one of 343 firefighters who responded to the attacks and never made it home.

IELPI: From the fire department, I knew probably 100 men.

ZAHN: After the cleanup, Ielpi became an active 9/11 family member, attending meetings to decide what should be built on this site, visiting the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to learn more about the other attacks, testifying before the 9/11 Commission.

But this is now his main project.

IELPI: It's the story of the people that died at this site, and we're going to tell their story. And we're going to make sure it's living history for quite a while to come.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: As the program grows, we hope to add more guides who speak different languages and...

ZAHN: The guides are all volunteers, family members, survivors, contributors to the recovery effort. Their tours fill a void at the site, still years away from having a permanent memorial and museum.

Jennifer Adams co-founded Tribute with Ielpi. She lost a close friend in the towers on 9/11.

JENNIFER ADAMS, SEPT. 11 FAMILIES ASSOCIATION: There's thousands of people walking around down here, looking at a construction site, completely confused.

ZAHN: Mary Lee gave one of the first actual tours. She worked for 14 years inside the Trade Center, surviving both the 1993 and 2001 terror attacks.

MARY LEE, 9/11 SURVIVOR: I walked off the elevator. I walked through the door. I walked into my office. Boom. There is a giant crash up above me.

ZAHN: As Lee fled, she actually met a man from the 100th floor, who escaped death because he'd gone for a cup of coffee.

LEE: It was a stroke of luck, about whether your survived that day or you didn't.

ZAHN: Survivors, keeping the past alive, as a tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives.

Paula Zahn, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Up next, a check of the headlines, and then "CNN PRESENTS: Twist of Fate, Stories of 9/11."

But right now, we leave you tonight with your responses to our "Last Call" question. Do you think the government should just cut one big check for each victim of Hurricane Katrina? Here is what you had to say. Have a great night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CALLER: That'd take care of the people that have been affected by this hurricane. My name is Scott (ph) and I'm from Hammond (ph).

CALLER: This is Phyllis Leighton (ph). I live in Arlington, Texas. I don't believe so. I believe it's not only the government, for the government to do. I believe it's for individuals to come in and help one another, and offer jobs to one another, and homes, and we're already seeing that happen.

CALLER: My name is Andrea Sidney (ph). And I'm from Chico, California. And no, I don't necessarily think you need to cut one big check for each person in Katrina. What they need to do is to organize the WPA again, just like they had in the 1930s.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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