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Barack Obama's Visit to Ground Zero; New Details about Firefight; Skeptics Doubt bin Laden's Death; Farewell Soldier; interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Firefighter Who Prompted Bush's Post- 9/11 "We Hear You" Speech Reacts to Bin Laden's Death. Obama Visits Ground Zero. Controversy Over Body of Air France Victim Recovered Two Years Later. School Children Who Were There When President Bush Learned of 9/11 Attacks. America Unified in Wake of Bin Laden's Death But For How Long?.
Aired May 5, 2011 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZAIN VERJEE, CO-HOST: U.S. President Barack Obama on hallowed ground, honoring families and victims of the September 11th attacks. Just days after the daring raid that killed the terrorist responsible for 9/11, new details about the way Osama bin Laden lived in hiding.
And despite the evidence, some refuse to believe he is gone.
Plus, what happened to Air France Flight 447?
New clues surface from the sea.
These stories and more tonight as we connect the world.
I'm Zain Verjee in London.
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CO-HOST: And I'm Fionnuala Sweeney at Ground Zero in New York.
VERJEE: Coming up tonight, a live report from Abbottabad in Pakistan. We are getting new details about Osama bin Laden's secret life and the daring U.S. operation that killed him.
But we begin in New York, a city forever scarred by the al Qaeda leader's deadliest terror attack.
SWEENEY: Zain, President Obama's visit to Ground Zero was meant to bring a sense of closure to New Yorkers and the country at large. Today, Mr. Obama called the killing of Osama bin Laden a message that the United States will never rest until justice is done.
The president laid a wreath to pay respects to the thousands who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. He also met privately with some family members of the victims.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Obama praised firefighters for rescuing workers from the World Trade Center before the burning towers collapsed. He thanked them for their sacrifice, acknowledging that some of their colleagues never made it out alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, you can't bring back Obviously, you can't bring back the friends that were lost. And I know that each and every one of you not only grieve for them, but have also, in the last 10 years, dealt with their family, their children, tried to give them comfort, tried to give them support.
Well, what happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but it also sent a message here back home, that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: Well, it was as low key a visit as might be possible for a visiting president of the United States to New York. Because of the high security, people kept well back by the police. The whole block around the World Trade Center, what was, of course, the World Trade Center and now Ground Zero, cut off.
People, though, in a very somber mood, rather reflective. But still very jubilant about the death of Osama bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw the plane hit, you know? It -- oh, and I'm seeing it now. I'm reliving it right now. And when the sun was out without the clouds, it was like the same day, the same weather. It was crispy and beautiful and I'm just so happy. I'm just so very happy. I mean God bless America. We needed this so desperately. I'm oh, ecstatic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been waiting for this for a long time. I can't believe it took this long and it's finally here.
I celebrated, you know?
We -- we needed to get a little payback.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is perfect and this is wonderful and this is what, certainly, the people of New York deserve and -- and the people...
SWEENEY: You deserve it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, the visit, the fanfare, the celebratory attitude that's going to come with -- with today's visit. But we have to remember to -- to stay vigilant and -- and always be prepared to -- to get back to work. We have to get back to work. Unfortunately, this is something that, because of -- because of the death of Osama bin Laden, is not going to stop. We'd like to think that it would, but -- but we have to be smart and realize that it's not going to stop, enjoy today, enjoy the next few days and -- but remain vigilant. And I think that's the most important thing we could do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: The words of a firefighting 9/11 veteran.
There are more questions now about the direction of this country under President Obama. The sense of unity that this country has experienced in the last few days, as the announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden really hasn't been seen since the heady days following 9/11 itself.
Will that spirit of unity remain?
Doubtful, but there's always hope -- Zain, back to you.
VERJEE: Fionnuala, you know, there are so many questions, too, about bin Laden's secret life at his hideout in Pakistan, as well as his final moments.
But bit by bit, we are getting a clearer picture and piecing together some pretty interesting details.
Nic Robertson joins us now from Abbottabad in Pakistan -- Nic, we're learning some new details about the firefight that happened that day.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems that when the SEALs landed in the compound, the first contact that they made, the gunfire that they received, came from the guest house. And that was the courier who they'd traced to the compound, who essentially had led them to bin Laden, indirectly. He said, what -- what -- he went on to do there.
What they went on to do was to shoot and kill the courier. They moved into the main building. They found the courier's brother, shot and killed him. He wasn't, at that time, armed.
They started moving up the stairs. They found obstructions on the stairs. They say one of bin Laden's sons rushed them. He was unarmed. But as he rushed toward them, they shot and killed him.
And when they went jus and got to the third floor of the building, that's where they account -- encountered Osama bin Laden. In that room, they say, there were weapons there, an automatic rifle and a handgun. Osama bin Laden didn't have his hands on them at the time that they shot and killed him immediately.
So it appears as if the gun battle was really limited, the battle itself limited to that one engagement with the courier in the -- in the sort of main entrance building, not the -- not the building proper itself - - Zain.
VERJEE: Nic, there could be future operations similar to this to target other al Qaeda and Taliban leaders suspected to be in Pakistan.
What's the Pakistani Army saying about that?
ROBERTSON: Well, they're taking a very strong view of it. Ayman Al- Zawahiri, bin Laden's number two, has been rumored for many, many, many occasions, indeed, Pakistan's minister of interior once told me he was aware, a couple of years ago, of Ayman Al-Zawahiri crossing in and out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan.
What Pakistan's military is now saying is that if the United States violates Pakistan's sovereignty, as it did to fly in unannounced and take out Osama bin Laden, if they try doing that again, i.e. For Ayman Al- Zawahiri or any other al Qaeda figure, then that could have severe consequences, that Pakistan would reexamine its cooperation with not only the U.S. military, but also the intelligence services, as well, would reexamine the way they work together with -- with the United States, which both sides are saying has been productive in the past.
But it's clear that tensions over this are very high -- Zain.
VERJEE: CNN senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, reporting to us from Abbottabad in Pakistan.
Thanks so much, Nic.
Also today, we are learning more about how U.S. helicopters were apparently able to fly undetected through Pakistani air space. The clues coming from wreckage left behind in bin Laden's compound.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, joins us now -- Chris, what can you tell us about the Stealth technology with this helicopter?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, we've been talking to aviation experts, as well as pilots who have flown hundreds of Blackhawk missions. They say when they look at what's left in that wreckage, they don't recognize any sort of Blackhawk that they've ever seen or flown.
They say when they look at it, it's got more rotors -- tail rotors -- than a normal Blackhawk. That would -- they're smaller, there are more of them. That would reduce some of the sound.
They also say there's this hubcap looking thing on the back end of it that would reduce its acoustic signature. They also say normally an Army Blackhawk would be painted olive green. This one, they say, has been painted in infrared suppressant gray -- another Stealth feature.
And, finally, they say some of the angles on the fuselage, even from what they've been able to see, are reminiscent of what you would see on an F-22 Stealth fighter, which is designed to defeat radar.
So they're saying they've never seen anything like this before. And, obviously, if it hadn't crashed, we probably would not be seeing it right now.
VERJEE: And, Chris, we're hearing that President Obama may meet with the Navy SEALs that pulled off this operation?
What are you hearing?
LAWRENCE: Yes, we know that the president is going to Fort Campbell tomorrow and that he may have a private meeting with the Navy SEALs. We don't expect that in any way to be public. You can expect that these SEALs' identities will still remain private, but that the president will want to congratulate them and talk to them about that mission, that very important mission. But he'll want to do so privately, not the sort of public ceremony that you might see with some other military missions.
VERJEE: Chris, is the president or anyone at the Pentagon concerned at all with the Stealth helicopter that there could be any intelligence danger left behind in that piece of equipment?
LAWRENCE: Well, Zain, I mean, take a look at it. The SEALs obviously tried to blow it up, because they didn't want to leave it behind. And while that's standard procedure, what happened was when this clipped the compound, it looks like part of it fell inside the compound, part of it fell outside. The SEALs were inside the compound and they were able to blow up that part of it. But again, that tail section remained.
A Defense official told me that as far as he knew, that remained in the hands of the Pakistani government. But here's where international relations start to play in. With the current tense state of relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, there really is no telling what could happen from this point on.
You know, could some of that technology be given to another one of Pakistan's allies, such as Russia or China?
And when -- if that were to happen, some of the experts I've spoken to say you've got two dangers there. One, another third party could develop some of this technology on their own, to make Stealth aircraft or -- or helicopters. And, two, they could also figure out ways to defeat this Stealth technology.
VERJEE: CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence.
President Obama says he won't release graphic photos of bin Laden's body because he does not want to incite any more violence. He says that there is overwhelming evidence that U.S. commandoes got the right man.
But as Stan Grant reports, some skeptics aren't buying it.
STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this bustling electronics market in Kabul, Osama bin Laden, in death, still looms large. In the winding back alleys, stores sell DVDs of the slain Al Qaeda leader. They are not on prominent display, instead, kept at the back of the shop.
Our local producer does the negotiating and the DVDs are handed over for less than $2 US.
(on camera): So we've been searching for about half an hour now and this is what we've found -- no shortage of videos depicting conflict here in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Pakistan, featuring the likes of Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and, of course, Osama bin Laden himself.
(voice-over): The videos date back over several years. They show the power and reach bin Laden had, a symbol for militants from Iraq to Afghanistan. Because bin Laden, for so long, appeared almost invincible to these people, some here still refuse to accept he is dead.
"I can't believe he's dead," this man says, "because I've heard these stories before. If he was supposed to be killed once, how can I believe he is dead again?"
Others questioned the photos circulating of bin Laden's body, already widely dismissed as fake. The United States is refusing to officially release images, fearing they could incite anger and be used by al Qaeda as propaganda.
"As I saw his photo on the TV," this man says, "his eye was damaged and his beard was the same. I believe 80 percent that it was Osama bin Laden."
As for the Taliban, they say they want more proof that the man they once sheltered is really dead. But as these images on the DVDs still widely on sale show, bin Laden's message to militants lives on.
Stan Grant, CNN, Kabul.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
VERJEE: It was the rallying moment in the days that followed the 9/11 terror attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who...
BUSH: And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: And we'll hear from the firefighter who prompted those now famous words from President Bush. That story still to come.
Also on tonight's show, the Air France salvage operation -- why some families want their loved ones left at sea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We obviously want to see genuine democracies emerge, because that's something that will guarantee the peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: The Israeli prime minister on the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa coming up, his thoughts on the Arab Spring and whether it will be Israel's winter.
I'm Zain Verjee in London.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
Let's take a look at our top stories.
Syrian state TV says security forces have started pulling out of the city of Daraa, one of the flashpoints of recent unrest. The report says army units began leaving after finishing the mission to, quote, "restore security and calm."
But an activist group says armored units still there are a threat to anti-government demonstrators.
Libyan rebels could soon get a financial boost. After a meeting in Rome of the so-called Libya Contact Group, representatives from the U.S. and other nations agreed to set up a new fund to help Libya's opposition movement. The U.S. says it will unlock some of Moammar Gadhafi's assets. The anti-Gadhafi fighters desperately need supplies and money.
Residents and workers fled buildings in Mexico City as a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the city. The epicenter of the quake was in the southwestern state of Guerrero, which includes the popular tourist region of Acapulco. There are no reports of any damage.
In Japan, workers have entered a reactor building at the Fukushima nuclear plant. For the first time since the March 11th katss, a small team went inside the Number One Reactor to try and connect a ventilating system. They want to lower contamination levels so that a cooling system can be installed and the reactor can be shut down.
The world's last surviving World War II combat veteran has died in the Australian city of Perth at 110 years old. Claude Choules, known as "Chuckles" by his comrades, served in both world wars. He was also Australia's oldest man.
News Ten's Tamara Akers reports.
TAMARA AKERS, NETWORK TEN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His navy mates called him "Chuckles," renowned for enjoying a laugh, Claude Choules was in good form right to the end.
DAPHNE EDINGER, DAUGHTER: Extremely good spirits. He even sang to us and told some jokes to the kids.
AKERS: The world's last World War I combat veteran died in his sleep at a Perth nursing home overnight, aged 110. Like many others, he lied about his age and joined the British Navy at 15.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we all did, all us boys. They didn't have our birth certificates there.
AKERS: Mr. Choules later transferred to the Australian Navy as a demolition officer. He was integral in defusing German mines during World War II, before retiring in Perth in 1956.
(on camera): Despite all his years of service, Mr. Choules' family say he very rarely spoke about the war. And if he did, it was only ever about the good times.
MALCOLM EDINGER, GRANDSON: To him, war was just simply a waste of human resources, life, money and time. He had no time for it.
AKERS: Instead, his daughter says he lived for his family, which includes three children and 36 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren. Mr. Choules also believed they were the secret to a long life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get married young and stay young and have a lovely family and keep your family round about you and you're -- you're right then.
AKERS: Tamara Akers, Ten News.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
VERJEE: Coming up here on CONNECT THE WORLD, tough talk from the Israeli prime minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU: There's a price and you will pay it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: Benjamin Netanyahu on Osama bin Laden, the Arab spring, as well as the new Palestinian unity government. That's all ahead.
Also tonight, just days after the black box was found, a body is recovered from the Air France crash.
Stay with CONNECT THE WORLD for more.
VERJEE: France is pushing Israel for a breakthrough in the Middle East peace talks. In an interview with a French magazine, President Nicholas Sarkozy suggested that he may recognize a Palestinian state if there's no progress.
British Prime Minister David Cameron says he supports an independent Palestinian state if Hamas rejects violence and recognizes Israel. He met this week with the Israeli prime minister in London, as Hamas and Fatah signed a unity pact in Cairo.
Benjamin Netanyahu says the deal is a blow to peace.
Other say it's an opportunity.
I sat down with Mr. Netanyahu today to talk a little bit about that.
But first, I asked him if the killing of Osama bin Laden makes al Qaeda more or less of a threat.
NETANYAHU: When the world's number one terrorist, a man who is responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people, is brought to justice and is eliminated, it tells terrorists everywhere there's a price and you will pay it. And that's good.
VERJEE: Was President Obama right not to release the photos?
NETANYAHU: Well, he probably has his reasons. I haven't seen the photos. But I think it's immaterial. I don't think that anyone really questions the fact that Osama bin Laden has been -- has been killed. I -- I think that's -- that's a safe fact.
VERJEE: Who would you consider today the world's most dangerous man, the biggest threat to the world's security after bin Laden?
NETANYAHU: The biggest threat is the possibility that a militant Islamic regime will acquire nuclear weapons or that nuclear weapons will acquire a militant Islamic regime. The first is called Iran. If the Iranian regime gets atomic bombs, it will change history.
VERJEE: Do you think Ahmadinejad is the biggest threat?
NETANYAHU: I think he's a big threat. I think his boss, Khamenei, is a bigger threat. He runs the country. And he's infused with fanaticism. He -- he wants to get the whole lot out (ph).
VERJEE: There's a government now that represents all Palestinians in a unity government.
Why won't you accept that?
NETANYAHU: Well, I'd be the first one to champion a -- and to applaud national unity amid the Palestinians for peace. But what we have is not a union for peace. What we have is a pact with Hamas, who calls for the eradication of Israel, the opposite of peace. And the Hamas, since the signing of this unity agreement, has not said, well, we accept Israel, we're going to dismantle the terrorist apparatus, we're going to stop firing rockets...
VERJEE: You know, before you...
NETANYAHU: -- in fact, they've said the very...
VERJEE: But, you know...
NETANYAHU: -- very opposite.
VERJEE: Yes, but before, you were complaining that the Palestinians didn't have unity, that Mahmoud Abbas was weak. Now you actually have a unity government and you don't see any opportunity here at all?
NETANYAHU: Actually, I said the opposite. In fact, they say that I said it. I said the very opposite. I said to -- to Abbas and I said to the United States and to everyone who cared to listen, I'm not saying that we have to have a united Palestinian entity in Gaza and in the West Bank or we don't negotiate. I said I'm willing to negotiate...
VERJEE: But are you willing to negotiate with the unity government...
VERJEE: -- as it...
NETANYAHU: In fact...
VERJEE: -- is going to be, with Hamas...
NETANYAHU: I -- I negotiated...
VERJEE: -- and with Fatah?
NETANYAHU: -- I negotiate with anyone who wants peace. I...
VERJEE: So you would...
VERJEE: -- you would negotiate with this government?
NETANYAHU: The -- no, well, this government is composed, half of it says that they want to obliterate my people, my country, off the face of the earth. That's what they said after the signing of the agreement. They just fired rockets into a yellow school bus. They've fired rockets on our cities. And they've just praised bin Laden to the gills and complained and condemned...
VERJEE: But here...
NETANYAHU: -- the United States...
VERJEE: -- here's...
NETANYAHU: -- for taking out bin Laden. This is not -- the Hamas is not a partner for peace. If we had a genuine move toward peace, if Hamas adopted the positions of peace in the unity government, I would say great, let's negotiate...
VERJEE: Let me (INAUDIBLE) for a minute...
NETANYAHU: -- but, in fact, the opposite is (INAUDIBLE).
VERJEE: You know, there are elements in your own coalition government that make rash statements. One member, in fact, recently said that President Obama was a bigger threat to Israel than Osama bin Laden.
So my question is, do you -- your policy is not made from individual voices of extremism.
So why not give this unity government a chance?
NETANYAHU: There -- there's a difference between stupid utterances of people who occasionally falter than a constitutional commitment to the eradication of Israel. This is what we have in the case of Hamas. They have a charter that calls not merely for the elimination of Israel, but for the murder of any Jew anywhere.
VERJEE: But why not wait and see...
NETANYAHU: They have a...
VERJEE: -- why not wait and see what they come out with, with this agreement, rather than making a rash critical assessment?
NETANYAHU: Well, they've already said, after they signed the agreement, that they remain committed to the destruction of Israel. It's not that there is a big mystery.
VERJEE: How vulnerable does Israel feel today, with the instability on its borders, with Lebanon, with Jordan, with Egypt and Syria?
NETANYAHU: We would like to see the triumph of democracy. I mean between the rise of democracy and the rise of theocracies, we obviously want to see genuine democracies emerge, because that's something that will guarantee the peace.
But we've seen revolutions hijacked. The 1917 revolution for democracy in Russia was hijacked. The 1979 revolution in Tehran, the brief Iranian spring, was hijacked by a terrible darkness. The -- the seed of revolution in Lebanon, just a few years ago, you know, was replaced by Hezbollah rule.
So we'd like to see the democrats, with a small D, win out and the terrorists and the dictators lose.
But it remains to be seen which is which. We support the Democrats.
VERJEE: Do you think Bashar al-Assad should go, if you support the democrats?
NETANYAHU: I think what has to happen is an immediate cessation to the slaying of civilians. I mean I think...
VERJEE: Do you think he should go?
NETANYAHU: Any way that stops this slaughter.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
VERJEE: Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
No one will ever forget the heroic firefighters of 9/11. Up next, we are going to hear from a rescue worker who spurred on George W. Bush to rally the crowd.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN HOST: Hi, you're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Zain Verjee in London.
Coming up, President Barack Obama's political image after the death of Osama bin Laden. We're going to look at the impact on the US president's leadership. Plus --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHANTAL GUERRERO, SARASOTA MILLITARY ACADEMY: Because I was there that day, and I did see, I was kind of there for a part of history. So obviously, I'm always going to remember it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: The school kids who were in the room when President Bush was told his country was under attack.
And from the depths of the ocean nearly two years later, the body of an Air France disaster victim is brought to the surface. Find out why some want their loved ones left at sea.
All those stories just ahead but, first, let's get a check of the headlines.
Barack Obama has visited Ground Zero to lay a wreath four days after American commandos killed Osama bin Laden. The US president also met with victims' families and told firefighters that killing the mastermind of the attacks showed that America is committed to bringing people to justice.
Five solid years, that's how long bin Laden's wife tells interrogators she stayed inside the compound in Pakistan, where the world's number one terrorist killed. Whether bin Laden himself was inside that entire time is unknown.
Syrian state TV says security forces have started pulling out of the city of Daraa, but the activist group Avaaz says the remaining armored units still pose a threat to anti-government demonstrators.
Libyan rebel forces fighting Moammar Gadhafi could soon be receiving a financial windfall. At a meeting in Rome, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised to unlock some seized Libyan state funds to help cash-strapped opposition forces. Millions more in aid's being offered by other allied nations.
Egypt's once feared interior minister has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption and money laundering. This was the first trial of an official from Hosni Mubarak's ousted regime.
Those are the headlines this hour.
When Barack Obama spoke today of America's commitment to justice, he was referring to a promise made by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Fionnuala Sweeney is at Ground Zero in New York where that pledge was made almost ten years ago. Fionnuala?
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Zain, yes, just days after Twin Towers were brought down, the then-US president George W. Bush came here to view the destruction. And you may remember that he famously with morale at rock bottom stood on top of rubble, addressed the rescue workers.
And yet, despite speaking through what's known as a bullhorn, not all of them could hear. So, one man decided to speak up. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens --
ROCCO CHIERICHELLA, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: I can't hear you!
BUSH: I can hear you!
BUSH: I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people --
BUSH: And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: Well, the man who yelled out "I can't hear you" is former firefighter Rocco Chierichella. He was a first responder on 9/11 and, earlier in the day, I asked him how he felt when he heard about the death of Osama bin Laden.
CHIERICHELLA: Well, the news that we got the other night was -- was remarkable and a big lift to the United States, especially our military and the people in New York City, who had to deal with this tragedy nearly ten years ago.
So, it's -- any news that -- in regards to bringing these people to justice is very welcoming, as far as I'm concerned.
SWEENEY: Let me ask you what it felt like that day when you shouted out to President Bush, "I can't hear you," and "we can't hear you." And then he took it from there and it became a very symbolic moment.
CHIERICHELLA: Well, you've got recall that day, September 14th, when the president came down to an area that was devastated, a country that was on its knees, and the president got on that pile and began to speak to the nation, to the construction workers, the rescue workers.
And they were hurting. Everybody was down. And we couldn't hear him, and they gave him a lousy bullhorn, and I had to yell out to get his attention that we couldn't hear you, and he reverberated back with probably with his greatest off-the-cuff sound bite that is historic, now. It's going to be with us forever. And it has a lot of significance today.
SWEENEY: Of course, then, he took America into a war in Afghanistan that many people supported and then, more controversially, into a war in Iraq, the results of which is largely inconclusive, I think even the most benign commentator would say that.
Where do you think America stand now, ten years on, trying to get out of Afghanistan. Where does it see itself on the global stage now?
CHIERICHELLA: In terms of trying to get out of Afghanistan, I mean, we have individuals -- we have another issue, now, that's popping up with Pakistan's involvement in harboring this number one fugitive of the world.
And we -- we have to realize that they played a major role in harboring this guy for six years, and that's a new issue. Although we all thought it, but it's now a big issue.
SWEENEY: All right, Pakistan on the agenda, what do you think America should do?
CHIERICHELLA: One -- number one, we have a country that's financially in trouble. I wouldn't give aid to somebody that's aiding the number one terrorist in the world.
SWEENEY: And what about the Taliban and the wider threat from al Qaeda in the region that America feels it needs Pakistan, its help.
CHIERICHELLA: Well, I believe our intelligence is on the ground, I believe we're in the air, we're on the ground, we have the greatest military. I think if we just let the -- the United States military do its job, we'll bring them all in line, and people will see that what we're trying to do is spread peace.
And it's a tough region, it's very tribal. I have a daughter and son -- son-in-law that are in the military that have been over there, so I have a bigger stake at this. And it's very important that there's some kind of conclusion to this at some point.
However, this is long and its arduous, but we're going to get there. We're going to get the results that we need to get, as we've seen the other night.
SWEENEY: What do you say to those who say the death of bin Laden might actually increase terrorism and make America, specifically New York, more of a target.
CHIERICHELLA: I think we're being overly careful, but we should be. However, I don't believe that. I believe that we have Homeland Security doing a phenomenal job.
We have -- we have the greatest police forces in New York City, Commissioner Kelly does a great job, and we're safe in New York. This is not going to happen again. We can't -- but we can't get lax and get complacent.
SWEENEY: Nothing if not confident, 9/11 first responder Rocco Chierichella, there, talking to me earlier.
While George W. Bush took it upon himself to rally the crowds, Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero today was far more subdued. US Senator Charles Schumer sums up the differences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I was there when George Bush stepped on the pile, and that was vintage George Bush, it was not, I can tell you, some say it was staged, it was not staged, it was spontaneous.
This is vintage Barack Obama. He is quieter, he is more cerebral, but he's just as strong, and he cares about the families. So, the fact that he's not giving a speech, the fact that he's laying the wreath, the fact that he's meeting with them privately, speaks so well, I think, of him and it's totally right and appropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: Fionnuala, what were your impressions of how Barack Obama was received today in New York?
SWEENEY: Well, I think he was received, judging from the pictures that we saw, certainly, of him publicly, was received very, very well. I mean, I've just heard Jay Carney, the White House press spokesperson describe this as a cathartic moment for America.
Now, it really remains to be seen whether it is cathartic, certainly for New Yorkers, there's a sense of -- in some parts, jubilation, in other parts, a very somber reflectiveness.
But New Yorkers are famous for their confidence, to put it mildly. And so what has taken place today has been both joyous for them, in a sense, and also, I think President Obama putting his finger on it, in a sense, by saying that America never forgets.
Now, of course, for President Obama, the question's going to be, will this new-found unity actually end up resulting in a longer-term unity back in Washington. Will the tone of Washington politics change? And that is something that we're hoping to find out, if we don't find it out in this hour, we'll certainly be finding it out over the coming weeks ahead.
But really, I think the death of Osama bin Laden has bookmarked a decade in which New Yorkers and America saw its confidence shaken like none other before, Zain.
VERJEE: Fionnuala, have the past few days given President Obama a boost with his image?
SWEENEY: The polls certainly seem to think so. It wouldn't be unexpected that he would certainly get advanced in the polls. The question is, will the weeks ahead see the return to the vitriolic bipartisan political dialogue that's taking place here, namely over the role of government and federal government.
Remember, it was actually this time last week that President Obama was obliged to release his birth certificate in order to quell some queries, very strong from the Republican side, an element of the Republican side, who wanted to see President Obama's legitimate birthplace and not believing that he's a US citizen.
So, certainly Osama bin Laden has given him a bit of bump, but whether or not it lasts, whether it's going to get him reelected in 2012, it's really very, very, very early to say.
We'll have more later on this program about what has taken place at Ground Zero and the potential ramifications for President Obama's campaign and, indeed, America. But in the meantime, back to you, Zain.
VERJEE: Fionnuala Sweeney in New York. Thanks, Fionnuala.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still to come, brought to the surface after almost two years. Days after crucial clues to the plane crash were recovered, a body from Air France flight 447 has been salvaged from the depths of the Atlantic. Not everyone's happy about the recovery mission. We'll tell you why next.
VERJEE: Found. But now, after almost two years after their plane plunged into the Atlantic, are they best left at sea? That's the question, today. A body from Air France flight 447 was brought to the surface still strapped in an aircraft chair.
The recovery mission began after an elite salvage team found the wreckage of the plane last month. First to come up, the two flight recorders. Investigators hope that they will give answers about what went wrong on the 1st of June, 2009, three hours after takeoff from Rio.
All 228 people onboard the Paris-bound plane were killed. Until today, only 51 bodies were ever recovered. The operation to salvage the remaining bodies is going to be really delicate and so difficult. It's also divided victims' families.
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ROBERT SOULAS, VICTIMS' FATHER: For me, personally, I would like to leave the bodies of my children, my two children, on the sea bed. They died there, so I think it will be much more difficult for us to reaffirm a new trauma, to reaffirm a half ship and to plan for a grave and so on. And I think it will be a new trauma for us, so I would prefer to -- just to leave the bodies under the water.
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VERJEE: Let's explore why. From Baltimore, I'm joined by journalist Wil Hyton, who wrote the article "What Happened to Air France Flight 447." It's in this week's "New York Times Magazine." And from Germany, Dr. Ulrich von Jeinsen, who's the attorney for some of the families involved in this tragedy.
Gentlemen, thank you for being with us. Ulrich, if I can start with you, why are the families so divided?
ULRICH VON JEINSEN, ATTORNEY, AIR FRANCE 447 FAMILIES: Well, some of them say that it is good that the truth comes out. Some of them say that it is good that they have their loved ones at home in order to bury them there.
The others, this is the majority, say it is arrogant from the French authorities just to do something with their loved ones, with their next of kin. They should -- they have wanted to be asked.
VERJEE: Wil, you've spent time with the families, as well. What have they told you about the recovery operation and about the moments they need to relive again.
WIL HYTON, JOURNALIST: I think for the families, it's been very difficult to have this search going on for so long because it's difficult for them to find closure when there are still submarines probing the ocean depths at the site of the crash.
VERJEE: And Ulrich, tell us a little bit about how the bodies are expected to be -- to come up and back onto the surface. Because a decision has to be made, right? Whether all the bodies come up or none.
VON JEINSEN: Well, I don't know what the decision is. I know that the families are annoyed that they are not part of the process. They have asked to be onboard of the ships, they have asked to be involved in the decision-making, but the French authorities have denied this, and this is what makes the families annoyed.
VERJEE: Wil, what is the latest theory on why the plane crashed? Because we've heard a lot -- and you've written about the Pitot tubes and what may have happened there. Just explain to people why that's so critical.
HYTON: Well, so the Pitot tubes are likely to be one of several factors that will turn out to have contributed to the crash. It's important to remember that we're not likely to find that any one cause brought the plane down, but those are almost certainly one.
We know that they failed. We know that because there were emergency messages sent from the plane in the last few minutes before it disappeared.
And we know that without those Pitot probes, the plane's computer has no way of knowing how fast it's flying and so autopilot, in fact, shut down on this plane and it was in manual control. So, that very well might have contributed to whatever situation the pilots were facing in the storm where the plane ended up.
VERJEE: Ulrich, how important is it to the families of victims that you've talked to that they really do know what happened?
VON JEINSEN: It's of outstanding importance. It's not important for the recovery with respect to damages, because France has settled the German and Chinese cases. But it is important, the families want to know why their loved ones died. And they are annoyed that it lasted two years just to find the place where the plane is.
VERJEE: Wil, talk a little bit about that. Because I mean, you were out there, you were on the vessel that was doing the search. Give us a sense of what it was like. It was very, very tough. The families, understandably, emotional and upset. But you saw the practical side of the operation.
HYTON: I was only on the vessel for a few hours, so I can't speak with great authority. I did interview some of the people onboard the vessel who oversaw the entire search.
So, I know that there was an atmospheric change when they first located the plane, because they, at that moment, saw photographs of the bodies underwater and it was a stark reminder that, unlike a typical oceanic search where you might be looking for an old pirate ship or something like that, that this has very real and immediate consequences, and that there are 228 families spread across five continents that are waiting to find out what happened to their loved ones.
VERJEE: Ulrich, how have the majority of families coped that you've been in touch with?
VON JEINSEN: They wanted to be involved. There are family associations existing in France, Germany, Brazil, and other places. They all connected, and they wanted to be involved in the decision-making process, and they are frustrated that nobody heard them.
VERJEE: Wil, as we debate whether or not the bodies should come up from the depths of the ocean and onto the surface again, what kind of clues can bodies give us as to what actually could have happened in those critical moments.
HYTON: It's difficult to say because we don't know what condition the bodies are in yet. This first body was brought up using a submarine called Remora, which has a -- what's referred to as a claw and basket system.
My understanding, and I don't believe that the French authorities have said this publicly yet, but my understanding is that there was some damage to the body just in the process of bringing it up today. So, what condition the body was in at the beginning of the day may be different than the condition it's in now, and it's not even clear if they'll be able to get a solid DNA sample from it.
So, we should know a lot more in the days ahead about what kind of condition we can expect these bodies to be in by the time they're, in fact, in hand in a refrigerator on the ship.
VERJEE: Ulrich, what do you think should happen next?
VON JEINSEN: Well, I think the French authorities should ask the families whether they should continue. I think the majority of the families will say no, let them in their wet grave. Others may say that we want to have our bodies there.
But the families work -- associations are working so closely together that they will come to a majority decision, and I think the French authorities should follow the majority decision of the families because they are their relatives.
VERJEE: Dr. Ulrich von Jeinsen, an attorney for Air France 447 families, and Wil Hyton, a journalist speaking to us about a very difficult and a very emotional issue for so many people involved here. Thank you so much, gentlemen.
It was supposed to be a normal school visit for George W. Bush. Up next, we're going to hear from the children present that day, happened nearly a decade ago. How it took such a different turn.
VERJEE: It was the moment a president was told his country was under attack. As he sat in that classroom on September the 11th, 2001, the face of George W. Bush said it all.
That day had a profound effect on so many of us, not least the school kids who witnessed that fateful moment. Martin Savidge went to meet them.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a story about a story that begins at a school in Florida and ends in a compound in Pakistan.
About ten years ago, a group of mostly seven-year-old students gathered in this elementary school in Sarasota to read a story to the president of the United States, George W. Bush.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): The event was famously interrupted, as now high school junior Lenard rivers remembers.
LENARD RIVERS, SARASOTA HIGH SCHOOL : Someone came in, and then all the sudden we just had to stop reading to him, then he told us he had to leave.
SAVIDGE: Mariah Williams, now on the high school track team, was also there.
MARIAH WILLIAMS, SARASOTA HIGH SCHOOL: There was, like, a bunch of confusion and people scared and stuff.
SAVIDGE: It was the moment the president was told the news of 9/11. Ever since, these students have had a unique connection to the life and death of Osama bin Laden.
For Chantal Guerrero, that front seat to history had a profound effect.
CHANTAL GUERRERO, SARASOTA MILITARY ACADEMY (singing): Oh, say can you see by the dawn's --
GUERRERO (speaking): It helped me realize and be a little bit more serious and learn how to deal with certain things more firsthand at a younger age.
SAVIDGE: Her mother noticed the change almost immediately, a daughter growing up faster than most.
ANGELINE GUERRERO, MOTHER: She's an achiever, and I really think it has to do because of the impact that had on those kids that were there. I think they just see the world differently.
SAVIDGE: Today, Chantal is an honor student at Sarasota Military Academy and a regular visitor to Ground Zero.
For all three students, the news of Sunday night came as another complete surprise.
WILLIAMS: I was just really shocked, because I didn't expect them to catch him at all because it's already been 10 years, so -- who would think that they would catch him after 10 years?
SAVIDGE: Rivers says both events have taught him something about life.
RIVERS: I know that anything can happen at any moment and how things can change real quick.
SAVIDGE: Guerrero says the end of bin Laden does nothing to change her connection to that terrible day.
C. GUERRERO: It's still really meaningful because I was there that day and I did see -- I was kind of there for a part of history. So, obviously, I'm always going to remember it.
SAVIDGE: The students say that the death of bin Laden doesn't really end the story. More like closes a chapter. Instead, they say that the story will continue to be written through the rest of their lives. In Sarasota, I'm Martin Savidge. Back to you.
VERJEE: Let's go back, now, to Fionnuala Sweeney, who joins me from Ground Zero in New York. Fionnuala?
SWEENEY: Well, President Obama left here nearly two hours ago, now, and it was as low-key a visit as one could imagine to New York by a United States president.
In keeping with the reflective mood of the moment, President Obama chose to make remarks rather than a full speech. He vowed to the world that America never forgets, and that was at a firehouse at Times Square where more than 300 firefighters in total lost their lives in 9/11.
Then he went on to Ground Zero itself to lay a wreath in memory of the almost 3,000 people who died there. A few quiet words with local politicians and family members, and then off camera, a lengthier visit with bereaved families.
America this week hasn't been as unified since the heady days following 9/11. President Obama is hoping the mood will last, but tough deficit negotiations in Washington loom. They may prove tougher to overcome than the unified satisfaction of Osama bin Laden's death.
But this Thursday belongs to New Yorkers and their great city. A city electively moving on as it continues to come to terms with the events of almost a decade ago. Zain?
VERJEE: Fionnuala, did you feel there, did you feel that there was a sense of closure today in New York, or it wasn't that cut and dried?
SWEENEY: I suspect closure is the most overused word this week in America and beyond, but I think for people, it brought back a lot of memories, certainly, and for some people, very difficult memories, dreams, nightmares again, post-traumatic stress disorder that they suffered having witnessed or been involved in the 9/11 attacks and its aftermath.
And I think for people there's a sense of satisfaction. Quiet satisfaction on the part of some, louder on the part of others. But the question really now is, where is America in 2011? Heading into a presidential election year, there's no question that it will be an extremely difficult one and a very vitriolic one, I think. A very polarized society emerging here in the United States.
And this news of Osama bin Laden's death has unified the country and reminded it that it is a great country. However, it is fraught with difficulties abroad, involved in three conflicts, Libya, Afghanistan and, of course, Iraq still, and it is beginning to recover from a recession, but that's what's going to determine this election and, ultimately, America's political future.
VERJEE: Fionnuala, did anyone you talk to say that they really wanted to see the pictures, the photos, of Osama bin Laden that Barack Obama has refused to release, or was that just not an issue?
SWEENEY: No, actually, indeed several people I spoke to today, yesterday, and all through this week, but particularly today on the day that Barack Obama was visiting were absolutely adamant that they wanted to see the pictures, one person even going as far to say that Arabic television showed -- has shown in the past pictures of Americans being beheaded, so why shouldn't American television show these pictures of Osama bin Laden and no worries or concerns about the gruesome.
One man I spoke to actually had a child in his arms, a young son, and wanted to see the pictures published even if they caused difficulty to very young people who might see them.
I mean, this is a city that was stunned, has never seen anything like it on 9/11, and this has brought it all back for them, but also brought back all the anger and all the desire to see this situation resolved.
They know Osama bin Laden is only the head of the snake, as they see it, but nonetheless, this is something that they want to show will move America on and, as Jay Carney put it, hopefully a cathartic moment for the country.
VERJEE: CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney giving us a really good sense of what people are thinking and feeling on this important day in New York City.
I'm Zain Verjee, that is your world connected. Thanks so much for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" are next, and we want to leave you with some amazing documentary film footage.
What you're about to see is a compilation from 14 timelapse cameras that have been running 24 hours a day for more than eight years at Ground Zero. This is called Project Rebirth.