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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Ice Storm Pounds East Coast; President Bush Announces Plans to Rebuild New Orleans Levees; Iraqi Citizens Vote
Aired December 15, 2005 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening again from -- from Baquba, Iraq, the day after historic elections, mostly peaceful elections. Millions voted.
That is the good news. The bad news will take your breath away: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi captured and let go.
COOPER (voice-over): Iraq's most wanted terrorist, the U.S. has a $25 million bounty on his head -- tonight, how bin Laden's bloody protege got away from Iraqi security forces.
Millions turned out to vote in Iraq -- Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, and Nic Robertson are there, a historic day that went almost without incident.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) polling stations.
That was one of the first big explosions in this city. That's what we're talking about here.
Anderson, we have to go in.
ANNOUNCER: But, in most cities, a day of hope.
And a third-floor apartment on fire. A mother screams other save her bay, and there's only one way out, through the window -- tonight,the hero who made the catch of a lifetime.
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360: "Turning Point in Iraq?"
Reporting live from Baquba, Iraq, here's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: And good morning again. Thanks for joining us on the day after what was a remarkable day here in Iraq. We will tell you all about the vote and about the latest information about the release of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a mind-boggling story, that.
But, first, we have been experiencing a sandstorm here. On the East Coast of the United States, the problem is ice, a major ice storm from Atlanta, on up north.
CNN's Rob Marciano is tracking the weather in New York.
Rob, what's the latest?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, just another crazy storm, winter storm, here. And we are about halfway through the month of December.
Ice, as you mentioned, as far south as north Georgia, Atlanta, Gainesville, schools closed and power out, with up to an inch or a half-inch of ice coating those trees and, in some spots, taking down 400 trees just in the state of Georgia alone.
Across the Carolinas, from Greenville to Raleigh, same sort of deal, very slick roads, a treacherous drive there, and even fatalities reported, as trees come down on top of houses.
Up the road a piece to Leesburg, Virginia, a mixture of snow and ice, still an ice warning there tonight toward the west, toward the mountains. North and west across the Midwest, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, up to eight inches of snow in those Midwestern states.
All right, what is happening right now? Let's take a look at the radar. We are still looking at freezing rain in north Philly, in northwest Jersey, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie, New York, across the Hudson Valley -- 23 degrees with moisture moving in. That spells trouble for folks in Upstate New York.
Here, in New York City, the sleet and freezing rain has turned to a cold rain. It's currently 34 degrees. That is not so atypical for December. But seeing an ice storm all the way down into north Georgia, that's a little bit nutty. And, as you may well know, the month, this month, so far has been extremely cold.
And, about an hour from now, we are going to look into why that is and what's the forecast for the rest of the winter -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Rob.
And if you can look into this sandstorm here in Baquba, we would appreciate that as well. Thanks very much. We will have more from Rob later on in the broadcast.
Truly a remarkable day yesterday -- some 11 millions, the latest count, turning out to vote, violence at polling stations far down from what it was back in January, 14 attacks nationwide against polling stations. According to American commandos, 25 attacks in this country overall yesterday -- compare that back to January, when elections for interim -- for the interim government, some 300 insurgent attacks on that day.
Sunni turnout, high, according to the latest estimates.
A lot to cover in the hour ahead, also this news on Abu Musab al- Zarqawi. But, first, let's show you what the day looked like at one station in Baquba.
COOPER (voice-over): In Baquba, it didn't take long after polling stations opened Thursday morning for the first voters to arrive.
BUTHANA MEDHI, IRAQI POLL WORKER: Yes, we are so excited, because we -- we will start a new stage in our life. We will start the democratic life here in Iraq.
COOPER: Buthana Medhi is a teacher, an election worker, and very optimistic.
(on camera): There has been so much violence. There has been so much bloodshed. Do you think the violence will -- will continue for -- for a long time?
MEDHI: No. I -- I am sure that it will end -- it will end in the future, and we will start a very developed life. I -- I think so.
COOPER (voice-over): Outside, Iraq police kept a close watch, lightly armed, lightly protected, a thin row of razor wire their only blockade.
(on camera): Voters getting body-searched. Here in Baquba and the surrounding province, insurgent attacks are down 30 to 40 percent, compared to this time last year. But, still, security is the number- one concern.
All people are -- are searched several times before they get inside the polling station to cast a vote.
(voice-over): Fatnah Rabiyah (ph) voted with her mother-in-law, Layla (ph). Each has dipped their finger in ink three times in the past year, but say they have yet to see any real change.
(on camera): When you see the ink on your finger, what do you think?
(voice-over): "We want security and stability," Layla (ph) says, "and peace of mind. Fatnah's (ph) daughter, Sarah (ph), didn't understand why her mother's finger was stained.
(on camera): What will you tell her about what does it mean?
(voice-over): "It's the happiest day we have," she says. "It's a day where everything is good. It's progress for the Iraq people."
Layla Kanenmaji (ph) believes life for her daughter will be better than it's been for her.
"Her future will be better than mine was and better than her father's was," she says. At this one polling station, there was no violence, no incidents. After watching so many of her countrymen vote, Buthana Medhi made sure to do something not many people in Iraq publicly do. She thanked America.
MEDHI: Yes. We're so grateful to the American people, especially, because -- and on to the American Army, because they help us, as I said before, to start this new life.
COOPER: A new life, perhaps, but not one that will appear all that different any time soon. Today, in Baquba and throughout the country, Iraqis took an important step on what remains a very dangerous road.
COOPER: CNN's Christiane Amanpour was covering the elections in Baghdad, where she is this morning.
Good morning, Christiane.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, good morning.
And we were at the polling stations here and in the Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad. And, afterwards, we were there where they were actually counting the ballots. It is going to take some time before the actual result is known. But the story, I think, of this election is that the Sunnis turned out after boycotting last time around.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Blast walls and barbed wire, soldiers and policemen. But this is Iraq, and that is normal voting procedure.
Democracy day is also a holiday, and whole families have come out to the polls, a pat-down for the parents, a playful pinch for the kids. No, they don't cast ballots, but do like to dip their fingers in the purple ink that's proof of voting.
The little girl's mother, aunt and grandmother all proudly raise their fingers for this Iraqi TV reporter, as he tells his viewers all over the country, they are one day closer to seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
There are prayers and personal gestures.
"God is great," he says, "to bring us this freedom."
Voting in Shia neighborhoods was brisk, as it always is. Iraq's long-suffering Shia majority has gained great power at the ballot box since the U.S. deposed Saddam. Despite their voting strength, this time, the story is about the minority, the Sunnis.
(on camera): This is Dora in southern Baghdad. It's a mostly Sunni neighborhood and very violent, factional fighting, IEDs against American forces. Officials have been killed here, police and other election workers. And last January's elections, they boycotted. They did not come to the polls.
(voice-over): But, today, they were out in force. Here, in Baghdad, and all over Iraq, the Sunnis were having second thoughts.
"Last time, the insurgents threaten today below us up if we voted," says this woman. "So, the election went to only one party. We saw ourselves marginalized. That's not good. So, we decided to turn out strongly in this election to tell everyone that we are here."
But will their vote end the violent insurgency? No one believes that ballots will stop bombs and bullets just yet, but they hope, eventually, it will. So, most of all, they are voting to end the bloodshed, then, for electricity to be restored, for the garbage to be collected, and for money in their pocketbooks, says the owner of this furniture and toy store.
"People don't go out shopping as much, because they are afraid of explosions," he says. "There is not enough investment. Our economy is deteriorating."
As if to make his point, moments later, two explosions split the air. And U.S. helicopters roar overhead, searching for the rocket- launchers. For U.S. soldiers, it's a constant game of cat and mouse.
COLONEL CARDON, U.S. SOLDIER: It's a struggle every day, but it's hard to protect every square inch of Baghdad.
AMANPOUR: In the end, Election Day was less violent than the average day in Iraq.
"We need democracy, security and to build a good future for our children," says this woman. On this day, the children seemed to be saying the same thing.
AMANPOUR: So, the hope, in general, is that there's a more balanced parliament. So far, the clerical-led Shia parties have dominated the government. And the Sunnis, the minorities Sunni, who have been fueling the insurgencies, because they feel disaffected, they want to see a more balanced parliament. In fact, so do many Shias, who do not want an Islamic state here -- Anderson.
COOPER: Christiane, thanks for that, from Baghdad.
We are going to go CNN's Nic Robertson, who is up in Ramadi with some very disturbing news.
The elections are the good news today -- the bad news, terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was once in Iraqi custody not too long ago, but he was released because they didn't know who he was.
Let's go to Nic, who is following the story from Ramadi. Nic, what is the latest?
ROBERTSON: Well, Anderson, I got this information from a senior intelligence official in this region who worked closely and is closely involved in the ongoing hunt for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
He said that Zarqawi was captured and that, during that capture, he was actually questioned, but nobody recognized his identity for several reasons. He had changed his appearance, they said. He said that he was now heavier, fatter. He now had a beard. He didn't have a beard before. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is also known, was known, indeed, for having an identifying tattoo on his body. That identifying tattoo had been either covered, changed or removed, he said.
But perhaps the thing that covered Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's identity the most effectively was the fact that, while here in Iraq, even though he was here as an Arab, he was traveling on Kurdish documents. And, then, when he was interrogated, he was let go, because they didn't realize at that time exactly who they had -- Anderson.
COOPER: It's so frustrating, because one of the -- the things often cited about Iraqi forces, an advantage that they may have over U.S. personnel, is that they would be able to identify more easily who people are, who foreign terrorists are, who is a bad guy and who's not. Clearly, it seems, in this case, Nic, that didn't happen.
ROBERTSON: Well, the source I spoke to would not identify who (AUDIO GAP) Zarqawi. I try to push him on that. And he (AUDIO GAP) he hinted that it was the U.S. forces (AUDIO GAP) Now, that was...
COOPER: Clearly, we're having some trouble with Nic -- we're having some trouble with Nic Robertson's report.
As I mentioned earlier in the broadcast, there is a sandstorm at least passing through the area around -- around Baquba. So, we are -- obviously just lost Nic. It -- it happens. We -- we may lose this broadcast as well.
We are -- we are -- we are covering a number of stories here in Iraq coming up. But, also, we're keeping an eye on a lot of what is happening in the United States, in particular news out of the White House that affects New Orleans. We now have the White House standing up and saying that they will make sure that the levees are built bigger and stronger.
For a long time, the levees -- the White House wasn't coming out clearly and talking about that. They have today. We will show you what they had to say.
Also, a remarkable story caught on tape, a burning building, a baby thrown out a window by -- by -- by desperate people. And that baby was caught by the superintendent of the building. It was all caught on tape. We will -- we will show you exactly what happened. And that baby is OK and doing fine. Also, while we're here in Baquba, we're trying to show you what life is like for the U.S. troops here, for the brave men and women of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry. All throughout these two hours, we are going to be showing you little vignettes, just slices of life from their base, from FOB, the forward operating base called Camp Warhorse.
COOPER: Most soldiers don't live in tents in Iraq. They live in what are called CHUs. The Army has an acronym for everything.
A CHU is this. It's a container housing unit. It's, basically, a metal box that is protected by these sandbags. Now, a lot of soldiers will add a porch on to their CHU that they build themselves. They get some chairs. This one even has kind of a rug.
This CHU belongs to the Master Sergeant Martin Lape (ph). He told us we could come in here. Two sergeants live in here. Master Sergeant Lape (ph) has a -- a television. He's got a DVD. And, well, like a lot of soldiers, he's got a reminder of home.
COOPER: Well, remember, back in September, President Bush stood in New Orleans and promised to rebuild the city bigger and stronger and -- and better. Well, it's been a while, and we haven't heard much on that promise out of Washington in the last couple of months.
Today, however, we heard those words again, bigger, stronger, and better.
CNN's Tom Foreman is "Keeping Them Honest."
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just as the chorus of complaints about the pace of levee repair was reaching a crescendo, the White House rolled out news. The president wants to spend more than $3 billion dollars to restore that critical part of the infrastructure.
That's the top official for storm reconstruction, Don Powell.
DON POWELL, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL GULF COAST RECOVERY: The levee system will be better and safer than it has ever been before.
FOREMAN: Patching and improving the levees, not just where they broke, but all around the city, has been a focus for Louisiana officials.
Mayor Ray Nagin has worked the halls of Congress almost every week on this issue, and he's delighted with the promise of new pumps, reinforced levee walls and closure of some canals where the levees failed. RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: If another Katrina hit New Orleans and this system was put in place, we wouldn't have the devastation and amount of flooding that we had with -- with this last storm. That makes me feel very -- a -- a lot better.
FOREMAN: Katrina hit South Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane and New Orleans as a 3. officials stopped short of saying the new levee system will withstand the biggest Category 5 storms. And that's what many Louisianians want.
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: So, while it's encouraging -- at least we know that will get done -- we have got a long way to go.
FOREMAN: Still, officials say they will have enough repairs done by next hurricane season to dramatically reduce the damage from another potential Katrina.
The whole levee renovation will be complete in two years. And, along the way, they will study what it might take to fight off a level five storm. The mayor is taking that pledge to the hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents still scattered nationwide.
NAGIN: This commitment, this action today, says, come home to New Orleans.
FOREMAN: Many Louisiana politicians have heard congressional complaints about the cost of rebuilding and have feared the money would be choked off, in favor of tax cuts or the war. They're still on guard. They like this latest promise, but say they and their voters now need to see real progress.
FOREMAN: In the name of keeping them honest and this close to the holidays, you have got to look for the fudge in all of this.
And here's where the fudge is. You notice the difference between this $3 billion dollars and change that they want to use right now and this question of building to withstand a Category 5. That's what so many people in New Orleans want. And the gap may be enormous. Many people down there say it will take more than $30 billion to do that, compared to what's being done now.
So, the statement seems to be correct that, if they get through all of this, the levees in fact will be better than they have ever been, but that doesn't mean that they will necessarily be as good as people down there want them to be, especially with predictions that we may have many more years of very big storms, including Category 5's, burning through the Gulf -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. The devil is certainly in the details on this one, Tom.
But -- so, let's just be clear. They are not saying they are going to rebuild to Category 5 strength. Is that correct?
FOREMAN: No. They are not saying that.
And, in fact, they were asked specifically about that several times today. At one point, the comment from the feds was to say, well, we're not sure we can ever totally stop what Mother Nature wants to do. But, beyond that, Mayor Ray Nagin, who has been a real thorn in their side, saying, come on. You got to help us. You got to help us. You got to help us.
Even he said, by the end of the day, look, maybe nobody even knows what you need to stop that big of a storm. Let's study it and find out. But, you know, here in Washington, sometimes, studies produce real results. And, sometimes, studies are good ways to delay things, so you never have to produce results.
The people in New Orleans will be watching to see what kind of study this one is about their levees.
COOPER: Well, that -- that, of course, is the fear; they just delay this so long, until no one is watching and no one is paying attention, and then it just kind of goes away.
So, right now, all they're just saying, they're just promising it is going to be better, but there are not really any details, and we know it's not Category 5, correct?
FOREMAN: Not Category 5.
I think there are some details. They have put a timeline on this. They have said they will get some of this work done. And -- and that, I think, is a real step. I think that's why the Louisiana politicians today, by and large, were -- were saying, we welcome this news. We're not going to thumb our nose at $3 billion, because it does matter. It's important to them.
At the same time, they're saying, let's not forget the bigger question. This is a long-term recovery. It is going to take a lot of money. And their notion is, we wouldn't turn our backs on any city in this country that suffered a similar fate. New Orleans should not be pushed aside a month from now, two months from now, six months from now, as the money piles up and the long, hard work goes on. They want to see that work -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Tom Foreman, "Keeping Them Honest" tonight -- appreciate it, Tom.
And, of course still, the question remains of exactly how much of New Orleans to rebuild, what neighborhoods to rebuild. Should all of them be rebuilt? Those questions have yet to be answered, really, by -- by anyone.
A lot more ahead. But, first, let's check in with Erica Hill, who is following some other headlines right now.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. A huge judgment against Philip Morris up in smoke. Today the Illinois Supreme Court tossed out a $10 billion verdict against the cigarette maker. The company was accused of fooling customers into thinking light cigarettes are safer than regular ones. An attorney for the plaintiff, though, says there is a high probability the case will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Chicago, Illinois, a cop is accused of stealing from a man arrested after a bar fight. The police officer has been charged with official misconduct. That's because he allegedly run -- ran up about $1,600 on credit and debit cards belonging to the man. Authorities say they have a security camera video showing the officer using the cards in at least one Chicago store.
Across America, will it be Hillary vs. Rudy? A new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll finds Senator Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani lead the pack of potential presidential candidates. The Republican side is tighter, with Senator John McCain trailing Giuliani by just eight points. On the Democratic side, Clinton leads her nearest competitor, last year's nominee, Senator John Kerry, by nearly 30 points.
But let's put this in perspective. The election is still three years away. This is all just speculation. And, by the way, no one has officially announced his or her candidacy.
In Salem, Massachusetts, a dog's life is saved through mouth-to- mouth resuscitation. That's what you're looking at there. The terrier crossbreed, named Pixie, wasn't breathing yesterday when firefighters pulled her from a home on fire. They administered first aid. And she's now said to be doing well.
Anderson, you would do the same thing for your dog, right, a little mouth-to-mouth to save her?
COOPER: I absolutely would, yes.
COOPER: I would.
Erica, thanks very much.
Coming up, sort of one of the untold stories here in Iraq, a family caught in the crossfire, the horrible reality of war coming home for one family. We will tell you that story ahead.
And, also, a mother's desperate decision -- her apartment building is on fire. She decides to drop her baby out the window. It is all caught on tape. The baby is OK. You are going to see the man who rescued and caught this falling child.
COOPER: Soldiers can't leave Camp Warhorse unless they're out on patrol.
So, in order to get exercise, they built this enormous gymnasium. It's got a weight room, and it's got this full-size basketball court. The gym has been dedicated to Sergeant 1st Class David J. Salie, who was the first fatality from this unit in Iraq.
COOPER: And there have been 29 members from the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry, who have died here in Iraq, so many sacrifices, and so many sacrifices of Iraqi civilians as well.
Many of those stories, we -- we never really here. There was an operation near the Syrian border, an attempt to flush out insurgents in advance of -- of yesterday's historic elections. It was called Operation Steel Curtain. The action was intense, U.S. forces and Iraqi forces involved.
CNN's Arwa Damon covered the action and found a story that -- that she noticed in the midst of all the fighting. One family is paying a sacrifice they never expected to have to make. It -- it is a story -- we want to warn you, some of the images you may see will be disturbing.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was an eerie break in the echoing of gunfire in Husaybah when we Mohammad Reijeh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Scott (ph), follow me.
DAMON: Reijeh's family, petrified, files out of their home as Marines charge past. His mother speaks in hushed tones about masked men. Out of scores of people we talked to here about the American presence, Reijeh is the only one willing to publicly say this.
MOHAMMAD REIJEH, IRAQI CITIZEN (through translator): We want them to save us from the terrorists. We want stability.
DAMON: That was just before noon. But things were about to change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It came from the rooftop on the left side of the road.
DAMON: By 3:00 in the afternoon, renewed fighting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there. Hole in the wall. Right there. Go, go, go, go, go. DAMON: And the heaviest air bombardment yet of Husaybah.
Neighbors describe three men shooting from the top of a building. Then, they say, a U.S. airstrike takes out the building next door -- the results, devastating, 17 killed, all but one women and children.
A U.S. commander says he is sorry for the loss of civilian life.
COLONEL STEPHEN DAVIS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Whether a family is in that building or not, we do not know. What we do know is, when we meet significant resistance coming out of those buildings, we will not put our people's lives unnecessarily at risk, and we will reduce it in the most efficient manner we can.
DAMON: Two days later, Reijeh still desperately digging through chunks of rubble, searching for the last of the 17 bodies, that of his 7-year-old nephew, his voice strong, yet disconnected.
A week later, 500 villagers gather to regroup to tell the Americans what they want, restoration of basic services and permission to bury the dead. Mohammad Reijeh, with all that he has lost, part of a small group taking the requests to the Marines.
The man who spoke out said he wanted the Americans to save his town from terrorists, now asking the Americans to help fix the horror the war on terror has brought.
COOPER: Arwa Damon is one of CNN's -- one of the many producers here at CNN who has been covering this war. Arwa speaks fluid Arabic.
You have been covering this war for -- for more than two years. What's -- what's it like?
DAMON: It's an intense roller coaster of emotions.
It's pretty much everything you could possibly imagine in the emotional spectrum that a human being can go through. Take Operation Steel Curtain, for example. There is the -- the adrenaline, the excitement, the anxiety, the fear of moving forward in a combat zone. And then there's the horror and the reality and the sorrow and the shock at the consequences of it.
And there's a certain raw, gritty reality that exists here, in the life here, both for the U.S. military and for the Iraqi people and for coalition forces. It's incredibly challenging to try -- try to communicate to the public.
COOPER: Yes. What is -- what's the most difficult thing about reporting here?
DAMON: For me, on a personal level, because I speak Arabic and because I am a journalist, when I speak with the Iraq people, because I can communicate with them, they always ask me why. Especially in a scenario where there's casualties or some sort of damage that has been done, they always want to know why. Why has this happened to us? Are things going to get better? And they want justification for their losses. And they expect it, I think, from me, both as a journalist and because I speak Arabic and because I can communicate with the U.S. side. And there really is no...
COOPER: What can you say? I mean, when someone asks you why, what do you say?
DAMON: That is the whole thing, is, there is absolutely nothing that one can say to -- to give them peace of mind, to give them the answer that they're looking for.
And you end up walking away with a sense of guilt and an awful sense of helplessness.
COOPER: It's -- it's got to be -- I mean, I can't imagine being here for more than two years, as you have been, and -- and, Arwa is just a remarkable producer.
We want to thank you for all the help you have been giving us...
DAMON: Thank you.
COOPER: ... as well.
Just one of the -- the many people here at CNN who has been covering this story really from the beginning, and continues to, really putting their lives on the line every day, as the U.S. soldiers are, all throughout Iraq.
A lot more ahead. We are going to take look at General Russel Honore. You remember him from New Orleans? Well, he is now helping train U.S. forces on their way to come here to Iraq.
And, also, a remarkable story, all of it caught on tape -- a mother, her building on fire, decides to drop her baby out the window to save the baby's life. Luckily, there was a man, the superintendent of the building, standing below, able to catch the child. It was all on tape. We will show you the tape and the story.
COOPER: We will have more from Baquba, Iraq, in a moment.
But, first, let's go back to New York and Heidi Collins.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Anderson. That's right.
Here in New York, a baby boy is safe and sound tonight after falling from the window of a burning apartment. As luck would have it, Felix Vasquez was waiting with open arms below. And this catcher for his neighborhood baseball team managed to save the day. We will talk with the hero in just a moment.
But, first, CNN's Mary Snow has the dramatic rescue.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One-month-old Eric Guzman is oblivious to the disaster he skirted. But his mother says she is still shaky from the moment she realized her third-floor window was the only way out of their burning apartment. She wasn't sure she would survive.
TRACINDA FOXE, MOTHER: At first, no, but my son was going to survive. That's all I was worried about.
SNOW: A surveillance video captured the scene outside Tracinda Foxe's apartment when men in her Bronx neighborhood saw her waving something white and heard her cries for help.
FELIX VASQUEZ, CAUGHT BABY: She was kind of panicking. Also, at the same time, she was scared. And there was so much smoke.
SNOW: Felix Vasquez and three others held out a coat to catch the baby's fall, as Foxe held her baby through the window guards 30 feet above the ground.
VASQUEZ: She just kept going like this with the baby. Next thing you know, she just let the baby go through it.
SNOW: Foxe says she prayed.
FOXE: Please, God, let someone have caught him. Let someone have caught him, because I couldn't see. Once he left my hands, I couldn't see.
VASQUEZ: So I jumped, and, boom, grabbed -- grabbed the baby, just push him back, push him on my arms, and just went around and give him a quick CPR and took care of the rest.
SNOW: Foxe was rescued by firemen and reunited with her baby.
FOXE: Thank you.
SNOW: Now she says she will also have a tie with Vasquez for life. She has asked him to be Eric's godfather.
Mary Snow, CNN, New York.
COLLINS: It's great story.
And we're lucky enough tonight to have with us Felix Vasquez himself, the man who saved the baby.
Take me back to the few moments yesterday morning. What were you thinking? I mean, I -- it must have happened so quickly.
VASQUEZ: Yes, it did happen so fast that -- I had one of my caretakers called in that there was a fire in the building.
First of all, he just -- a lot of smoke. And then he came out of nowhere and said that there was a baby involved. So, I ran from my office all the way to the site.
COLLINS: How far was that?
VASQUEZ: About a block, block-and-a-half. And I thought he was talking about, there was a baby was trapped inside the apartment.
VASQUEZ: At no moment, I thought that the baby was out the window.
So, then, when I finally got there, there was so much smoke when I looked up. I thought it was a towel, a white towel, like that she's asking for help.
COLLINS: Oh, you're kidding?
VASQUEZ: And then everybody is saying, no, no, that's not a towel. That's a baby, baby. Then the smoke finally just disappeared for a quick minute.
COLLINS: And did you hear the mother screaming, like what she -- what she was thinking about doing at the point?
I heard the mother screaming, say, please, help; somebody catch my baby; somebody catch my baby; help; help; help; help.
COLLINS: Was there ever a thought in your mind that would scream out back to her, no, don't throw the baby?
VASQUEZ: As a matter of fact, I did.
COLLINS: You did?
VASQUEZ: Yes. But everything happened so fast that she just...
COLLINS: So, there must have been a moment where you said to yourself, she's going to throw this baby.
COLLINS: And I have to catch it. VASQUEZ: Me or my staff that was there, the three caretakers that were in the front, Donald (ph), Luca Cino (ph), Blanca Ramos (ph), those three guys.
COLLINS: Well, obviously, what a terrific job you all did.
I understand, though, that there were child locks on the windows of this apartment. Is it possible -- I mean, the baby was three -- the baby is three weeks old, weighed about 10 pounds. If that baby had been any bigger, is it possible that the mother might not have been able to -- to get him out?
VASQUEZ: That's correct.
COLLINS: So, we were happy that there were child locks, but, still, it could have created a problem.
VASQUEZ: That's correct.
COLLINS: Now, when they went back in to get the mother, was that -- were the windows a problem in order to rescue her?
The fire department, once they -- they came, they took over. They knocked down everything. They took out the window, and the mother was rescued.
COLLINS: And she is fine and the baby was fine.
VASQUEZ: That's right.
COLLINS: But, when the baby first came into your arms, we understand that he landed upside down. He wasn't breathing.
VASQUEZ: That's correct.
COLLINS: What did you do?
VASQUEZ: I gave him CPR, mouth-to-mouth. And then I turned around, gave him a mouth-to-mouth, turned it over to my colleagues, caretaker Blanca (ph). And she took -- she just kept giving him CPR until the fire department and the ambulance came over, and they took over.
COLLINS: When did you know that the baby was all right, though?
VASQUEZ: I come to find out later on that everything was fine, about, I would say, 3:00, 3:30 in the afternoon. I saw the baby and the mother. That's when we took pictures that came out in "The Daily News."
COLLINS: Yes. I saw those pictures.
VASQUEZ: Yes. Those are the pictures.
COLLINS: Pretty terrific.
And, look, we're looking at the baby, Eric, there. And there's the picture that was in the paper.
COLLINS: Terrific picture.
Now, listen, you have been named by the mother of this child as the godfather...
VASQUEZ: That's correct.
COLLINS: .. of little Eric.
VASQUEZ: That's correct.
COLLINS: There's going to be a relationship between you and this family for quite some time?
VASQUEZ: Yes. Yes, there is.
COLLINS: That's terrific.
VASQUEZ: Like I said, I have three kids of my own, too. So, now they have somebody to play with.
And -- and -- and we also have to mention that you are the catcher for the Housing Authority baseball team. You guys have a pretty incredible record. So...
VASQUEZ: That's correct.
COLLINS: So, we are glad you were there as the catcher.
VASQUEZ: Yes, indeed.
COLLINS: That's for sure.
Felix Vasquez, thanks so much for your story.
VASQUEZ: No problem.
COLLINS: Excellent job.
VASQUEZ: Thank you.
COLLINS: From an amazing catch to an out-of-this-world experience. Believe it or not, millions of Americans say they were abducted by aliens. And now a Harvard psychologist thinks she knows why.
Also tonight, training for Iraq. The man who helped save New Orleans after Katrina is training soldiers for Iraq.
COLLINS: Tonight, do you believe in aliens? Well, it seems many of us do.
A "Newsweek" magazine survey found 53 percent of those people polled think there is intelligent life somewhere up there. Well, it gets even better. Perhaps as many as five million Americans insist they have been abducted by aliens. Is it a real close encounter or just mind games?
CNN Gary Tuchman went in search of the answer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that's cool. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is taken care of.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Clayton (ph) and Donna Lee (ph) consider themselves a happy couple.
(on camera): How long have you guys been married?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eighteen-and-a-half years. It will be 19 years January 2.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But not an ordinary couple.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to go home. I want to go home.
TUCHMAN: Under hypnosis...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relax completely and listen to the sound of my voice.
TUCHMAN: ... it's apparent the Lees (ph) are quite out of the ordinary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I just need to go. I just need to go.
TUCHMAN: What's going on here? Clayton (ph) and Donna Lee (ph) are trying to retrieve memories about being kidnapped by creatures from another world. Donna (ph) has drawn a picture of an alien, who she says captured her. Clayton (ph) says one of his capture looks similar.
TUCHMAN (on camera): How many times have you been abducted by aliens? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than 10, yes. More than 20, probably.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We have come to visit you in peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN (voice-over): For most people, visions of alien abductions are limited to the movies and TV.
But, in a CNN/"TIME" magazine poll in 1997, 2 percent of respondents said they had been abducted by aliens or knew someone who was. Based on the sample, that correlated to more than five million Americans.
Clayton Lee (ph) says he was a child in this Houston park the first time he was abducted, saying he was lifted in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I remember just floating up higher and higher, until all that was around me were stars and blackness. And then I blacked out.
TUCHMAN: The hypnotist tries to retrieve further memories of that day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quit touching me. Quit touching me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is that, Clayton (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the reason for all this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They gave me something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was it they give you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They gave me something.
TUCHMAN: The hypnotist, who is a private investigator, also claims to have been an abductee.
(on camera): You can understand how a lot of people think, this is really far out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it's far out. I think it's bizarre. And I wish it had never happened to me. My life would be a lot better.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Susan Clancy is a Harvard psychiatrist who decided to do a research on people's abduction claims. SUSAN CLANCY, HARVARD RESEARCHER: When I ran the first ad, looking for people who thought they had been abducted by aliens, I thought we would get very few calls. But we were inundated with calls for a month after we ran one ad.
TUCHMAN: The ads were for subjects who wanted to be included in her new book about people who believe they were kidnapped by aliens. But Clancy has determined she is not a believer.
CLANCY: So, people have symptoms like psychological distress, anxiety, sexual problems, nightmares. And, for better or for worse, today, being abducted by aliens is a culturally available explanation for why you might have some of these symptoms.
TUCHMAN (on camera): With all the reported alien abductions, you might think there would be one high-quality photograph or videotape that would indisputably show aliens in action. Until that happens, most people will have their doubts, but not all people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I said, I don't know what you're talking about.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Clayton (ph) remains convinced this scar is a remnant of an experimental operation to collect his DNA. Donna (ph) believes a fetus was taken from her body.
(on camera): Is it possible -- possible -- that you just have a vivid imagination and that this really didn't happen?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I mean, I have a vivid imagination, but I know it happened.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): And they both say they expect to be abducted again at any time.
TUCHMAN: Here's another notable finding from that CNN/"TIME" poll.
Seventeen percent of the respondents believe that alien abductions have happened. That correlated to about 45 million Americans at the time of the 1997 poll.
Harvard researcher Susan Clancy says one of the interesting aspects of the work she has done is seen the types of people who have come forward with the stories of abductions. They have been doctors, lawyers, teachers, blue-collar workers, all kinds of people, maybe one of your neighbors, Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes. That is a notable finding.
All right, Gary Tuchman, thank you.
It's the birth of the child-free family, why more and more Americans are opting not to have children. What's behind the trend? We will talk about that.
And, from the war zone that was New Orleans, to the war zone that is Iraq, that General Wayne guy, you know, General Russel Honore, is leading his troops on a life-and-death mission.
COOPER: Throughout Iraq, U.S. troops live in what they call FOBs, forward operating bases.
This FOB is called Camp Warhorse. It's where the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry, have been living for the last 11 months.
About 2,000 troops live here. It's about eight square miles, a sprawling city of cement and dust. They try to make it feel kind of like America. They have named the streets. This is Liberty Avenue and Panther Avenue.
But the truth is, living here, you still feel very far from home.
COOPER: Well, thankfully, the guys from the -- men and women from the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry, are going to be heading home in January, after serving with great distinction here over the last year or so.
You may remember Lieutenant General Russel Honore. He was the can-do general down in New Orleans, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, who made things happen, who brought badly needed aid just in time.
Well, he's now helping train U.S. forces on their way to Iraq.
CNN's Barbara Starr caught up with him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No more USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: No more USA!
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iraqis protesting, held back by their police in the blue shirts. U.S. troops want to enter a village to find a suspected bomb maker.
It is not real. These National Guard troops are in Mississippi, getting ready to go to Iraq, training under a commander you may already know.
The man in charge, Lieutenant General Russel Honore. You remember him. In the early chaos of New Orleans, the mayor called him John Wayne when he arrived to take command. And, now, he's back doing what he loves, preparing soldiers for Iraq, making it tough, so they learn to stay alive.
For Honore, it's deadly serious. He wants these troops to make mistakes here, not in Iraq. LIEUTENANT GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE, COMMANDER, FIRST U.S. ARMY: We call it theater immersion. And the idea to train the soldier like they're going to fight.
STARR (on camera): Part of the training scenario is to put the soldiers under the extreme stress of dealing with angry Iraqis.
(voice-over): When soldiers get wounded, their buddies must practice treating them under fire. At a checkpoint, even CNN is searched by soldiers learning to check for suicide bombers.
To disperse the agitated Iraqis -- there are civilians hired for the exercise -- the soldiers use tear gas. It's fake, but they play it for real and put on gas masks. It turns out to be a bad decision, because, in Iraq, it's very unlikely commanders would allow tear gas against civilians. Honore takes note, but doesn't interrupt.
But to add even more wartime intensity, the trainers hit the soldiers with simulated mortars and rockets. Here, troops practice one of the most dangerous jobs they will face, coming under attack while escorting convoys.
Honore drills them hardest on the most lethal weapon used on U.S. troops, improvised explosive devices, IEDs. For him, the bombs and bomb makers are enemy number one. He has lost soldiers in IED attacks. Every time he comes to Washington, he privately visits the wounded at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He watches all the attack reports coming in from the field.
HONORE: The thing about the IED fight is, it constantly changes. As we develop methods to defeat it or to defend against it, the enemy adjusts. And we constantly have to adjust to the techniques he's using.
STARR: Finally, there is moment for a bit of morale-building.
HONORE: Go home for Christmas. Got your ticket? Remember, you can't drink it all in one night, all right?
STARR: And time for a group picture before the training for war in Iraq resumes.
Barbara Starr, CNN, Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
COOPER: Well, coming up on 360, a shocking story.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, terrorist mastermind, captured by Iraqi forces and then let go -- we will tell you how it happened.
And the winter weather -- an ice storm making a major mark, from Atlanta, all the way north. We will bring the latest on the fast- moving storm. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
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