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Chardon High School Students Return To Class; Smells Like School Spirit; 13 Now Dead In Tornado Outbreak; Tough Cleanup Begins In Harrisburg; Walls Ripped Off Medical Center; New Tornado Threat Today; Ohio Shooting Suspect Charged; U.S. Stock Markets Are Up; Apple Stocks Worth; Elderly Couple Survives Roof Collapse; Romney Rolling; Chardon HS Students Return To Class; Obama Heckled At NYC Fundraiser

Aired March 2, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Ashleigh Banfield live in Harrisburg, Illinois, the scene of an EF-4 tornado that killed six people. This is what's left behind, the mess that still needs to be cleaned up all in the face of approaching terrible weather too. We're keeping an eye on that.

We're also keeping an eye on some of the stories that are emerging of survival. Some miraculous escape attempts that were successful.

We'll bring you the story of an elderly couple that somehow managed to survive a tornado that ripped the roof right off their bedroom, right off their house, and yet they were able to scramble to safety. You're going to hear all about that in just a moment.

SAMBOLIN: Really looking forward to that. Thank you, Ashleigh.

And Chardon High School students heading back to class for the first time since Monday's shooting. The day after the accused shooter was charged with murder and the scene of the massacre will have a very different look when they walk in.

And a plane sent in circles. It actually had to abort a landing because an alleged drunk driver decided to take a ride on the runway where the plane needed to land. We'll give you some more details on that story.

But we begin with a new beginning for students and staff at Chardon High School in Ohio. Classes resume this morning for the first time since Monday's deadly shooting. Three students were killed.

Murder charges have been filed against the shooting suspect 17- year-old TJ Lane. The tragedy might have been a lot worse if not for Frank Hall. He is the hero here, the football coach who chased the gunman out of the school. Yesterday, he made some comments about the shooting.


FRANK HALL, ASSISTANT FOOTBALL COACH, CHARDON HIGH SCHOOL: To the family of Danny, Demetrius, and Russell, I want you to know I was with them. I prayed with them, I wiped their tears, I know God was with them. I don't know why this happened. I only wish I could have done more. I'm not a hero. I'm just a football coach and study hall teacher. The law enforcement, first responders, that came to our aid that day, they are the heroes.


SAMBOLIN: TJ Lane was charged in juvenile court. It is the first step in legal proceedings that could see the 17-year-old be prosecuted as an adult.

Meantime, there was triumph in the face of all the tragedy. Take a look at this, the Chardon High School basketball team winning a playoff game, this all happened last night. They beat rival Madison High 78-59.

It was the first time they took the court since the shooting. In a show of solidarity, this was fantastic, Madison players warmed up before the game in black t-shirts with Chardon across the front. A lot of laughter and a lot of tears there last night.

So just in a few moments, we will look at prosecuting the Chardon High School shootin suspect with Darren Kavinoky, an attorney and the host of investigation discovery new series "Deadly Sins."

Now let's send it out to Ashleigh Banfield. She is live in Harrisburg, Illinois, where I know that you're waiting for some pretty nasty weather still headed your way.

BANFIELD: We were actually seeing some flashes of lightning in the black sky behind us. So we're keeping an eye. It was just sheet lightning. It didn't look as anything as yet. There's been a bit of a wind pick up as well. So we're keeping an eye on that.

Zoraida, look at these pictures. This is essentially what you get when buildings in a strip mall and entire lifestyles and communities get put into a virtual blender. It is a disaster area. That is a flatbed truck on its side.

You can just see the license plate at the far back part of it. Otherwise, you would not be able to really tell what that is. The power of the winds is just so evident from the moment we got here.

It's going to be a mammoth task to pick up and clean up and try to restore this town to what it was before. They have some history here. They have dealt with flooding several times over disaster area. I hate to say they are practiced in this art.

But they are practiced in this art and they are good folks here in Harrisburg. They will get through this, but not before a lot of volunteers can come out and try to help them pick up the pieces.

Not only that, but they're trying to restore the power. Utility crews are everywhere. There's a curfew in place from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. So those utility crews can get around safely. It's also safe for people. Live power lines were everywhere. Gas leaks everywhere.

So they're still trying to work on that. There's police monitoring looting as well. That has not been a story yet, thank God for that. I just saw loads of product in this strip mall alone. Expensive Nike shoes, all sorts of things that have to be protected.

By the way, the president called six governors of the states affected just to offer his thoughts and prayers to those who had been suffering through this kind of a disaster. I had been watching street corners.

Almost everywhere in this community were just spontaneous volunteer stations set up, handing out water, handing out power for your cell phone, giving food out just on the corners.

Sounds of buzz saws everywhere as volunteers, a group of Mennonite men showed up at the church the other day just to help clean up the wreckage around. So it's been a remarkable story.

One of the big stories here was the Harrisburg Medical Center. They also took a direct hit as well. Part of the front of its building was taken right off. Patients were inside.

But for the really quick thinking of the folks inside there, spiriting a lot of those patients into a safer inner corridor they could have been severely hurt.

By the time I got there yesterday, I could not believe how fast they had tried to repair those walls and roofs because of the oncoming weather. Have a look.


BANFIELD: The patients had to be actually scrambled to the inner wall, the inner hallways to ride out the storm. You can see some of the damage here as I get this iPad into one of the hospital rooms that's lost its wall.

The workers are trying to seal things off because a lot of rain is expected and heavy winds yet again tonight. They're trying to make sure that everything is safe.


BANFIELD: So that is the iPad version of it. Here's the official version of it. Danny Lampley is one of the executives at the Harrisburg Medical Center. Let's just get a quick update. Everything is sealed up, the roofing, the walls all ready for whatever weather is about to hit us? DANNY LAMPLEY, ASSISTANT ADMIN. OF SERVICES, HARRISBURG MEDICAL CENTER: Everything is sealed up. Our recovery plan started immediately. We have engineers in there, and contractors in there, and architects in there to see what part of the building is safe and what wasn't. So we're well on our way to recovery. We hope we can open up by Monday morning.

BANFIELD: I was astounded when I heard you say that yesterday. I have to remind people that all of this has people who are injured in this disaster are coming to your medical center.

You had patients in there that had to be spirited away to the inner corridors. You got incoming injured and all the while you're trying to orchestrate a mass evacuation and you did. You got everybody eventually out of there.

LAMPLEY: Yes, we did. We have emergency management plans that we put into place and we put into place. Everyone worked tremendously well.

We got the patients to an interior corridor where everything was safe. And then once that was done, then we had to make preparations for the influx of patients that were going to come in from the community.

BANFIELD: I just want to draw people's attention to the purple ribbon that you're wearing on your name tag, the initials on there, HBG and JF. I think people should know that one of the fatalities in this community was one of your nurses, Jaylynn Ferrell.

LAMPLEY: Yes, it was.

BANFIELD: Did not die at the medical center, but you got word that she didn't survive that horrible situation over at the housing complex where we were just yesterday.

LAMPLEY: Yes, we suffered a loss just like everyone else did in the community. We're very sorrowful about that.

BANFIELD: We're just showing her lovely photograph in better days, Jaylynn. How is your staff managing, knowing that you've sort of gone through this trauma at your medical center and lost one of their colleagues?

LAMPLEY: They're doing well. They functioned well during the emergency. Then we have a debriefing afterwards and then it will be back to business as usual hopefully on Monday morning if we're able to open up.

BANFEILD: Good luck Monday morning. I hope everything works. You guys worked incredibly. Obviously, you had some pretty strong plans in place that paid off.

LAMPLEY: Thank you very much.

BANFIELD: All right, Danny Lampley, nice to see you. Thanks for coming out.

Also want to get you up to speed on what's happening. We've been watching the skies, a bit of flashes of lightning and the wind picking up a little bit.

Rob Marciano, I'm watching this changing story because as I was trying to get some sleep last night, there was a potential of some tornadoes coming through here.

Now there's not that grand fear in this community, but there are other communities not too far away that are facing that possibility.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, there's going to be two rounds of convection today. The thunderstorm you're speaking of should pass to your south, but there's a threat for southern Illinois today.

By the way, the storm survey out of there was increased the length of that twister, that EF-4 twister was 26 miles long. Pictures out of Cumberland, Tennessee, this is an area that confirmed now, National Weather Service went out there yesterday.

And said, yes, this was not only a tornado, but an EF-2 tornado in Cumberland, Tennessee. That's between Nashville and Knoxville. Fatalities here, significant damage, 125-mile-an-hour winds, this path was five miles long. But the same width, incidentally, 250 yards as the Harrisburg tornado.

All right, threat today, you bet. This storm is different. It's actually going to be stronger as far as the low goes. It will intensify and head up into the great lakes, tapping moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

We're already seeing the atmosphere recover as far as dew points or moisture that's surging up. We have a severe thunderstorm watch in effect for a good chunk of Missouri this morning. Again, two rounds of convection.

First one will be with the warm front as the moisture and warmth surges north. This cell right here, which is rumbling east along I-44 towards St. Louis has huge hail with it. Baseball size hail reported in Coal County.

This is motoring towards St. Louis. It will be there within about 45 minutes. If you live in the St. Louis area and your car is parked outside and you have the option to get under something, go outside and do it now because that car is going to get some damage. This is the area, Cincinnati, just east of Harrisburg.

Moderate risk of thunderstorms that will produce tornadoes all of the way down to northern Alabama and some of these could be large ones, long track ones. It's going to be a dangerous afternoon and evening for the folks in the Ohio and Tennessee valleys. We'll keep you posted. Ashleigh, back over to you. BANFIELD: All right, Rob. Thanks so much for that. Looking behind me it's hard to believe that anybody who had to deal with wreckage like this in their life could actually be happy?

I have a story of someone who's feeling very, very blessed. I'm going to explain it in just a moment. But I also want to let you know if you're feeling a bit blessed today, maybe you should reach out to the folks who need some help here.

You can do that by logging on and going to You will find an array of organizations you can donate to, blood, money, time, all of that is needed

Great thing for you to make yourself feel better today. A lot of people are struggling to feel better eventually. Zoraida, back to you.

SAMBOLIN: All right, looking forward to that. Thank you, Ashleigh.

Still ahead on EARLY START, will the Chardon High School shooting suspect be tried as an adult? We're going to let an expert weigh in on that for us.

It's a high speed chase down an airport runway. It sent planes circling in the air. One had to abort a landing. What happened there? We're going to tell you. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 15 minutes past the hour here.

Chardon High School students go back to class this morning, just four days after a shooting that killed three students, one remains in the hospital. T.J. Lane is charged. He was charged yesterday with three counts of murder in juvenile court, and he could still be tried as an adult.

Joining me is the host of Investigation Discovery's new series "Deadly Sins" premiering Saturday at 9:00 P.M. Eastern, Attorney Darren Kavinoky. Thank you so much for joining us.


SAMBOLIN: It's our pleasure, really.

So T.J. Lane was charged with three counts of aggravated murder, two of attempted aggravated murder, and one count of felonious assault. We know that he was charged in juvenile court. What do prosecutors need to do to move it into adult court and do you think that will happen?

KAVINOKY: Well, every state has a mechanism by which somebody who's under the age of 18 at the time the crime is committed can be taken from the juvenile court system into the adult court system.

Later this month, there is a hearing scheduled, and of course that could be continued, but at that hearing if the judge finds probable cause, which of course is a very low legal standard, then he will be bound over and be tried as an adult. Although, in Ohio, even though they do have the death penalty, he can only serve a maximum term of life without the possibility of parole.

SAMBOLIN: What do you think is a likelihood that he will be moved into adult court?

KAVINOKY: It's a -- it's a slam dunk for the prosecution given what we know about the case right now. Absent something really earth shattering, he will be -- found to be a proper subject for the adult court system.

SAMBOLIN: Very early on here the prosecutor described Lane as someone who is not well. And we have all heard the reports of his troubled childhood, his father sexually assaulted women -- I'm sorry -- assaulted women violently. Police frequently were called into his home to break up domestic fights.

And I read something online and I don't know whether, you know, this is going to weigh in or not, but Demetrius Hewlin's mother said, "I forgive him because a lot of times they don't know what they're doing." Will the judge take any of this into account?

KAVINOKY: Well, it wouldn't be taken into account at the time that they're deciding whether or not he should go down the juvenile track or the adult track. And by the way, the gulf is enormous. If he were kept in the juvenile system, he could only be held there until he was 21 years of age. And obviously the outcry about that situation would be massive.

But if ultimately he is convicted and sentenced, then certainly his mental state, his lack of maturity, whatever kinds of psychological problems, all of that is information that a judge would consider when it comes time to pass sentence.

SAMBOLIN: The prosecutor says that Lane confessed. Do you think he will plead guilty?

KAVINOKY: Who knows? At this point, we really need to get more information about the specific details. There's really, candidly, as a defense lawyer, there's little upside to his pleading guilty. I can't imagine that they put a deal on the table that would allow him to see daylight during his lifetime, so --

SAMBOLIN: We've also heard reports about this gun that perhaps Lane stole the gun from his uncle. Is his uncle liable for any criminal charges? And what about his grandparents, because that's where he was living and there were some reports also perhaps that that's where the gun was?

KAVINOKY: Right. Well, it's certainly possible that there could be either civil liability, which would just be for money damages, or criminal liability. What that will hinge on is the degree of negligence, if there was any. If it was just ordinary negligence, then that would be something where a civil lawsuit could be brought.

If it was really egregious, if they were put on notice somehow, acted really recklessly, then that could support criminal charges, too.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Darren Kavinoky, thank you so much for joining us this morning. So much more to talk about so we will invite you back.


SAMBOLIN: Nineteen minutes past the hour. It's time to check the stories making news this morning.

A high threat for more tornadoes today. Can you believe it? It's many of the same areas hit earlier this week in the bull's-eye again. High winds, hale and more large and powerful twisters are possible from New Orleans all the way up through the Ohio Valley today.

And the Coast Guard has recovered the bodies of two more crew members lost in a helicopter crash into Alabama's Mobile Bay this week. Rescuers have now found three of the four people onboard that Coast Guard chopper.

Listen to this. A runaway jeep causes a security scare at a Philadelphia International Airport. Police chase the driver after he crashed through a fence and ran over several runway lights. A plane that was about to land had to be diverted and circle around until they figured all of that out. Wow.

So call it the rebirth of the birther movement. A new e-book revealing details of an Arizona sheriff's probe into President Obama's birth certificate. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio saw his -- says his team found evidence of fraud and forgery.

And high oil prices continue to drive gas prices up. The national average for gas rising another fraction of a cent to $3.74 a gallon, inching closer and closer to the $4 mark. I know that's not news to you. You've got to pay it every day.

So ahead on EARLY START, Apple reaching another rare financial milestone passing another country in value. How do you like them Apples, Poland?

Plus, a bank withdrawal with a gun gone very, very bad. The sudden ending to a hostage drama. This was happening in California. We have all the details for you. You are watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: It is 24 minutes past the hour. We are "Minding Your Business." Stock markets in the U.S. are making some very strong gains in the past few weeks. The Dow settling above 13,000 was a major milestone this week.

I want to bring in Christine Romans to talk about this. So here's a question. I just got to say this because it says here stocks are back at highs we haven't seen since 2008. Is this going to continue?


SAMBOLIN: If you have the answer to that, young lady.

ROMANS: I have the answer. I'm moving out to my island in the Caribbean. But I'm going to take that answer and trade on it.

SAMBOLIN: I wish you could tell us.

ROMANS: Listen, a lot of people are saying that things could pull back today. Futures this morning are a little bit lower, because 2008 highs, I mean, the S&P is up nine percent just so far this year. So there's already been a lot of gains. A lot of people thinking that maybe stocks could hit the wall today.

We're watching bank shares yesterday rose, automakers, retailers, all on signs that the economy is getting a little bit better.

And then the big darling stock everyone is watching --


ROMANS: Apple. And there's all of this, you know, parlor game about what is Apple worth?

Apple is now worth more than -- so let's play the parlor game, shall we? It's now worth more than Poland --


ROMANS: -- Belgium, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan --

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh.

ROMANS: - in of course the Gross Domestic Products of those countries. I know you can't compare a country with a company. I get it. I get it. It's just a fun way to look at it.

The bloggers are out there also love to look at it, too. How about this? Apple is now worth more than the entire U.S. Aircraft Carrier Fleet, more than all of the consumption of beef in this country, two Apollo Space Programs, all of the gold at the New York Federal Reserve. And the list goes on and on as we speak.

So there you go. A very valuable company, $544 a share right now for Apple stock. SAMBOLIN: All right. I have something I'm worried about because we keep on talking about it's gas and oil and the effect on our recovery.

ROMANS: And you're right to worry about it, because that's the thing that people are talking about this morning.

And I want to just quickly show you crude oil chart. I want to show you how things have really gotten expensive. Crude oil, a barrel of crude in 1997, you can see it circled there, was less than $12 a barrel. Today it's at $109 a barrel.

SAMBOLIN: That's insane.

ROMANS: The world has changed a lot. Since 1998, the rise of Brazil, Russia, India, China as huge consumers of gas and oil, I mean -- I mean, a lot has changed since 1998, but you look at $109 a barrel, that's why people get concerned about potentially oil prices slowing down the recovery.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Has it changed that much?

ROMANS: I know. It's a really interesting chart, isn't it?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: I appreciate it.

All right, coming up on EARLY START, buried alive. A desperate search for a skier under an avalanche of snow.

Plus, no more data denied. A major carrier easing up on the throttling of smartphone users. Well, kind of sort of. I don't know if you're going to be happy about this.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

It is 30 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

It's back to school in Chardon, Ohio. Classes resume for the first time since three students were killed in a shooting Monday. One student remains in the hospital. The teenage suspect, T.J. Lane, has been charged with murder.

And a high threat for more tornadoes today. Take a look at that. Many of the same areas hit earlier this week are in the danger zone again. High winds, hail, and more large and powerful twisters are possible across the South.

A hostage drama at a bank in California ends in gunfire with the suspect being shot. The gunman had earlier released about 10 of his hostages but was still holding the bank's manager when he was shot. The bank manager is OK.

And an avalanche strikes a group of skiers near Lake Tahoe, killing one and burying another for two hours. Rescuers drug him out after another skier with a cell phone alerted authorities. And luckily, he just suffered a broken leg.

So, AT&T is answering the complaints that you filed because of your smartphone usage being slowed down. The carrier announced it will increase data usage limits and change the way that it decides which customers get throttled. But you used to have unlimited use, though. So, it's kind of confusing there.

So, let's send it out to Ashleigh. She is live in Harrisburg, Illinois, for us this morning.

And, Ashleigh, we're very concerned about those powerful storms that are heading in your direction.

BANFIELD: Yes, you're concerned, I'm concerned, people here who have a mess behind them like this, they're concerned, too, because a lot of people still have a lot of possessions that they want to gather and get to safety.

And our next guests are exactly that story to a T. But maybe the bigger part of this next story is about the unbelievable survival for Marianne and Gene Lyon.

Here's how the storm transpired for this elderly couple. They knew nothing about a storm until their ceiling in their bedroom fell on to them in their bed. And if you can believe it, they somehow made it out of this home alive. They got to safety, and they are OK today.

And the story is even more remarkable because their granddaughters were able to tour me through that home and show me exactly what they were up against. And I'll tell you what? It is nothing short of miraculous how they made it from that bed to being alive today. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what used to be the living area.

BANFIELD: That is a disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely is. It's sad, too. Just thank God they weren't in there at the time, everything.

BANFIELD: Your grandparents have not seen this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. Well, my grandpa was here, my grandma hasn't seen it.

BANFIELD: This can be a lesson to anyone -- an interior closet. Look at this. How safe that is. There's glass in the bottom, coats are just exactly the way they were before. Very safe place to be to ride out a storm, interior closet. Great lesson for anyone moving forward.

This is the kitchen here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the kitchen. Yes. My grandma loved to cook so this is sad. Her favorite room in the house is gone.

BANFIELD: And the roof is gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, totally gone.

BANFIELD: Have they found it anywhere?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, across the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, across the street in the other person's yard.

BANFIELD: Dining room.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We ate here three or four times a week our entire lives.

BANFIELD: Three to four times a week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She cooked for us since we were little.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like 15 people here.

BANFIELD: Is there anything salvageable in this area?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I mean, not really. Furniture. She did, right. She's a china painter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's the hard time the most is to know that all of your china paintings are gone.

BANFIELD: But you did find one thing, didn't you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We did. The measuring -- they used to measure our height. She has seven grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're all on there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was on there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like recently, we measured.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We lost it but we found it.


BANFIELD: And the Lyon family joins me here live today. You know what? You're smiling. I'm so happy to see you smiling because most people looking at wreckage like that of their grandparents, of your parents, we'd think you'd be pretty unhappy.

But, David, your parents and their grandparents are OK, aren't they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, fortunately, everything went all right.

BANFIELD: I know it was really hard when I met you yesterday. You were going through their house trying to get some of the salvageable things out of the impending weather. Were you able to get a lot of stuff out and, you know, save it from more rains?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We salvaged what we could.

BANFIELD: Tell me about Marianne and Gene, how are they doing today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they're both recovering well. Mother had some broken ribs and dad was pretty shook himself. But overall, it was just amazing that they could come out of it alive.

BANFIELD: They were in their 70s, and your mom has a broken femur before the storm and your dad has kidney problems. And they got out of that bed from beneath the roof debris and somehow were able to get into an inner bathroom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it just -- we have to thank God. It was a miracle.

BANFIELD: And isn't that why I see you guys smile. Wreckage like that but you have your family intact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Our heart goes out to the people that weren't so fortunate. We just thank God.

BANFIELD: And Lydia and Chloe, you guys toured me through the house and then you happened to just mention you guys have dinner with your grandparents three to four times a week?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're there all the time.

BANFIELD: I mean, you have a very close family.


BANFIELD: And have you been able to talk to your grandma or your grandpa since all of this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were there yesterday with grandma. And grandpa went to St. Louis but he's back now.

BANFIELD: How is your grandma doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's good. She hasn't seen the house yet though.

BANFIELD: Is she going to?


BANFIELD: At some point?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At some point, yes.

BANFIELD: You got that measuring wall that all of you guys grew up on that your grandma and grandpa have been measuring you since you were kids.


BANFIELD: Were you able to find it?


BANFIELD: Is it in safe place now?


BANFIELD: A place that we all measure yourself growing up and that was the one thing you were looking to find. I'm so glad that you were able to.

And you know what, I'm really glad that you're smiling today, even amidst the trouble and tragedy that surrounds you. It's good to see that you're a nice great family with great family values and you're going to be fine. I really hope you will be. We're all thinking about you. Thanks so much, guys. Appreciate it.

The Lyon family joining us live.

I also want to remind you that amidst the Lyon family's story, there are so many stories in this community where maybe they weren't quite as fortunate, there are people dealing with complete loss, nowhere to live, nowhere to get those meals.

And you can help. You can go to and you can find an array of organizations to reach out, donate blood, money, and time. The Red Cross says, blood, money, and time, folk, it's need after a tragedy like this. And I think the Lyon family is a great indication of how, you know what, triumph can emerge from tragedy, but we all need to ban together as a country, as a community, and help our brothers in need.

Zoraida, back you.

SAMBOLIN: I got to tell you, Ashleigh, that is such a community of faith. Every time you interviewed somebody, they say thank God, thank God. It's been really beautiful.

BANFIELD: I know. I know. I have to tell you I heard a lot of that from this community. As I've been going around, a lot of people are sad for their loss but a lot of people are saying I am blessed.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. All right. Thank you for sharing those stories. It's nice to hear some good ones come ought of there.

And still to come on EARLY START, big developments in the Republican race. We have new poll numbers. Can Mitt Romney be stopped in?

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 41 minutes past the hour.

With 11 states up or grabs in the next four days, Mitt Romney may be peaking at the perfect time. Romney was campaigning Idaho yesterday after three straight wins this week, he is letting up on Rick Santorum and he's back to attacking President Obama. Here's why -- Romney is surging. Santorum is slipping.

This is in the latest Gallup poll. Romney 11 points ahead among registered Republicans. In one week, Romney has gained eight points while Santorum dropped 10 points.

All right. So we have a political panel. Live in Washington, Democratic strategist Penny Lee. From Columbia, South Carolina, Republican strategist Joel Sawyer. And from Washington, CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser.

Paul, I'm going to start with you again. Yesterday, the Blunt amendment was killed in the Senate.

We're going to look at an op-ed piece by Charles Krauthammer. It details the reason why he thinks Santorum is finished. "The less said about contraception the better, a lesson Santorum refused to learn. It is a settled question. The country has no real desire for cringe-inducing admonitions from politicians about libertinism and procreative, versus pleasurable sex."

You know what our polling says Paul, the country is split on this issue. Will this argument over birth control scuttle the Republican's chances?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. Well, it starts specifically with Santorum. You know, one of his top advisers, John Graven, admitted to our own Jim Acosta that maybe it's time to speak more about the economy and moving ahead to Super Tuesday. As you know, Rick Santorum has been talking a lot about social issues, very controversial ones.

But you know what? In some states that are coming up on Super Tuesday, Zoraida, like Tennessee, Oklahoma, that may actually help Santorum more than hurt him. But overall, yes, in the general election, not a winning argument for the Republican nominee.

SAMBOLIN: I think that was 44 percent for and 50 percent against when we actually look at the numbers.

Joel, an article in "The Atlantic" that you actually retweeted is why want to open up with here. It opens very provocatively. So, let's put it up for everybody.

"Ron Paul is helping Mitt Romney" -- we don't have it. So I'm going to read it. "Ron Paul is helping Mitt Romney. It's been obvious for months. You'd think Paul's followers would be outraged by this, but they're not."

Then listen to what Ron Paul told our Piers Morgan last night and we'll talk about it.


REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought Governor Pawlenty answered it pretty well when they asked him about it, and they said, oh, was there a backroom deal with Mitt Romney and Ron Paul? He says Ron Paul is the last guy in the world that we'd be making a backroom deal. So, no, there's nothing to that.


SAMBOLIN: Is there nothing to that, Joel?

JOEL SAWYER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't know. One thing I find hilarious is that Ron Paul is now the guy criticizing conspiracy theorists.

But, you know, look, I mean, this is something I've noticed for months on this thing, is that all of these candidates may have something that doesn't appeal to conservatives with -- but, you know, Ron Paul has focused so much more attention and so many more attacks on other people than Romney, where you can make a case that, you know, in terms of Ron Paul, where Ron Paul is supposed to be philosophically, Romney should be his biggest target.

So, something I always found very strange. And, you know, I'm glad somebody supported that.

SAMBOLIN: Well, what do you make of it? Do you think there is something going on there?

SAMBOLIN: You know, look, in terms of a backroom deal where these guys have colluded, I don't know if that's happened. But I think that there's some internal strategy on the Paul's campaign part to leave Romney alone for whatever reason.

And we're going to put this up. "As I enter a new chapter in my life, I see a critical need to engender public support for the political center, for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. I do not believe that in the near term the Senate can correct itself from within." Are the days of bipartisanship over, Penny?

PENNY LEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's really sad. Senator Snowe was a terrific senator and one who represented Maine very well, but she also worked bipartisanly more so than others going forward. And it's sad to see her go, because she was really constructive on many of the arguments that she would make and actually trying to work with both sides.

So, I'm afraid as we get more ideologically divide, both on the left and on the right, that we're entrenched into our own camps and this notion of compromise just isn't there right now. And so, it's sad to see one of the great stalwarts that really did advocate for bipartisanship and cooperation is now leaving the Senate. It is a big void.

SAMBOLIN: I know that that's a sentiment that a lot of people share. All right. Paul, Joel, and Penny, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

It is 46 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Classes are just about to resume at Chardon High School in Ohio just days after a shooting that left three teenagers dead. One is still in the hospital. Counselors are on hand to offer support to the student body there. The shooting suspect, T.J. Lane, is charged with three counts of aggravated murder.

And a high threat, folks, for more tornadoes today, and many of the same areas that were hit earlier this week are in the danger zone again. High winds, hail, and more large and powerful twisters are possible across the south.

And a runaway jeep causes a security breach on a runway at Philadelphia International Airport. Take a look at that. And apparently, intoxicated man crashed through a fence and smashed several runway lights before he was apprehended. One plane had to abort a landing. It was diverted just seconds. I think it was 15 seconds before landing. Imagine what would have happened there.

Actress, Nicollette Sheridan, due back on the stand today in her lawsuit against the producers of "Desperate Housewife." Yesterday, Sheridon slapped her lawyer to demonstrate how hard producer, Mark Cherry, struck her during an incident she says led to her losing her job.

And President Obama adding some $5 million to his campaign coffers with a series of fundraisers in New York City last night and dealing with a heckler in the crowd. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: None of this changed -- none of -- nobody is announced a war, young lady. So -- but we appreciate your sentiment.


OBAMA: You're jumping the gun a little bit there.


About 900 people paid anywhere from $1,000 to $35,000 each to attend last night's event, which was hosted by Deepak Chopra and Russell Simmons.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on STARTING POINT. Good morning to you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, STARTING POINT: Hey, Zoraida. Good morning to you. On "Starting Point" this morning, we're going to talk about Chardon High School as it opens again for classes.

This morning, we're going to talk to Frank DeAngelis. You might remember that name. He lose the principal of Columbine High School. Obviously, there'll be big challenges ahead for the faculty and the staff and the students at Chardon. We'll ask Mr. DeAngelis what he recommends as they head back into classes today.

Also, we'll talk about what's happening in Syria. There is a story today about a young boy, a teenage boy, U.S. citizen, who is now -- his family believes, at least, that he has been nabbed by intelligence officers in Syria. We'll talk to them about what they are hoping to do and find out.

And we'll talk about Andrew Breitbart. You'll remember he was on the show with us when we were talking about CPAC not very long ago. We'll take a look today at his life and his impact. We're going to talk to conservative editor, Ann Coulter, who knew him as a friend and also a colleague.

Those stories and much more ahead this morning on "Starting Point." We'll see you right at the top of the hour. EARLY START comes back right after this break.


SAMBOLIN: The voice of the uprising in the Syrian City of Homs has escaped to Lebanon. You have seen Danny's reporting on CNN and on YouTube. The young activists bravely telling the world about the slaughter of Syrian civilians for the better part of last month.

So, he managed to get out of Homs earlier this week, escaping to Lebanon and agreeing to sit down exclusively with CNN's Anderson Cooper. He shared his frustration with the lack of help for the Syrian people. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What is that like to, you know, to be crying out every day and not have anybody really hear you? Or people hear you but not do anything?

DANNY, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: It's terrible. Look, if we pick up arms, people will attack us. Peaceful demonstrations are still going out. Forty percent of the population are going on demonstrations. We don't want this government to stay. No one is doing anything about it. We knew the Arab league wouldn't do anything about it.

We thought the U.N. might help us. The U.N. did nothing about it. We thought America would help, England would help, no one is helping. No one is not even moving. We feel terrible. We're just going to die and we can't stop. We will not stop this revolution.

After the killing that this -- the Bashar al-Assad did, what he did in Homs and all of Syria, we will not live under him anymore. He will not rule us.

COOPER: It's gone too far.

DANNY: It's he's gone too far. There is no peaceful talking with him. We will not peacefully talk with him. We want any army to come in and save us. We don't care if Satan comes in and takes Bashar Assad's place. What he's doing is terrible. He's raping women, killing people under torture. And he doesn't care how many he kills.

We are living under rockets for more than 20 days under rockets. We don't know if rockets are going to land and kill us. That's how we live in. We don't mind if we die. This is how we live in. We're only scared about losing parts of our bodies.


SAMBOLIN: Danny also told Anderson that he initially went into Syria to join the free Syrian army, but since he didn't have any army training, he was asked to get the truth out to the world with all of his reports.

And still ahead, the Ohio students return for the first since that deadly shooting. That's happening in about a half an hour. What the school is doing to help students transition back to class? You know who offer some help? Columbine's principal is saying he can help. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Let's head over to Harrisburg, Illinois. That's where Ashleigh is standing by for us. And, Ashleigh, I know it looks devastating behind you, but those stories of hope and resilience have been amazing. They've been really great stories. Thank you.

BANFIELD: You know, let's hope that those hopeful stories void (ph) them for what's ahead, and that is a massive clean-up effort. When you have debris like this, come around, I'm going to show you. It's unrecognizable now. Until you get to this part, license plate, massive truck up ended.

On the other side, the undercarriage. You need some big gear, my friends, to be able to clear this stuff out. And then, just pan over here, Kevin, and take a look what's beyond that. All of this is just one area that needs to be cleaned up. This community has some huge, huge work ahead of it to try to get back to the semblance of normalcy they used to have.

And they also have to deal with the dead. You know, they're facing six dead in this community alone. And, we are happy to report that the severe weather we thought we'd be in right now has not happened yet, but we are keeping an eye on it, Zoraida, because not only were there tornado threats earlier on for this area, but heavy, heavy rain, which we put heavy rain on top of all of this and forget salvaging anything.

So, again, reach out, folks, if you're watching this. Reach out and donate. If it's Red Cross, if it's at, you can certainly make a difference and God knows the people here really need it. Hope, yes, it's alive, Zoraida, but they still have this ahead of them.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. We definitely wish them luck. Thank you for everything, Ashleigh.

And that's it for us at EARLY START, the news from A to Z. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starting next. Good morning to you.

O'BRIEN: Hey, good morning to you. Good morning, everybody, as well.