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JOHN KING, USA
Devastating Storm; Craig Fugate Interview; Presidential Conduct?
Aired April 29, 2011 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Tonight a rising death toll and fresh evidence, fresh evidence of the brute force of the tornadoes that punished six southern states, Alabama the hardest hit, 238 fatalities there alone. And here is a stunning new look at just why. You see here the funnel cloud. This is in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Look at this video fed in to us through iReport.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god! Oh, my god!
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KING: A worker there at the University Mall in Tuscaloosa shooting that video there. And look at this as well. More video here from Arab, Alabama, again fed in to us through iReport. Look at the width of that tornado hitting into the town there. More proof of just the brutal force of these.
In all tonight the death toll stands at 316 across six states. Thousands are still without power tonight. Hundreds more forced to seek shelter because while they survived their homes were severely damaged or worse. President Obama visited the Tuscaloosa area today and after a walking tour with the mayor and with Alabama's governor the president added his voice to the growing chorus of disbelief.
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BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've got to say I've never seen devastation like this. It is heartbreaking.
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KING: The president promised as much federal help as it takes but acknowledged that would not ease the pain for some families.
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OBAMA: We can't bring those who have been lost back. They are alongside God at this point.
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KING: Let's begin tonight in Alabama. Look here. This is an aerial view of the path of destruction in Tuscaloosa. It is a place where tornadoes are not uncommon, yet a place where the descriptions of these particular twistings -- twisters are numbing. Rob Marciano is live for us tonight in Tuscaloosa. And Rob, tell us what you can about the power, the severity of this particular set of storms.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, they're still going through that and they're still surveying the damage. We did spend some time today with experts that were flown in specifically to determine the strength and size of the tornadoes that came through this area here in Tuscaloosa. That is yet to be determined. At least an EF-3 if not EF-4 storm that we had, one EF-5 with winds over 200 miles an hour in Mississippi.
And there were tens of these kind of storms and tornadoes that rolled through this area leaving hundreds of people homeless at this hour and we really don't know how many people that is because even though as the death toll climbs and now it's over 45 just here in Tuscaloosa alone, the mayor is now saying there's over 400 people in this city that are just unaccounted for. Not necessarily missing but unaccounted for.
So hard to say how many people are missing or without shelter. Last night the Red Cross did house over 860 people in shelters around the area and they say this is the highest demand they've had for disaster shelter relief since Hurricane Katrina. So an extraordinary, extraordinary event with the power of these twisters and the number of these twisters rivaling those that we've seen 30 and 40 years ago and really this one is for the history books. Two to $5 billion John in shared losses so far and that number may go up.
KING: And Rob, help us understand. Obviously, the first 24 hours everyone is dealing with the emergency response. And it's hard sometimes to step back and take a look at the context. This is what you do for a living. As you walk around, you go through the communities. You talk to people and you take a look at this yourself, what runs through your mind about the scope, the severity?
MARCIANO: I've never seen anything like it, that's for sure. And then when I step back and I look around and I see the pictures that you've been seeing on camera here and your television sets at home -- and believe me, you know the pictures themselves don't do it justice. This was a home that was perfectly built to sustain normal weather and winds probably of 100, 150 miles an hour.
But that's been completely destroyed. And then when I think, John that this scene is echoed not only in this community but 50 miles up the road, another 50 miles north of here with another tornado and then another one in another state, it's just -- it's hard to believe that this all happened within a 48-hour period. And what has transpired now in the last 48 hours, John, is some improvement in the communities.
The people are coming together. The people that are homeless are being taken in either by the Red Cross or more likely friends and family are opening their doors. For every one person that we see without a -- with home damage -- and you know what, I tell you what, let's -- we're pointing into the sun so this is going to be hard. Look at all these people right here helping this one particular homeowner.
Likely there's only two or three people, if that, in that group of people that actually live there. So everybody is coming together to help. The biggest thing that they've had to do really the past couple of days is just remove the debris, John, because roadways have been blocked by trees and debris and that's been the number one thing that's been hindering folks here.
A lot of that has been removed over the past couple of days. And now that the president has declared this a major disaster, that opens up the coffers for the national government to work with state governments and they'll help the National Guardsmen that are already here doing some of the heavy lifting and slowly but surely they'll get back on their feet, but in some cases they're just going to have to wipe the slate clean here, John, and Tuscaloosa is not alone in that predicament.
KING: Rob Marciano for us on the ground live in Tuscaloosa -- Rob, thanks.
The president's point man in Alabama and across the region is Craig Fugate. He's the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and he joins us now from Tuscaloosa. Mr. Fugate thanks for your time on a day when I know you're extremely busy. Sometimes it takes a couple of days for these things to sink in. As we speak tonight what is your greatest immediate challenge and need?
CRAIG FUGATE, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Well I think the biggest challenge was the additional search and rescue for state and locals as FEMA has come in to look at what he we need to do to help. I think the big challenge here is going to be finding places for people to stay given all the homes and apartments that have been destroyed by these tornadoes.
KING: Do you have any sense -- you mentioned search and rescue. Any sense of how many people might still be missing, unaccounted for?
FUGATE: No. The state is trying to get that number down. Unfortunately they've actually had to go now to going from search and rescue to bringing out additional resources looking for the missing and they're afraid that their death toll is still going up. But they're also hoping that as communication gets up people may be checking in the thought were missing and they'll be OK.
KING: All around the region we're speaking to mayors and sheriffs and governors and the like and there's been a lot of praise and a lot of compliments saying everybody seems to be working very well together. And as you know that hasn't always been the case in the past. Having said that though, have there been any hiccups, any unanticipated whether it's a supply shortage or just a chain of command issue you have to deal with?
FUGATE: Not really. I mean chain of command is always easy for me. We're in support of the governors. They're in charge. Their team here in Alabama as other states, their state teams were up and running. And again our job is to support them and in this case particularly here in Alabama it's really going to be supporting them in the recovery operation.
KING: You mentioned that need for shelter. What can you do there? They're bringing in temporary structures or are you just looking around trying to find unorthodox places in communities that you can turn into shelters that might not have been on any lists to do so?
FUGATE: Well right now there's the Red Cross and others are running the mass (ph) care shelters. What we're looking at is a longer term solution, so part of this is going back and outside these areas of devastation how many properties, apartments, homes that may be available to be rented and getting a sense of what that looks like as we start counting up the total destruction.
KING: And you've heard -- we have heard from a number of the state emergency response people saying we know people want to come and volunteer. We know people just want to send us donations, don't do that right now. We don't have the infrastructure for it. That sounds counter intuitive. Explain why.
FUGATE: Well because again when you think about it, when you start sending stuff in the area, well now they've got to start having a place to collect it and hand it out. And a lot of things we try to do to help with more people coming in, but there's no place to stay and the workers are still trying to get into areas.
So really in this part of the response, I think the thing that I'll echo what my local and state counterparts will tell you is give generously to people like the American Red Cross, Salvation Army or other groups that are active in disasters. That money actually does a lot better when you give it to those organizations particularly in this initial response where you have all of those volunteers coming in.
They're organized. They have the equipment. They can help with the feeding and mass care. And then as the states get a better sense of what the long recovery term needs are tapping into other groups and other organizations to help the recovery.
KING: Beyond shelter is there any one thing? You have six states; they're hit in different ways. Is there any one thing that keeps coming up, we need more of this or we can't find that?
FUGATE: Well you know, the thing is with these disasters, as bad as it looks you know where you see this area, if you go about half a mile away it's not heavily damaged. So the tendency is to think you need a lot of things. Really it was the search and rescue. Now people are literally coming back in and getting their few surviving possessions and I think the next step for us is going to be looking at the housing issues and how -- where people are going to stay, getting schools back open and repairing and getting power back up to these areas. KING: With the chaos, understandable chaos of the first day or so over, as every time we talk to a sheriff, a mayor, the governors, people who have your job at the state level, we keep hearing never anything like this, haven't seen this before, been in a lot of tornadoes, nothing like this. Try to put it into context for us from your own experience.
FUGATE: Well John you've seen tornadoes. You've been in those neighborhoods where you go to the neighborhood and everything is flattened, but then it stops. This didn't do that. It hit the ground and crossed multiple states. Just from what I've seen and I've flown from Birmingham up here to Tuscaloosa and flying that whole distance I could see the tornado track on the ground, trees down and where there were homes or anything in its path totally destroyed that total distance.
Sometimes the width was a half a mile. Sometimes a little less, but I've never been up in the air flying seeing a tornado track literally going tens of miles with no breaks and that was only one part of this tornado track and there were other tornadoes doing similar things throughout the south.
KING: And is that just rotten luck, a horrible occurrence, or even though it's early are there lessons learned in terms of whether it's preparedness on the ground, pre-positioning supplies, changing or advancing the warning system? Any early lessons you've learned?
FUGATE: Well I think the governor of Alabama said it best. There was a lot of warning out there. A lot of people did the right things, but the tragedy of tornadoes this powerful and this large it's unfortunate that when they go through an urban area it's almost impossible to prevent loss of life. And the fact that so many people survived is actually what's the amazing story.
Time after time people that literally crawled out of rubble that you thought nobody could survive. So we're just so fortunate this death toll wasn't even higher but still the losses -- and this is going down as probably one of our worst top five tornado outbreaks, certainly the worst tornado outbreak since 1974.
KING: You don't have a way to put a dollar figure on the damage yet, do you?
FUGATE: Yes, it's too early. We've been focused on search and rescue, focused on the initial stabilization. As we start counting up we'll get a better sense of that but again we weren't waiting for the dollar figures to say it was bad and we weren't waiting to get all accounting done before we came here to help the state.
KING: Understandability question in any event and people are asking it a bit more urgently, a bit more anxiously maybe since the Japanese nuclear crisis. There are several nuclear facilities in the area. The Browns Ferry (ph) nuclear plant lost some power and generators had to be brought in there. Anything at all from emergency response or a preparedness issue, do you have any questions at all about the security of any of those facilities? FUGATE: No. In fact, I saw a report -- we were on a conference call early today with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the state and the surrounding communities and the plants are in a safe condition. But they're not going to start them back immediately again. Part of this is the emergency systems, the local community, their ability to be ready is one of the factors before they bring that power plant back online.
But I'd really refer back to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as we were part of that call. The plants themselves are reporting are safe, but they don't want to come back yet until the communities are ready and get their plans and everything in place that have been devastated by these tornadoes.
KING: Craig Fugate is the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Sir, I know it's a hectic busy day. We appreciate your time tonight.
FUGATE: Thank you.
KING: And you heard Mr. Fugate talk about the devastating scope of the severity of the storm. Let's take a look. Here's the six states affected -- going to highlight here the path of these tornadoes and you see it here -- Southeast Arkansas, most of Mississippi, most of Alabama, a good chunk of Northern Georgia, a couple of small pops into Tennessee and then some went up as far into Virginia.
Let's just show you. This is Appleton (ph), Tennessee. We'll show you one of the areas affected. We'll play this through. And again, you just look and it stuns you into silence just to see these storms. They come down, they touch and homes just ripped up and destroyed -- communities and streets here. We'll show you more of this throughout the program tonight.
It is just devastating from town to town to town, some small, some medium, a few large. Still ahead for us here tonight much more, much more on the deadly tornadoes including a trauma doctor who has treated dozens of young victims.
And the first family was among those on hand and disappointed when the launch of the space shuttle "Endeavour" is scratched. But next Donald Trump says if he's elected president America will get more respect. That same Donald Trump delivered an expletive-riddled speech to a woman's group last night. We'll let you decide if its conduct (INAUDIBLE) commander-in-chief.
KING: Might call this a week to remember for the (INAUDIBLE) Republican presidential campaign of businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump. Yes Trump's complaints played a big role in President Obama's decision to reverse course and to release his long form birth certificate. And as he celebrated that well we got a firsthand taste of how Trump reacts when he is challenged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KING: You raise this issue of his credibility; that if he has it he should release it.
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Absolutely.
KING: There are some people who question yours in the middle of all this. The other night you went on Anderson Cooper and you said your investigators told you it was missing or it wasn't there.
TRUMP: Excuse me.
KING: What was that based on?
TRUMP: Excuse me -- very simple. I had people looking into it. Now I don't have to have the people. I can call them back I hope. I mean I haven't seen this and I'm sure that a lot of experts will analyze it --
KING: Would you ever pay them if -- if serious people told you it was missing or not there -- here it is.
TRUMP: Would I pay them? I don't know. Maybe I'll let you negotiate for me, OK.
TRUMP: I can say this -- let me just tell you I don't make up anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Last night Trump spoke to a women's group in Nevada and repeated his assertion that a Trump presidency would mean more respect for America on the global change. Here is one example of Trump illustrating that point.
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TRUMP: You're not going to raise that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) price.
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KING: A slip of the tongue -- apparently not.
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TRUMP: Listen, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Talking about the Chinese there. Is that what we're looking for in a president? Let's ask David Gergen, our senior political analyst who has served four U.S. presidents, Democrats and Republicans and I'm going to bet not once suggested they add the "F" bomb to a public speech.
You know David, we like colorful people in our politics. We like theater in our politics, but to use the F-word in describing the Chinese, to say you would walk into a meeting with OPEC and tell them to cut the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) price, is that presidential?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It never has been before, John. And you know we've never had presidents held in R-rated rallies. But especially in front of a woman's group which I think is sort of, what? What did he do? I'll tell you this. I mean the guy has a way of hijacking conversations and sort of hijacking and getting people to pay attention to him. And I've never taken him seriously as a presidential candidate.
I had a woman today tell me -- first time I've heard this -- she's an investment banker, a serious person who said you know I never thought I'd like Donald Trump but I like the fact he's fighting for our country and I'm reconsidering my position and I was like whoa. So he may be making some head rows that are unexpected.
Let's wait and see. But you know in the meantime he's so colorful and sort of so off the wall that, yes, he's going to -- put on a big show and I think a lot of people are going to turn out. I think he's going to get -- he's going to take oxygen away from a lot of these other candidates the way he's going.
KING: Well I for the longest time thought it was not serious that he was looking for flirting with us, getting media attention, building the ratings for his show --
KING: I ran into yet another Republican strategist today who said he's met with Trump. Trump wants to put him on the payroll. He wants to hire him, so even if he's not going to run he's willing to spend some money beforehand hiring people. You mentioned the word seriously.
I'm just holding up the cover of "Bloomberg Business Week" here and that's exactly what they say -- seriously -- with the question of Mr. Trump in one of his trademark shall we say poses. David, I want you to listen to something else. Part of it is the use of the F-word. Part of it is --
KING: -- he said this in the interview I had with him up in New Hampshire and I want you to listen to him again in the speech last night essentially talking about if he were the commander-in-chief and there was a question of injecting U.S. military force overseas that one of his calculations would be is the person on the receiving end, the person the United States is trying to help, would they pay for it? Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: One of these blood sucking politicians who has been (EXPLETIVE DELETED) people for years will end up, you know, getting elected. And they'll end up leaving and, you know, somebody else will run -- I guarantee you if that happens, Iran takes over the oil. Iran becomes a force like never before in history. They then take over for Saudi Arabia. They go after Saudi Arabia, which frankly I would protect if they pay us, you know, only if they pay us. Otherwise, I'm not interested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I don't think it's a joke. He says it like that but he had raised this several times seriously in the interview I had with him, David that, you know that part of his calculation of projecting U.S. force overseas would be would the Kuwaitis pay us to protect them from Saddam Hussein back in the day? Would the Saudis pay us now?
Is that something a commander -- I mean of course the United States would like when you're in an international operation to get some of the money back, but how would you like to be a member of the United States military and you hear this guy running for president say well if somebody will pay for it I'll send the troops?
GERGEN: Well you know John it's -- there is a populism about this that I think does have an appeal at a certain level for people and that is they hear this and say thank God somebody is finally standing up for us the taxpayers. We don't have to keep shelling out all this money to protect all these -- you know these tin pot dictators or whatever the answer is going to be at a populist level.
And I think that does generate a certain amount of Trumpism, if you'd like, you know, to demagogue it. But and as you know when we did -- when George Bush Sr. did kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, Jim Baker (ph) went around as his secretary of state and did get people to pay for it. It was actually -- we actually made a little money off of it as I recall.
KING: But they didn't publicly say that was the price of admission. You want our troops, you've got to pay.
GERGEN: You got it right. That's right. And they were much more sophisticated. What -- you know what Trump is doing is he's looking for a way -- he's got a good instinct for how do you have get inside people's heads who are sitting there, a lot of folks who are angry, resentful about our politics. They think a lot of money is being wasted.
They think we're you know giving away tons of money in foreign aid. You got these very exaggerated views sometimes of reality and Trump appeals to that sort of those biases if you would and he exploits them. He gets in there and puts -- he mainstreams, you know, hatred. He mainstreams sometimes racism.
And it's a -- there is a narcotic-like effect that I think is going to at this stage in the campaign when it's not a serious stage he's getting a lot of attention. I do think other candidates who are more serious are going to emerge. I just saw Mitt Romney by chance today you know and talked to him for a few minutes.
I must tell you he struck me as being a lot more serious this time than last time. That he was a lot more himself and he looked good. He looks better than he did on television. I think some of these other candidates are going to start stepping forward. As people get more serious you know they'll turn to more serious candidates. At this stage you know we're into bread and circuses now.
KING: The bread and circuses, well the bread and circuses will soon give way to some candidate forum, some debates, some house parties and we'll see if the Donald is on the stage and answering the questions there. David, appreciate your time and your insights as always.
GERGEN: Thank you.
KING: Ahead tonight (INAUDIBLE) the pomp and the cost of that big royal wedding. And next more from the tornado-ravaged south -- we'll talk to Alabama's governor and an emergency room doctor helping the youngest victims with their injuries and their heartache.
KING: I want to show you some dramatic satellite imagery of some of the damage. This shot here -- this is Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Look at this lake here. If you come in closely you can see the homes around the lake destroyed, debris floating in the water here. You see the red lines. This is an eight mile path of the tornado coming in. This was a shopping center -- if you look at the before image there are cars parked in the parking lot there. Look now -- devastation. This was a mall. Look, it's just debris.
The tornado coming right through here again -- this is an eight mile stretch, about a quarter mile wide at the thickest point. Down here this was the Alberta Baptist Church (ph). Let me bring it down a little bit and I'll stop it right here. This was a church. It was a beautiful church with a steeple right there -- just blown right off. Up here an elementary school -- you see right here.
Thank God the tornado hit -- the tornado hit at about 5:00 in the afternoon so school was out for the most part. One last look -- this is an apartment complex built just in 2009. You see the swimming pool in the middle. There were two columns of buildings here, two columns of buildings there, just gone.
This Tuscaloosa, Alabama -- amazing devastation there. Today the National Weather Service has upgraded the tornado that hit Smithville, Mississippi to an EF-5. That's the highest ranking for tornado damage. The Weather Service says the peak winds of the EF-5, 205 miles per hour and that the tornado was at times as wide as a half mile.
The Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour visited Smithville today and that's where CNN's Martin Savidge is for us tonight. And Marty, when you hear EF-5, the highest ranking ever, you're right there where the governor was today. Tell us about the scope, the severity of the damage.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know it's no surprise actually that it would get the highest rating of all. In fact many of the places we've gone we've had to say look, the storms that came through here must have been absolutely awful. And now the National Weather Service has confirmed it. You don't get any higher than a class five.
And when you see what it's done to this town -- I mean this is the Post Office. This was the Post Office. You wouldn't know it unless I told you that and maybe you read the sign that pick up the mail at the neighboring town. So that shows you that it's not just the Post Office. It's City Hall that was wiped out here.
It was the police station. It was the funeral center. It was the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. It was the Texaco Gas Station -- on and on and on. This is how the big storm had a major impact on a very small town. You've got 13 people that are known dead, 24 people that are missing here. And that's why Governor Haley Barbour came to look for himself.
He was clearly quite stunned. But then he delivered a message that stunned everybody who is listening. There's another disaster heading to Mississippi via the Mississippi River. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Hopefully we're not going to have an issue in this part of the state, but over the next few weeks on the Mississippi we're going to have what could be record levels of the Mississippi, which is going to result in flooding in a great deal of the western part of the state. Three weeks from now, we're going to have a tremendous amount of water in places where there's never been water in my lifetime and I'm 63 years
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: So the worst flooding this state has seen in a long, long time, on top of some of the worst damage in those areas affected directly by the tornadoes, John. It really is an unbelievable combination this state is trying to recover from or deal with.
KING: Marty Savidge for us from Smithville, Mississippi tonight, Marty, thanks so much.
The severity of the tornadoes has tested everyone in affected communities, the police and fire departments, emergency management agencies, clinics and hospitals are overwhelmed because there are so many injuries.
Among the many heroes: Dr. Steven Baldwin. He's a trauma specialist at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.
KING: Dr. Baldwin, you've been on call since these tornadoes hit. Talk about how many patients you've had to deal with and is there a certain type of injury that you're seeing more than others?
DR. STEVEN BALDWIN, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF ALABAMA IN BIRMINGHAM (via telephone): We were called the night of the tornado and worked through that night and then we've been doing shift work since then. The majority of the victims that we saw that were seriously injured had head injuries or multiple fractures or other major orthopedic problems. A few had some serious chest injuries or abdominal injuries as well.
And then we've also seen a fair number of people that have lacerations or other injuries that weren't as critical.
KING: And you've had a large number of young victims coming in with injuries, sir -- some as young as a few weeks old, teenagers. Talk about what that's like.
BALDWIN: Yes, sir. We are a children's hospital and we've had victims that were only a few weeks old and we've also had victims through the pediatric age range up to older adolescents. And it's been a hard experience but people have really pulled together and teamwork has been fantastic and certainly being able to help some people in need is very satisfying and that's our job.
KING: And do you have young children who are there who are still separated from their parents, who have perhaps lost their parents? Do you have problems with things like that?
BALDWIN: Yes, we do, unfortunately. That's one of the things that compounds these kind of injuries is the tragedy of losing a parent or having other parents that are in hospitals elsewhere or people that aren't able to travel readily yet and so forth. So -- and trying to get families married up when it's hard to get that kind of information particularly in children. They can't tell you that kind of information. So, that makes it even more difficult.
So, we've struggled with some of those issues and we're steadily making progress on that. And to my knowledge, most of the patients have been reunited with their families either in person or at least through the telephone and through extended family or through friends.
KING: In the midst of all this, your urgent challenge of course is to help them with their physical injuries. But I assume, amid all this especially, with the younger patients you have a bit of a psychological challenge as well, this is so frightening.
BALDWIN: Absolutely. It's very hard for a child to be injured in the first place, but when you've disrupted their family and their surroundings, that makes it doubly or triply difficult. We certainly have people that specialize and working on those kind of issues and we try to mitigate them as best we can. But, of course, that still continues to be a serious issue. And the other part of this is that these things go on for quite a while. So, it's important not to lose focus on those issues after the first few days, but to stay focused and stay dedicated to those issues for the long term.
KING: Dr. Baldwin there.
During his visit to Alabama today, the president recalled a moment during the car ride with the mayor of Tuscaloosa and Alabama's Republican governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The mayor said something very profound as we were driving over here. He said, "You know, what's amazing is when something like this happens, folks forget all their petty differences." You know, politics, differences of religion or race -- all that have fades away when we are confronted with the awesome power of nature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Among the topics I discuss when I caught up with Governor Robert Bentley a bit earlier.
KING: Governor, let me just start with the latest information. You have in your state 228 fatalities in 19 counties. Just wondering how many are missing tonight? Do we expect that number to go much higher, sadly?
GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA (via telephone): You know, we don't really know how many are missing. We have several hundred missing, but we don't know if they truly are missing or not. We just had some scattered reports around. And so, that is one figure that we cannot give accurately.
We can always give the accurate figure on the number of casualties because either a medical examiner or a physician had to declare those as being dead or casualties. But the missing is hard to say.
KING: You had the president there today and toured some of the damage with him. Obviously, psychologically, spiritually, it's nice to have the president visit your state.
In terms of what you need, what did you tell the president about things that you need as soon as possible?
BENTLEY: Well, the president has been very good to us. The federal government and FEMA, they've been very good, thus far.
We were very proactive in -- on our response as far as the state was concerned by declaring ourselves -- Alabama as a major disaster area on a state level. And then we called out the guard. And then -- so we did the things -- we had great first responders.
But having him come and see in person on the ground, what type of devastation that we have in certain areas of the state, it made his decision to expedite a major disaster declaration very easy. And I rode in the car with him and we talked about that. He said he had never seen the devastation that we saw today in Tuscaloosa.
But there are pockets like that all over the state, maybe just not quite as large.
KING: Do you have any sense yet, sir, of a dollar figure in terms of the physical damage from these storms?
BENTLEY: We really do not. It's in -- you know, certainly millions and -- you know, we just really don't know. We're going to have to get a good evaluation and many of these people -- you know, they had no insurance and it's -- I don't know, it's a difficult situation for so many people across the state.
KING: You're the governor and, obviously, you're trying to deal with this crisis and you tried to stay as detached as possible, I assume, from what you see. But you went to school in Tuscaloosa. You represented Tuscaloosa in the state legislature.
When you see the devastation there and talk to the families there and, of course, elsewhere in your state as well, reflect a bit personally -- I'm assuming it's hard to keep it together.
BENTLEY: You know, really, yesterday was the first time that I had been to Tuscaloosa and seen it in person. And emotionally it was very difficult.
I mean, to see a place where you -- I practiced medicine for 34 years and that's my home. That's where my home is. And, you know, my children still live there.
And to see the tornado as it was coming and I had to do a press conference. That was very difficult.
And then yesterday was -- it was very emotional. But what you have to do, just like you say, you have to be in control and you have to detach yourself from it and realize that you're the governor of all the state, that you're governor of all the people, not just the people that you were their doctor or they were your patients.
So, it was emotional. It was difficult. But we've got people like that all over the state. And we're going to try to take care of their needs.
KING: Let me ask you have lastly, sir. When you have talk about taking care of their needs, are there any one or two things you need most that you can't maybe get as quickly as you want because not only is your state hit, but most of your neighbors as well? BENTLEY: Well, you know, we have outstanding first responders. And the people that did their job, they did it well. And I am very proud of all of our first responders across the state.
And so, working on a local level, a state level and now a federal level, I cannot complain about anything that we've asked for. Everything has been granted, thus far. The president granted exactly what I asked him to do.
KING: Let me ask you, I was going to close here. Let me ask you one more question. You just mentioned the president. The president talked about the ride over and said the mayor said what the president said was something quite profound, that this is a time you're reminded instantly it doesn't matter whether you're Democrat or Republican. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white, it doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor. Recall a bit of that conversation for us?
BENTLEY: I do. I do. We were -- as I say, I rode in the car with the president and that's exactly the truth. I mean, when you have a tragedy like this and lives are affected and people are killed, it doesn't matter if you're black, white, Republican or Democrat.
And, of course, as far as I'm concerned as the governor, it doesn't matter to me anyway. Once I was elected I have became governor of all the people.
And the president said that.
And in a time of tragedy and time of disaster like this, people pull together.
One of the great things about Alabama is people care about each other and we look after each other. Cities, they send response teams to other cities. You see neighbors helping neighbors. I saw so many volunteers today out helping people, and they didn't -- they didn't even know these people but they were out helping.
And that's -- these are just the great people in Alabama.
KING: Governor Bentley, thank you for your time on a busy day. And we appreciate your time today. And, sir, best of luck in the days ahead.
BENTLEY: Thank you very much, John.
KING: Take care, sir.
KING: Still to come -- you see it right there -- why the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour was scrubbed and whether it's too risky for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to stay in Florida until it is rescheduled.
And, no, we haven't forgotten, there was some big event across the pond today. We'll show you the big moments and how people around the world tuned in.
KING: This important news just in to CNN: The NFL lockout is back on. A judge just now ruled in the owners' favor. That ruling puts an earlier ruling that favored the players on hold. Bottom line: lockout is back on.
Moving on now -- this afternoon, President Obama and the first lady had a chance to meet with the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour. Why? Because the shuttle didn't get off the ground.
The president also got a chance to spend a few minutes with shuttle commander Mark Kelly's wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who, of course, is recovering after an assassination attempt in January.
CNN's John Zarrella joins us with the detail.
And, John, first and foremost, why did they have to scrub the launch?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, there are heaters in the space shuttle's orbiter maneuvering system and that orbiter maneuvering system is critical because you can't steer the shuttle without the orbiter maneuvering system. So, once those heaters failed, then NASA had to go ahead and scrub the launch.
You know what, John? It really goes to the point that why the shuttle program is being phased out, one of the reasons. It is a very complicated vehicle. These problems crop up, unfortunately, more often than anyone would like -- John.
KING: And what's the sense, John, they rescheduling, what, 48 hours at a minimum?
ZARRELLA: It looks like 72 hours now. They're saying that by the time they can actually get inside, the back end of the shuttle, see if it's an easy fix -- it will still be Sunday before they can make a decision as to whether they can go Monday.
So, we're not going to know until Sunday if they can go Monday. If it's something more complicated, then we're probably looking at least the end of next week before Endeavour would get off the ground -- John.
KING: So, we'll keep an eye on that. And part of the drama today is that this was the second-to-last shuttle launch of the program itself. But, of course, there was a big drama because you had Commander Kelly who was to be the mission commander and Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman, was there. They took her out of her rehabilitation hospital just months, John, after this assassination attempt that almost took her life.
We know she had a chance to meet with the president today. What do we know about that meeting and whether or not she can stay through the rescheduling?
ZARRELLA: We don't know anything about that meeting other than it lasted for about 10 minutes. The president and the first lady were in there, as well as Commander Kelly. The three of them talked with her again for about 10 minutes. No details released on what was discussed.
We know that her doctors had given her a 48-hour window in order to stay. Her office has said tonight that they have not made a decision on whether she will stay until at least Monday. And they're basically saying, well, it's kind of up to NASA, which leads me to think that perhaps they'll allow her to stay until Monday. But if it stretches beyond that, then it may be unlikely -- John.
KING: Let me ask you, lastly, John, because it was the second- to-the last. I assumed you had a pretty large crowd there today, had to be a lot of widespread public disappointment, not just the political disappointment.
ZARRELLA: Oh, absolutely, no question about it. There were at least an estimated half a million people who had come from all over, pour into the Kennedy Space Center area. Titusville, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island all here to watch history really. And, unfortunately, they're going to have to wait a few days. The hotels were all packed. No rooms to be had here.
And, John, as you know, the last launch is coming up the end of June, end of July right now scheduled, and they expect for that launch upwards of 1 million people to pack this area. It's going to be quite a scene then. And will be quite a scene when Endeavour gets off the ground as well -- John.
KING: John Zarrella could sell that seat he has for the final shuttle launch or any shuttle launch -- but guess what? He won't. John, we will be back in touch. Thank you so much.
There was a wedding today -- if you were up early enough to watch, well, if you were up that early, you weren't alone. We'll show you the numbers and we'll check in with CNN's Richard Quest, next.
KING: There you see it right there -- William and Kate, the duke and duchess of Cambridge. Many of us watched around the world.
CNN's Richard Quest, well, he was right there.
So, Richard Quest, this is an event being watched around the world, billions of people, we know on television and online, exploding viewership. What was it like to be right there in London as it played out?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The party is continuing in Buckingham Palace. It's coming up to late at night here and it will be going on well into the morning. But, John, for me, I have to tell you, to actually stand outside the abbey and see Kate Middleton when she got out of the car and see the couple as they came out and hear the bells, and those are the moments that you basically come into this job for. That is what we mean when we say the front row seat to history.
KING: And the comparisons were, of course, unfair to both with them, to Princess Diana and Kate Middleton, now the duchess of Cambridge. But the comparisons are inevitable, Richard. How did that play out?
QUEST: I think the comparisons are inevitable. Both are young and beautiful women who married heirs to the throne. But there is where the comparison ends, there.
First of all, Diana was young. Kate is older and educated. Kate has lived with William for several years. She knows William well. You saw it in their face.
You have only got to look at the shy frightened rabbit that was Diana Spencer when she walked down the aisle on Earl Spencer's arm and the way she reacted in the integration with Charles in St. Paul's Cathedral, and then compare it so what we saw today -- a poised, elegant, dignified mature woman who came down the aisle at Westminster Abbey, spoke her vows firmly, didn't giggle, but there was a look between the two of them as if to say, "Well, we've done it, we're here, we've managed." And that I think is the big difference.
KING: You make an important point there. This playing out as a rebranding for the royals at a time of what they call the age of austerity in the U.K, how much did it cost and how much is paid by the royals and how much of it is paid by the regulars, the taxpayers?
QUEST: It has been very clearly defined who pays what. Anything to do with the wedding, that would be the abbey, the flowers, the cars, the receptions, the dress, all of those sorts of things, that was paid for by the royal family with a contribution from the Middletons. Anything else that would be described as part of the national celebration or necessity for that was paid for by the government or various government departments. That would include the security, the cleanup, all of the things you see around us at the moment.
The prime minister, David Cameron, made it clear. In fact, in an interview with CNN, when he basically said, this was just part of the things that the country pays for. Not a great deal of money was involved.
To put this into perspective, what did it cost the royals? They came out and said high six figures, definitely not seven.
KING: Richard Quest, enjoying the celebration and covering the celebration for us in London -- Richard, thank you.
A quick break and then a closer breakdown of the costs of the royal wedding, how much was that dress and how about a slice of cake.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Here's betting your wedding was or will be grand but not quite royal. Here's what I mean -- Kate and William, at least $32 million that one cost. Chelsea Clinton, in the ballpark of $3 million to $5 million. The average U.S. wedding, $27,000.
How about the cake? The royal cake today cost $80,000, $134 a slice. Chelsea Clinton's cake, $11,000, about $28 per slice. The average U.S. wedding, $500 cake , $540, about 4 bucks a slice. It's a big difference, $134, $4. I can do the math.
That dress today, it was beautiful, wasn't it? Four hundred and thirty-four thousand dollars that costs; $25,000 for Chelsea Clinton's. The average U.S. wedding dress, about $1,000 there.
Flowers, $800,000 today; $500,000 for Chelsea, about $2,000 for the average there.
And you know what? You can't value that ring really because Prince Charles had it.
That's all for us tonight, we'll see you Monday.
A special edition of "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," the royal wedding's biggest moments, right now.