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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

New Airstrikes over Tripoli; Elizabeth Taylor's Jewels; Problems at Japan's Nuclear Plant

Aired March 24, 2011 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, crisis in the Middle East. Firestorm in Washington. The White House planning to hand over control of the mission in Libya. But with no sign of a cease-fire, will Gadhafi keep his grip on power?

Then, remembering Elizabeth Taylor. Her best friends, her diamonds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH TAYLOR, ACTRESS: I'm very excited.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: What happens now to her fabulous jewels? How much are they worth? Who gets them?

Then, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, battling back from the shooting that nearly killed her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL HERNANDEZ, REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS' STAFF: I just knew that she would be OK because Gabby has been a fighter for years.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: While her astronaut husband gets ready for his next mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK KELLY, SPACE SHUTTLE COMMANDER: I've said on a few occasions that I'd like her to attend the launch. She wants to attend, she's been looking forward to this for a long time.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I'll talk to the intern who saved the congresswoman and see how her staff is carrying on her mission.

This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Good evening. One day after we learned of the death of Elizabeth Taylor there was a small, understated funeral for her today at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. Just a handful of her closest family and friends paid their final tribute.

And tonight we remember one of the great beauties of the age, Elizabeth Taylor. I'll talk to one of her favorite jewelers about her amazing $150 million collection.

But we begin tonight with the latest from Libya on the day that NATO agreed to enforce the no-fly zone. There were new explosions in Tripoli.

Here with more, CNN's Nic Robertson.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, today we've had airstrikes, heavy airstrikes in and around the capital. Some of them seemed to be quite close, some further away. There's been a response by the Gadhafi forces here, the anti-aircraft gunfire.

One thing we've noticed over the last couple of days, since the coalition has had control of the airspace here, the anti-aircraft guns don't fire so much in the air. So there's just a sporadic response. But we know that military bases in the west of the city have been targeted, and a big military base in the east of Tripoli here, a military airfield. That has been targeted, too.

Communications equipment and other areas there, witnesses say they've have seen smoke rising from those areas, Piers.

MORGAN: And a French jet destroyed a Libyan plane which they say had breached the U.N. no-fly zone. What can you tell us about that?

ROBERTSON: Well, it seems that the French aircraft that spotted this Libyan aircraft, and as far as we know the type of aircraft that's a trainer aircraft used for training pilots who are going to move on to fighter jets. It was on the ground or just landed in Misrata where the coalition had been targeting Gadhafi forces who had been pummeling opposition forces inside the city of Misrata.

On the airfield outside, that's when the French jet saw this small aircraft. That's when it targeted it on the runway. This seems to be the only time, according to coalition officials, that they've been able to see Gadhafi's air force try and take to the air in the past five days, Piers.

MORGAN: And Nic, I mean, do you get a sense of the no-fly zone is actually having much of an impact on Gadhafi and his regime?

ROBERTSON: It seems to be having an impact around Misrata. And this is the only place it seems to be having a significant impact. We know that because opposition people in the city there say the attacks have decreased. They're getting some electricity. It's going to be restored to them. And people have been able to go out to the stores for the first time. But if you go to the east of the country, Ajdabiya, which is the sort of the next town back from Benghazi, even though the air campaign began here five days ago now, Gadhafi's forces have dug into Ajdabiya and are not showing signs of leaving or giving up significantly on the fight. The rebels are trying to fight their way into the town and take control of it.

So we're not seeing a political weakening. We're not really seeing a military weakening in Gadhafi's position. What is probably happening, though we're yet to see it, but very likely and I think we're going to see more of this, in towns like Ajdabiya and Misrata, Gadhafi is hiding his military equipment in an urban environment which will make it much harder to target in the days and weeks ahead, Piers.

MORGAN: Nic Robertson, thank you as always. And please stay safe out there.

Will a deal for NATO to take command of the military mission in Libya make any difference?

Joining me now is Congressman Howard Berman, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr. Berman, what do you think will happen? Does it make any difference really whether we say it's NATO or whether the Americans were involved? I mean, on the ground, militarily and politically, what difference does it really make?

REP. HOWARD BERMAN (D), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, I think it is the transition that the president talked about where our role diminishes somewhat, we're still very central in the planning. But other countries pick up some of our responsibilities in terms of implementing this operation. So I think that's the key -- that's the consequence of this decision.

MORGAN: I mean, just looking at the way this has all been playing out, it seems to me that America is heavily involved but doesn't really want anyone to know that which seems to be a rather pointless exercise in terms of the PR here, isn't it?

BERMAN: Well, no someone is pretending that America is not involved. The announcement of the whole strategy indicated that we've been providing capabilities that we are uniquely qualified to provide. But as the days go by, more and more sorties will be carried out by air forces of other countries, more operations will be taken over, our role will become somewhat diminished.

Still engaged, still involved. Obviously, helping to coordinate, but I think that's the transition we're watching.

MORGAN: It's a very, very unusual position for American military to find itself in here. No one, talking to all the generals in the last few days, has really been clear what the mission is to start with.

We now hear it's costing America $1 billion on these air strikes, which the country can really hardly afford. I mean, isn't it time for some real clarity? And dare I say it, leadership here?

BERMAN: Well, I have to disagree with you there. I think the mission is quite clear. And what the president is doing is both right and smart. The mission is to stop a human catastrophe, a massacre by Gadhafi against his own people, to avoid the destabilizing impacts of what Gadhafi is doing on the neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia.

And to send a message, particularly in that critical region where we have so many national security interests that there is a point by which the international community and the United States will say there's only so far you can go before you risk this kind of consequence.

MORGAN: Is that the message that's being sent? I mean if you're Colonel Gadhafi and you see the Americans not retreating but certainly ceding leadership of this operation to NATO, having sort of dipped their toes into this, you're not really seeing a massive commitment, are you? So why should you be overly concerned?

BERMAN: Well, we're concerned, and we are involved to stop a massacre. If we had not acted, how many tens of thousands of people in eastern Libya would have been destroyed? If we were not working -- and murdered? If we were not working to degrade Gadhafi's military capabilities, as we are doing through the air and as a part of a coalition, that massacre would have continued and will continue in many of the areas in western Libya.

I think this is a pretty clear and important mission that is not only humanitarian in nature but involves some important security concerns in a critical region.

MORGAN: Howard Berman, thank you very much.

The U.N. says there is no sign of a cease-fire in Libya, even after days of coalition air strikes. So is President Obama's Libya's strategy working?

Joining me now is Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor.

Mr. Posner, a lot of people remain a little confused, to put it mildly, about what is actually going on in Libya. Particularly in terms of America's role. We learned tonight that NATO is now going to be leading this operation.

Where does that leave America? Are they in this or not really?

MICHAEL POSNER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think, first of all, our -- the objectives militarily have been clear from the beginning. It was one, as Congressman Berman said, to avert a bloodbath. To prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. Secondly, to impose a no-fly zone. And third, in a relatively short order, to turn over military leadership to NATO, which we're in the process of doing.

On a parallel track, we've been very clear that our view is that Colonel Gadhafi is unfit to lead, and that we -- and we are working with a broad coalition including many Arab states, the Arab League and others, the states of Europe, to either economically, politically, diplomatically send a signal that the Libyan people ought to be able to decide their destiny.

I'm firmly convinced that if left to their own devices, people in Libya would not choose Colonel Gadhafi.

MORGAN: But tell me this. I mean if Colonel Gadhafi, obviously is watching this tonight, possibly, and he'll be thinking to himself, so they thought he was about to commit a massacre, so the Americans come in. And within a few days, they seem satisfied I'm not, so they withdraw in terms of leadership.

What if he wants to go and commit another massacre tomorrow? Does America then re-enter the fray?

POSNER: First of all, I don't think we're withdrawing leadership on the diplomatic, on the political stage. I think it's also -- we sort of dismiss this notion that somehow we averted a massacre.

You know, Colonel Gadhafi a week ago was heading for Benghazi. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people could have been affected, killed, injured, forced to flee their homes. That was the news that never happened. And it didn't happen because we took a leadership role militarily at a critical time.

Now we move to another stage, and we try to rally the global forces in the region and elsewhere to make clear that Colonel Gadhafi should not lead. We support the Libyan people's right to choose their own destiny.

MORGAN: And in terms of the critics of all this, they say, look, this is pretty hypocritical, isn't it, when you see what else is going on in the region? Why is it that Libya is being targeted when you have uprisings in Bahrain, in Syria, in Yemen? Where does this policy have consistency?

POSNER: Well, I think it has consistency in the sense that we see throughout the region that people are demanding both greater participation in their political life and also greater economic opportunities. That's what started in Tunisia, it took place in Egypt in January.

I was in Egypt last week. And there is a great sense of hope in Egypt that people have taken their own destiny and are moving towards a democratic transition. We ought to be supporting that, and we intend to support the Egyptian people in their efforts to do that.

We're seeing it also in Syria, we're seeing it in the other countries you mentioned. Each of the countries have a different dynamic. But what's consistent is that people are demanding change, and they're demanding change based on a commitment and a desire for greater democracy, greater dignity, and greater participation.

MORGAN: Final question, Michael Posner. Is it really America's job to get involved in civil wars? POSNER: It's America's job to lead on human rights and democracy. And lead not in the sense that we impose our will or values on others. But we respond when there's genuine desire within countries for change.

What's so important about what's happened in Tunisia and in Egypt is that people within those societies have decided to stand up for their own rights, and to say that they want to basically live a very different way. They want jobs, they want economic opportunity, they want political liberty.

It's our job to reinforce those desires and to give them the support they need to enforce their own destiny.

MORGAN: Michael Posner, thank you very much.

POSNER: Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming up, remembering Elizabeth Taylor. An insider's look at her fabulous jewelry collection.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: That was the sight of Elizabeth Taylor's funeral today. She was buried very near to Michael Jackson, and she was of course known for her great beauty and many husbands, and her love of jewels.

Here now from inside her collection, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia who began his own jewelry line in 2003, and John Block, who's a gem specialist and former head of the Sotheby's jewelry department.

Gentlemen, thank you both for joining me.

Liz Taylor is known for many things, most of all her stunning jewelry collection which if you believe reports today may have been worth up to $150 million.

John, is that an accurate assessment?

JOHN BLOCK, GEM SPECIALIST: You know, what it eventually will bring could easily be $100 to $150 million. I think this is a collection that's going to rival that was the duchess of Windsor or Jackie Kennedy. Certainly in terms of the public's imagination.

MORGAN: And some of the jewels were actually from the duchess of Windsor's collection, weren't they?

BLOCK: Absolutely. Several of them, the most important being the Prince of Wales' diamond broach.

MORGAN: Prince Dimitri, in terms of the value of some of these jewels, presumably they are dramatically increased depending on who gave them to her. For example, the gifts from Michael Jackson, which were supposed to be very lavish. I would imagine would have a premium simply because Michael bought them for her. H.R.H. PRINCE DIMITRI OF YUGOSLAVIA, "PRINCE DIMITRI COMPANY": Yes. The fact that Michael Jackson gave it to her, the fact that she owned it, the quality of the jewels itself, is going to make it incredibly important. I think probably even more so than the duchess of Windsor.

MORGAN: That's an extraordinary statement. And that makes her, John, I would imagine, one of the great private jewelry collectors of all time, doesn't it?

BLOCK: Without question.

PRINCE DIMITRI: Yes.

BLOCK: There have been royal collections, some have been sold, some will never be sold. But for America and for the world today, this is a royal collection.

MORGAN: Yes, Prince Dimitri, you are a royal, of course. I mean would you go along with that? Was she Hollywood's queen in all senses including the tiaras and bangles?

PRINCE DIMITRI: Absolutely, I think Elizabeth Taylor of the maximum of glamour in the world right now. I mean, she was the greatest legend in America if still alive.

MORGAN: And John Block, what would be -- from your knowledge of the collection, the single most valuable piece that she owned?

BLOCK: You know, it's hard to say, but perhaps the Krupp diamond which was -- she was almost never -- not wearing it. She was always wearing it. Every time I saw her which in person, which might have been only about six or eight times, she always had it on. She loved that stone. And that's one of her real monuments of her jewelry collection.

But she had so many things. She had the Taj Mahal diamond necklace. She had rubies. She had that Prince of Wales broach she -- she loved it. She -- you know, when we were in Geneva, I was on the phone with her. And she had set up a party at her home in Los Angeles, invited all her friends around the pool.

And in the middle of bidding on the stone she says to me -- you know she's, I don't know, maybe up to $500,000 at the time, and she says, "John, by the way, how many times was the duchess of Windsor married?" I said, three times. She goes, "nothing." And that was her -- that was her personality. She was amazing.

MORGAN: Prince Dimitri, that was what everyone keeps telling me. That she had this wonderful, almost bawdy sense of humor. A great laugh. She loved having fun. And she loved leading this incredibly glamorous life.

Don't you think, if I put you on the spot, do you think she preferred her diamonds to her men? PRINCE DIMITRI: Well, I think they went together. I think diamonds were really the manifestation of the men in her life. There hadn't been any men, there wouldn't be any jewelry. I think jewelry for her was really this ultimate romantic thing in her life. More so than the intrinsic value. It was the symbol of it.

MORGAN: And, John, if I could turn to you, I mean, did Elizabeth Taylor ever buy jewelry herself, or was it always just given to her by admiring men?

BLOCK: The only time she told me she ever bought jewelry for herself was at the Duchess of Windsor sale. And she bought one amazing piece, very important. And two small pieces, which in fact became gifts to George Hamilton, which was -- he was her good friend at the time.

MORGAN: And Prince Dimitri, I mean that's quite an achievement, isn't it? To go through your life and amass a collection worth possibly $150 million. And you hardly have to buy any of it because you're so mesmerizing that men just queue up to buy you these huge rocks.

PRINCE DIMITRI: Yes. Well, she was a legend. I mean, look like Cleopatra that she played so well in the movie. She was literally up on that level.

MORGAN: John, obviously a very sad day today, the day Elizabeth was buried. Very near Michael Jackson. They were very close, and he bought her lots of jewelry. How would -- how would you imagine that she would like to be remembered knowing her as you did?

BLOCK: I didn't know her that well, but I think she liked to be remembered for her charitable works, for the -- for her totally generous personality. Her fun -- she had -- she loved men in her life.

She used to tell me stories about Richard Burton and even Michael Jackson. She showed me all the jewelry that Michael Jackson gave her. And it didn't really matter if one piece was worth $2 million and one piece was worth $200,000. It meant so much to her. And she found meaning in her life. And a lot of love in her life. But then again, I think her jewels lasted longer than her men, so there we go.

MORGAN: It was certainly more reliable.

BLOCK: Yes.

MORGAN: And, Prince Dimitri, what would your memory of her be just from being a fan?

PRINCE DIMITRI: From being a fan -- from what I heard from lots of people who knew her is that she was an incredibly kind person. An incredibly generous, and very, very witty. There was a famous story when she met Princess Margaret. And she admired her diamonds. And she said, hmm, and Princess Margaret said quite vulgar that diamond, and Elizabeth Taylor looked at her, and she goes, yes, isn't it? Great, isn't it?

(LAUGHTER)

PRINCE DIMITRI: So then Princess Margaret says, well, can I try it? So she tried it on. And Elizabeth looked at her and she goes, see, not that vulgar anymore, is it?"

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: I love that story. That's one of the reasons I love Elizabeth Taylor. She knew how to be a proper, glamorous superstar.

PRINCE DIMITRI: Yes.

MORGAN: Gentleman, thank you both very much indeed. That was fascinating.

PRINCE DIMITRI: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: Thank you, bye-bye.

MORGAN: When we come back, the first confirmed American fatality from Japan's tsunami. I'll talk to the young woman's family.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Japan has been hit with an incredible 700 aftershocks, including one just this morning in Tokyo.

And CNN's Anna Coren is live for us there now.

Anna, clearly Japan is still enduring a succession of minor tremors, mini earthquakes. What exactly is going on here?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Piers, we have been getting aftershocks every single day since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. And you know, it's not necessarily causing any more damage, but it's certainly creating fear. You know, this is a country that's in mourning. The death toll now stands at almost 10,000. And 17,500 people remain missing.

This is, of course, on top of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been left homeless. They are living in shelters. So I think it just adds to the fear and the pain that this country is feeling.

MORGAN: And what's the latest from the nuclear plant, the Fukushima plant? Because we've had two of the workers there have been contaminated with radiation. Do we know what their condition is?

COREN: We understand they're in a stable condition. They are currently in hospital. They were exposed to water, contaminated water. So that is what we are hearing from TEPCO, the company that runs the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

But you know, Piers, it's one step forward, two steps back. They think they're making progress as far as restoring power to the plant. This, of course, was knocked out by the tsunami and the quake. But it's causing so many problems.

They're dealing with fire, with smoke, with high pressure levels as well as the contamination or the radiation exposure, I should say. So it's an ongoing problem, it's very fluid and extremely unpredictable.

And while they're trying to restore the power to those reactors to get those cooling systems working, they're having to use seawater to cool the reactors. And this in itself using that salt water is just causing another set of problems, Piers.

MORGAN: And one of the biggest concerns, obviously, especially for parents is the contamination of the food process. And particularly in terms of infants. What's the latest advice there from the Health Ministry?

COREN: This is a very big story at the moment here in Japan because contamination is spreading. Initially, it was just isolated to around Fukushima where the plant is. You know, they've stopped the use of drinking water, as well as a number of food products. More than half a dozen food products have been banned from sale and shipment.

But it's reached us here in Tokyo. We are some 150 miles from the plant. And parents here have been told not to give their infants tap water because of high levels of radiation, high levels of iodine have been found.

So this is in itself, you know, creating a great deal of fear and confusion. Authorities try and reassure people saying that it's not going to pose any long-term threat. But anything to do with children, anything to do with radiation fears obviously, you know, creates panic here.

So people are being told to use bottled watered. And they certainly, you know, assure everybody that there will be enough. There has definitely been a run on it. Stores have sold out.

So this -- you know, Piers, it just adds to the feeling, you know, of uncertainty and fear as to what is actually, you know, going to happen.

MORGAN: Poor people, such a worrying time for all of them. I just hope that it comes to an end sooner rather than later.

Anna, thank you very much.

The death toll after Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami has reached 9,737 today, with over 16,000 still missing. Taylor Anderson is the first known American victim. She was 24 and taught English in a seaside town.

Her mother, Jean Anderson, and her sister, Julz Anderson, both join me now. First of all, can I just extend my deepest condolences to you on this terrible loss for you? I'm looking at pictures of her now. She was obviously full of life, you know, just such a young woman on this great adventure in Japan. I mean, from all accounts, she was loving her time there.

JEAN ANDERSON, LOST DAUGHTER IN JAPAN TSUNAMI: She certainly was. She was fulfilling her bucket list before anybody had a bucket list, and she -- she's just loving life over there, enjoying herself, being very active. Loved the people, loved the culture, loved the country. And she had a great time there.

MORGAN: And Jules, did you speak to her much about life in Japan?

JULZ ANDERSON, LOST SISTER IN JAPAN TSUNAMI: Yes. We contacted quite often, especially through Skype. Mostly it was done through messages and emails. Occasionally she would get up, call me in the morning when it was nighttime my time. Yes, we did talk quite often, especially about her time there.

MORGAN: And Jean, when did you get the terrible news that confirmed that she had died?

JE. ANDERSON: About 5:20 on Monday morning.

MORGAN: As you say, just the worst imaginable news for any parent. Did you have any concerns when she went to Japan, knowing that it was obviously one of the places in the world that is most prone to earthquakes? Did it ever cross your mind that something awful could happen?

JE. ANDERSON: Oh, no. I was proud of her. I was happy that she was fulfilling a big goal that she'd set for herself. She loved -- she loved Japan. And I was just pleased that she went over there and told us all about it.

Last year, my husband and I -- Andy and I went to visit her. And we got there, we knew why she loved it over there. We just -- everything around her was just beautiful. And it was a great visit with her.

MORGAN: And as a tribute to her memory, you're going to be raising money now to help with the rebuilding of Japan. What can you tell me about that?

JU. ANDERSON: Yes. We were thinking of creating a foundation in her name. It takes a while, though. And we know that people want to donate now. Luckily, our high school here in Richmond, Virginia, that we went to, St. Catherine's, had already set one up. It's called the Taylor Anderson '04 Gift Fund. They already have it up and running. They've been doing it for a couple days, actually.

We're very, very thankful that took the time and they listened to other people to set this up. You can go to their website at StCatherines.org/TaylorAnderson, and you can donate money to this gift fund that will go towards repairing Japan, especially the area she lived in.

MORGAN: Jean, I have three children myself. I just cannot imagine what you're going through right now. How would you like people to remember your daughter?

JE. ANDERSON: Oh, she was loving and fun filled. She lived life to the fullest. And she -- she was just doing what a 24-year-old would want to do. She just loved life, loved her family and loved her boyfriend.

MORGAN: Jean and Julz Anderson, thank you so much for spending some time with us. I'm so desperately sorry for both of you and the rest of your family. And I hope you raise a lot of money. I think it's a great cause that you're doing it.

Thank you.

JE. ANDERSON: Thank you.

MORGAN: When we come back, the man who saved Gabby Giffords' life. His story of that shocking day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK KELLY, ASTRONAUT: I want to first say a couple words about the recovery of my wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As her doctors described in her last press conference on March 11th, she's doing remarkably well. She's starting to walk, talk more, more every day. And she's starting to process some of the tragedy that we all went through in January. She's going through that as we speak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was Mark Kelly earlier today talking about his wife, Gabby Giffords. On January 8th, the tragic shooting in Tucson forever changed that community, as well as the political climate in America.

Daniel Hernandez is the unlikely hero of the Arizona shootings, the intern who saved Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' life. Since that day in January, he's traveled the country making speeches and helping the Red Cross teach the same life-saving skills that he used so successfully.

And Daniel joins me now. Daniel, it's been an extraordinary couple of months for you, for Gabby Giffords, for America really in many ways. Take me back to that fateful day. You just were having a normal day, and then everything changed. Talk to me about the moment everything changed.

DANIEL HERNANDEZ, REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS INTERN: So I was helping to staff the event as an intern for Congresswoman Giffords. It was an event that she held periodically to get the feeling of the constituents, to try and garner what the opinions were of her, the people that she represented.

So it was a chance for people to talk to her one on one. And about ten minutes into the event is when the first shots were fired. And I heard someone yell "gun." That's when I ran toward where the congresswoman would be, assuming that if there was indeed a gunman, she would likely be a target.

MORGAN: What was going through your mind as you ran towards her?

HERNANDEZ: The only real things that I had going on in my mind were making sure that anyone who was injured, not just the congresswoman, but anyone who had been just in the immediate area got some treatment, and using whatever limited skills I had until someone who was better trained could come in.

I was very focused on just getting to them to give them the immediate aid because seconds could make a difference.

MORGAN: You had received training before in this, exactly what you had to then do. What did you actually do to Gabby Giffords?

HERNANDEZ: So, the congresswoman as well as others had been shot. So the first thing I did was tried to assess who was still alive by checking pulses and by checking for respirations. I then saw the condition of the congresswoman, and I had to lift her up and sit her in an upright position, because she was in some danger of asphyxiation because she was starting to breathe in some of her own blood.

I propped her against my chest so she could breathe with a little more ease. Once she was breathing with more ease, I then started to check her for wounds. And the only one that I was able to see was the one to her forehead. I used my bare hand until we could get some smocks from inside the Safeway to apply the pressure until she could get further assistance from the emergency medical services.

MORGAN: I mean, you're talking about this in a remarkably matter of fact way. This is not the stuff that people normally have to do. There's a woman that you work for, that you admire and respect, and she's been shot through the head. Did you fear in that moment that she was probably going to die, given the injury she'd sustained?

HERNANDEZ: No. I think one of the things that I always knew is the congresswoman would make it through. And I don't know where this sense of calm kind of came about, but I always just knew that she would be OK. Because Gabby's been a fighter for years, whether it was in the Arizona state legislature or in the Congress. I just always knew she would be able to pull through because she has that fighting spirit that not that many people have. That's one of the reasons I admire her.

MORGAN: Was she conscious? Did she say anything?

HERNANDEZ: She was conscious, but she wasn't able to speak. She was letting me know that she was conscious and alert, because she would respond to simple commands. I would tell her, do you understand what's going on, and then explain something, and then have her squeeze my hand. She was able to use her hand to articulate some of her feelings. Then I tried to make sure that everything that was going on around her, she knew what was going on. I know in the inquisitive nature of Congresswoman Giffords, she would have liked to know since she couldn't see for herself.

MORGAN: I was flying from New York to L.A. when it happened and was online. Reports began to come in from good sources that she had died. And then the reports came back in a few minutes later saying maybe she hadn't died, that they were fighting to save her life. And since then there's been this remarkable, extraordinary recovery that we've all been watching, not physically watching, but through the media, through report, through friends and family who have seen her.

Can you quite believe that she is where she is now?

HERNANDEZ: I think for people that don't know Congresswoman Giffords, it -- it's stupendous the amount of recovery that she's been able to make in such a short amount of time. For those of us who know her, who have always known her to be someone who is -- goes above and beyond what people expect, we're not surprised.

We just didn't know what shape or what form it would be taking. So we're all very ecstatic when we hear the news. But immediately after I got to the hospital, because I traveled with the congresswoman in the ambulance, I was hearing those report that she had died. And I was in the hospital.

So for seven hours, I was under the impression that the congresswoman had died because I was in a little bit of a sequester, waiting to be questioned by the authorities. So --

MORGAN: Awful for you.

HERNANDEZ: It was completely awful. But finding out that she had made it through surgery and that she was on her road to recovery, and then hearing things that have happened since have been very exciting and intriguing to see how she has been recovering.

MORGAN: Every day you get people ringing the office who either want to talk to someone or come around and be comforted, because they're still suffering the traumatic after effects of what happened that day.

HERNANDEZ: So one of the strange things that's happened at the offices, it's no longer just a place where a congressional office operates. It's become a place for the community. And it's a place where people who have felt the need to grieve have come in to express just their horror and shock, but also to share their well wishes, not just for the congresswoman but for people who were injured and people who passed away.

So the office is serving a dual function, where it's a congressional office, but it's also a place of healing and mourning, but also a place where people can come in and just share their emotions. MORGAN: I mean, you obviously lost very dearly valued colleagues. Gabe Simon was one of him. And I'm told his father comes every day to just hang out with his son's former colleagues and staff. That must be pretty harrowing.

HERNANDEZ: It's an example of the way that the community has kind of come together. What -- sometimes you would assume people would kind of go into their own shells and become a little bit more of a hermit. But seeing him come into the office is something that's good not just for the staff members who knew Gabe for a long time, but also some of the interns who had only worked with Gabe for about a week before the incident.

So it's a very cathartic thing to have someone who is so close to Gabe come in and share his well wishes and also encourage us to do the work that his son loved. So it's always rewarding to have him come in.

MORGAN: How do you feel about being called a hero?

HERNANDEZ: Still something that I'm not very comfortable with. I still think that the real heroes are people like Congresswoman Giffords, Gabe Zimmerman who, unfortunately, passed away. So I think for me it was a one off. And hopefully I never have to go through anything like that again.

But I think the people that are the heroes are the ones that have dedicated their lives to trying to help others. And I aspire to do something in public service. So I want to reach the point where Congresswoman Giffords was and will be again, and the point where Gabe Zimmerman was.

So it's something that I look forward to hopefully one day being able to admit and take credit for. Right now, I don't think it's appropriate for me to do that.

MORGAN: Daniel, you're a man of great common sense. You're also remarkably modest, given what you did that day. On behalf of everyone, I think, thank you very much --

HERNANDEZ: Thank you so much.

HERNANDEZ: -- for your heroism on that day and for continuing the good work since through the Red Cross, which is incredibly valuable.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you very much.

MORGAN: Thank you very much for coming in.

Coming up, the latest on Gabby Giffords'. The congresswoman's amazing recovery and what her astronaut husband said today about his plans to return to space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MORGAN: Congresswoman Giffords is making a remarkable recovery. Her staff carries on her mission, serving her constituents while she struggles to heal. All of them asking themselves, what would Gabby do?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN (voice-over): January 8th began with a crisp morning just like this one. As the sun rises over the mountains framing Tucson, the staff of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords prepares for a community event like dozens before.

PAM SIMON, REP. GIFFORDS' OUTREACH COORDINATOR: We were excited. It was going to be a good day.

MORGAN: But as we all now know, the morning calm quickly turns to chaos.

SIMON: It was within just a couple of seconds that I realized I had been hit. And so I saw the congresswoman go down, I saw Ron go down.

MORGAN: Twenty two-year-old Jared Lee Loughner allegedly opened fire into the crowd, killing six, wounding 14, including the congresswoman herself.

RON BARBER, REP. GIFFORDS DISTRICT DIRECTOR: I was shot in the face and in the leg. This bullet, which left a dimple, just missed my artery by a couple millimeters. So I'm very lucky to be here.

MORGAN: In the days after the horrific shooting, the country struggled to make sense of what had happened.

MICHAEL MCNULTY, REP. GIFFORDS CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: It was traumatic for me thinking of what she had gone through, but it was much worse for her staff, who had been there and gone through the entire shooting. It's hard to describe the horror that day.

MORGAN: Despite the tragedy or maybe because of it, by Monday morning, two days after the shooting, Giffords' congressional office doors were open for business.

CJ KARAMARGIN, REP. GIFFORDS COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It was really important to let people know that no one, that no act of violence would deter us from doing our jobs.

HERNANDEZ: We could not let down the constituents. So it was important that we got back to work, because that's what Gabby would have wanted.

MORGAN: "What would Gabby do" is the new office mantra.

KARAMARGIN: What motivates Gabrielle Giffords is truly the desire to make a difference and to do good. This is a driving force, for her and for us. MORGAN: Incredibly, since the shooting, her office has seen a 23 percent increase in requests for help. Like the story of Andrea Richardson, a graduate student who was stuck in Egypt during the uprising and called her mother back in Tucson.

ANDREA RICHARDSON, REP. GIFFORDS CONSTITUENT: She ended up calling Gabrielle Giffords. By the next morning in Egypt, when I woke up, I got a call from a member of the State Department saying go to the airport, go to the front of the line and we promise that you will be on the first flight out of Egypt.

MORGAN: In addition to case work, Giffords' office has a new role.

HERNANDEZ: Now we have this new responsibility to be a place for healing and a place for warmth for the entire community.

KARAMARGIN: It's this strange sort of juxtaposition of an unbearable grief with profound sense of duty.

MORGAN: A place of healing for the community, and also for the staff, as they come to terms with what they went through, and with a tragic loss of one of their own, 30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, the only congressional staffer ever killed in the line of duty. His father visits the office every day.

RON ZIMMERMAN, GABE ZIMMERMAN'S FATHER: For some reason, I found very quickly after the shooting that hanging out here made me feel better, particularly because it was surrounded by the bus loads of people doing the work of the office here, and trying to hold things together.

KARAMARGIN: There are a lot of things I would like to tell her when she comes back. I think -- I think I would want to talk about Gabe and tell her a little bit about the types of things that we were able to do with Gabe and how -- how much he's missed, but how his spirit really lives on.

SIMON: Generations of social workers will be educated thanks to the scholarships in Gabe's name.

MORGAN: Ron Barber also hopes to influence future generations with the funds he created to promote civility, respect and understanding, an idea born while he was still in the hospital.

BARBER: The message is we have to take this event and use it for good. And one of the things I think that's good or can be good is if we treat each other more civilly, more respectfully and with greater understanding.

(SINGING)

MORGAN: A benefit concert for the funds drew thousands of Tucson residents and raised over 190,000 dollars. Ron's goal is for everyone to heed the words of his four-year-old granddaughter.

BARBER: Maybe now people will use their kind words.

MORGAN: The legacy for Giffords' staff is still being written, especially as her campaign coffers swell.

MCNULTY: We want to enable her to run for anything she wants to run for, if she wants to run. There's certainly been a lot of talk about her running for the United States Senate. And she would be a great senator. But whether she'll want to do that is -- I think we're going to have to wait and ask her.

MORGAN: Or even president.

MCNULTY: Wouldn't shock me at all.

KARAMARGIN: I don't know if we'll ever know the why of January 8th. But we do know how our community responded. And I think this has been another tremendous source of pride and strength for all of us.

HERNANDEZ: If anything, I think it's made me even more dedicated into going into public service.

MORGAN: And that is exactly what Gabby would do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: We'll be right back with a sneak peek at tomorrow night's show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Tomorrow night, my one on one with one of Hollywood's hottest heartthrobs, Matthew McConoughey. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Are you against marriage?

MATTHEW MCCONOUGHEY, ACTOR: No, I'm for marriage.

MORGAN: Do you think you will get married?

MCCONOUGHEY: I don't know.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: I would want her tied up pretty quickly, legally.

MCCONOUGHEY: Legally tied up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: And that's all for tonight. Coming up is Anderson Cooper with "AC 360."