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President Obama on Gun Control; Interview With Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers; Scathing Benghazi Report

Aired December 19, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a new deadline for cracking down on gun violence. President Obama gets specific about his promise to try to prevent another shooting massacre.

An independent review of the Benghazi attack is scathing, scathing criticism of the State Department.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers tells us why he still isn't satisfied. He's here this hour.

And CNN gets early details of a shocking new report on sex crimes at U.S. military academies.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama says it won't be easy to pass meaningful new gun control legislation, but he also says, after the Newtown massacre, there's no excuse not to try. This was a man who held the grandchild of Sandy Hook Elementary School's fallen principal, who tried to comfort victims' families during the most horrific times in their lives. But can he harness the raw emotion to get real action?

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's got the latest -- Brianna.


For the first time, President Obama today laid out a timeline for his administration to act, appointing Vice President Joe Biden to lead a group of Cabinet secretaries, outside organizations as well as lawmakers to come up with solutions, and he said he wants the recommendations no later than January.


KEILAR (voice-over): The president said this time Washington won't just talk about tackling gun violence.

OBAMA: This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issues for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now. KEILAR: He urged Congress to vote early next year on an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips and close the gun show loopholes, so all gun purchasers are subject to background checks.

The president's task force will recommend policies beyond gun control.

OBAMA: We're going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We're going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence. And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.

KEILAR: The president is hoping to seize this moment of heightened public awareness to push Washington to change.

OBAMA: But, goodness, if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective. If there's one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what's important.

KEILAR: The announcement is quieting criticism from within the president's own ranks. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, who lost her husband in a mass shooting, now feels the president is showing leadership.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: We will follow the president's commission on education, mental health, and all of the other things that need to be done to keep us safe.

KEILAR: But far-reaching gun regulations will no doubt be met with resistance from the National Rifle Association, which has yet to weigh in on the debate, but will hold a press conference Friday. Senior administration officials say they are ready.

OBAMA: The NRA is an organization that has members who are mothers and fathers. And I would expect that they have been impacted by this as well. And hopefully they will do some self-reflection.


KEILAR: Polls show there is an uptick in support for stricter gun legislation following the shooting in Connecticut. But, Wolf, the question is, will it last? Will it be enough for Americans to sway lawmakers?

President Obama said he plans to use the bully pulpit, take it directly to the American people, and he's confident that he can rally support from them, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar at the White House, thank you.

Let's see how the president does. Let's see what Joe Biden does as well. The people of Newtown, Connecticut, buried four more shooting victims today, three children and a teacher who died trying to protect them.

Kate Bolduan is here.

Kate, you and I spent four days in Newtown, very emotional, obviously, for everyone, including for us.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It very -- and so tough to watch the suffering of this community and the suffering of these families, who have lost such little children, especially now when we're seeing these funerals taking place. You know, we get to come home to our families. These families in Newtown, the nightmare continues.

BLITZER: It's almost never-ending. I can only imagine what these people are going through right now. And as we watch what's going on, new details are coming in, and I don't know how these people are reacting.

BOLDUAN: It's -- you know, I think the last thing on their mind is the new details of the investigation, but that's part of this unfortunate horror that we have to continue covering, of course.

Let's bring in CNN's national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick. She's been following the investigation into the gunman and getting more information about Nancy Lanza, the gunman's mother, who was also a victim in this tragedy, more information about Nancy Lanza's whereabouts in the days before the shooting.

Update our viewers, Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Kate and Wolf, what we're learning right now is that Nancy Lanza was away in the days leading up to this murder.

My colleague, Rita Cosby, has confirmed that Nancy Lanza left Tuesday morning and spent three -- almost three full days at a resort in New Hampshire. Now, it's unclear whether she left her son home alone. She did that occasionally. She would cook him some meals and then leave him by himself.

It's not clear whether he was alone during this time. But we do know that Nancy Lanza was not there in the days before the shooting. She returned Thursday evening. Friday, Friday, her son shot her four times in the head. Now, we want to kind of show you what is going on behind me here at this house.

This has been an active scene all day long. The major crime scene squad has been on site. They have had more than eight investigators throughout the course of the day. They brought the mobile crime lab, which is also up there, just to the left of the house. But you can see the lights on in the second floor and also on the main floor there of the primary residence. We do know that they're looking through all sorts of things. They're looking through papers, they're looking through documents, they're looking through file cabinets.

They're trying to get any evidence that they can. And the reason that the crime scene lab is there is because they're able to process information on scene, information that they can take and then bring to a lab a little later on. But they have been in that home all day, combing through those papers. They have been dropping people off, and people have been coming back and forth.

So, we did see about noon today they did carry out a huge box of what appeared to be evidence. So, it is still very much ongoing, as they try to search for information. They're also going through the medicine cabinets to see whether, in fact, there was any medication that the gunman may have been taking. That is a big piece of this investigation, as to whether there may have been some underlying psychiatric disorder that triggered him to go on this rampage.

It has been reported that he had Asperger's, but now they're looking into whether there was something more that was going on. This trip that Nancy Lanza may have taken could also have been a pretty big trigger, because she was away. And so he was home. Not clear whether somebody was checking in on him. But he had cut off all communication with his father about two years ago, at the time the divorce was official and his father remarried.

So whether he felt that his mother was sort of leaving him, that's something also that investigators are looking very, very closely at, as to what was going on before he did this terrible crime -- Kate, Wolf.

BOLDUAN: Yes, clearly many questions still unanswered and the investigation continues. Deborah Feyerick, thanks so much, Deborah.

BLITZER: Other news we're following right now, including the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. We're now told she is planning to testify before Congress in mid-January about the attack on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. She canceled an appearance tomorrow because she's been ill.

She fainted and suffered a concussion. She's recuperating right now. Three State Department officials have resigned after a scathing new review of the Benghazi attack. Senior officials tell CNN, two of those who stepped down oversaw security decisions at the diplomatic mission.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is joining us now with more on this new report a very tough report, the secrets it reveals.

What's in this report, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we now know that the State Department officials knew that radical Islamic groups were operating around Benghazi and that there'd been a spike in attacks on Western targets. They were getting almost no help from the Libyan government in helping to secure that mission. So they were relying on some militia members to help guard the perimeter of the compound. By this report, we now know that those militia members simply ran away when the crowd approached.

And although investigators can't be entirely sure, the speed at which those attackers came through that front gate at least raises the possibility that the guards simply left it open.

Protests erupted across the Middle East on September 11. But despite the Obama administration claiming Benghazi began as a protest...

SUSAN RICE, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: What happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo. This was not a pre- planned, premeditated attack.

LAWRENCE: ... a new report definitively says that's not true -- quote -- "The board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks."

Investigators laid the blame for Benghazi on bureaucracy, missed warning signs with, and grossly inadequate security. They interviewed more than 100 people and read through thousands of documents detailing the desperate attempts to save the U.S. ambassador.

As smoke engulfed their safe area, Ambassador Chris Stevens and two others crawled to a bathroom. One of them was a security officer, and he opened a window, trying desperately to get some air. Instead, more smoke poured in. They couldn't see, couldn't breathe. So the officer crawled out, blindly, yelling for the others to follow. He slipped through another window and collapsed outside, only then realizing he was alone.

Within a week of the attack, CNN's Arwa Damon walked through that compound.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The bathroom when we saw it was covered in black soot and there were what appeared to be bloodstains.

LAWRENCE: The shocking deaths prompted a rush to the microphones, members of Congress claiming officials ignored red flags.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Why was the security at the consulate so inadequate, despite two previous attacks on that facility in April and June of this year, an assassination attempt on the British ambassador in Benghazi?

LAWRENCE: But the report says consulate workers became desensitized to the threat. "The longer a post is exposed to continuing high levels of violence, the more it comes to consider security incidents which might otherwise provoke a reaction as normal."

Some suggested a quicker reaction could have helped save the ambassador.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Why couldn't the greatest military in the world respond?


LAWRENCE: Well, the simple answer to that is, they just weren't close enough. The report acknowledges that the Pentagon dispatched a quick-reaction force from Europe and rerouted a surveillance drone over Benghazi, but bottom line, it just was not close enough and there wasn't enough time to make a difference.

BLITZER: This is a scathing, scathing, very tough report. I read it and I must say, it's pretty shocking that there was so much dereliction of responsibility in protecting American diplomats in Benghazi. We're going to have much more on this. Chris, thank you very, very much.

And I know you have read it as well, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely, Wolf.

As Wolf just said, tough criticism of the State Department in that Benghazi report. So how much responsibility should lie with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? We will talk about that and much more with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, coming up.

Also, what could an expert on genetics reveal about Newtown gunman Adam Lanza? Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to talk about the investigation.


BLITZER: A new twist in the Connecticut school shooting investigation. The state medical examiner reportedly is asking for help from a genetics expert. The goal, to see if Adam Lanza's medical history may have played a role in the shooting.

Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, what clues, if any, can a postmortem genetic test provide investigators?


Certainly, this idea that perhaps finding some genetic clue as to what motivated all of this I think is very unlikely. A couple of reasons why, Wolf. First of all, there's not clear-cut sort of still genes identified with the types of illnesses, mental illnesses that may cause this sort of behavior.

So, I think, simply saying, oh, we found a gene, therefore, it explains this, I think, is very unlikely. Also, there are people who carry these genes who don't have the behavior still. I think it's very hard to sort of put those two things together.

Genetic analysis can be useful sometimes if there's unanswered questions still about where somebody was or what exactly happened or if there's a sudden unusual death, like somebody just drops dead suddenly and there's no explanation. It can be helpful in those situations.

But my guess, Wolf, is this unfortunately is not going to provide much in the way of any answers.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you're right, too, based on what I'm hearing from others.

A murder-suicide, you have done some research into this. What can we learn? Here he goes and he does a mass murder and then he kills himself. What does that say?

GUPTA: Well, there's no hard and fast rules here. But let me put it to you like this.

If you start with this idea, did the person really know right from wrong -- and we talked about this whole how in touch with reality the person may have been. You know, for example, the Arizona shooter, the Aurora shooter, they did not kill themselves at the end of this and if you sort of dig in and look at some of the follow-up medical part of their investigation, you find out if they were delusional, psychotic to the point where they really could not, did not seem to know right from wrong, they didn't think that they had really done anything that warranted either being arrested or shooting themselves or anything. Here, he obviously did.

Again, as I said, there's no hard and fast rules here. But this makes it less likely to be a delusional psychosis sort of thing and maybe more depression, bipolar, that type of thing, or those underlying things that became suddenly worse because of a recent traumatic experience.

Again, this is how the medical investigators are going to be thinking about things, at least starting to narrow in.

BLITZER: I guess the bottom line question, Sanjay, how do you piece together his mind-set now that he's dead? How do you go back and try to figure out what was going through that mind?

GUPTA: It's hard.

But you talk to a lot of people certainly that knew him, try and figure out what some of his activities were over time. And there's also -- there's something to be learned, to some extent, Wolf, from previous tragedies like this. Obviously, every tragedy is different, but if you talk to people who study these sorts of things and who the FBI even relies on for some of their investigation, they typically break these categories down, the type of person down into either a person who had psychosis, someone who was psychopathic, or someone who was traumatized. Not everyone is going to fit neatly into one of those categories, but once you sort of get an idea of patterns of behavior, you look to see if certain patterns were met here as well. It's not as easy or as clean-cut as that, but that's again a little bit of an insight into how the medical investigators will approach this.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks very much. Always good to get your perspective on these issues, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, a new veto threat in the struggle to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Also, we will tell you why actor/director Ben Affleck was on Capitol Hill today.



BLITZER: So what will be the fallout from that scathing review of the deadly September 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya? We are going to speak to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, talk about the scaling conclusions of the report and a whole lot more, Mike Rogers standing by.


BLITZER: Happening now: shocking allegations of sex crimes at U.S. military academies. The problem is growing.

Plus, a scathing new report on the Benghazi, Libya, attack. So what happens now? I will ask the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.

And we're standing by for a tribute to the victims of the Connecticut school massacre and their grieving community.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The man expected to be nominated as the next secretary of state is responding to the critical new report on the Benghazi attacks.

Here's Senator John Kerry.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: But I think the department has taken a huge step forward to address the lessons learned from Benghazi, which are important to everybody.

You know, there's 70,000 employees over there. There are 275 different posts. People are at risk. It's a dangerous world we're in.

And I think that this report is going to significantly advance the security interests of those personnel and of our country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The independent review of the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya found systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels, within two bureaus of the State Department.

But the review also noted that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.

We're joined now by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

So you've gone through this report, the classified, the declassified version. What's your reaction?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The -- well, a couple of concern. One of the concerns I have is, well, first of all, it certainly verified all that we had found, and we had talked about for weeks, of really what is gross negligence on behalf of the security directorates in the State Department to protect the employees.

BLITZER: Your diplomatic security?

ROGERS: Clearly that one. And there -- according to this report, there are other departments that were involved, I think, in that negligence. That's clear to me in the report.

BLITZER: Because you told us the other day, gross negligence. Those were the words you used.

ROGERS: Well, the one thing that concerned me is that the report said that we found all of those problems, but we find no one to have disciplinary action toward. That's concerning to me. That protects this culture. They blamed it on their bureaucracy. So if everybody is responsible, nobody is responsible. That's a huge problem. This was a catastrophic failure.

BLITZER: Because the report does say, security posture at that diplomatic mission, security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.

All right, so three officials have resigned. No one is being charged with anything, dereliction of duty or anything along those lines. Is that enough?

ROGERS: Candidly, I don't think so. This was either a culture of failure here or it was worse than that, and you had people who were grossly negligent in their performance of their duties that led to the deaths of four Americans.

My argument is, if you don't change that and change that soon, we are going to have more problems. And I'll give you a great example. In the report, one of the recommendations is, well, if you don't have specific threat information, you should consider the totality of the threat information. That is about as basic as you get. That happens every day, all across the world, from the Secret Service taking the president to a site in the United States to the -- it should happen at a diplomatic security site in the embassy. When you take all of the threat information and figure out what your security posture should be.

If they had to make that recommendation in this report, think about how bad it must have been. All this information, people making affirmative decisions not to beef up the security, not to take into consideration all of the threat information, including the items they listed in the unclassified report, that were serious enough to ramp up the security. That's really concerning.

And if you don't find anyone to blame, you don't find anyone to hold accountable with the accountability board, that tells me you're going to have more of that culture happening, and we put at risk, I think, our folks overseas.

BOLDUAN: It raises so many questions. And there is quite a bit of an outrage factor here when you think about it. How did it get so bad?

I mean, look at another example of, it doesn't even compare to this. I mean, the GSA, they found that they had -- there were lots of wasteful spending for big galas in Las Vegas for employees. People were fired for that.

But four people are dead. Of course, the terror -- no one was asking for the terrorist attack to happen on September 11, but four people are dead. Why isn't someone getting fired for this?

ROGERS: And I think that is the question we have to get answered. The fact that this report was so tepid in saying, "Well, we find all these really harsh mistakes" -- and they laid them out in the report -- "but we don't find anyone to hold accountable." That's wrong, and that will only serve to, I think, protect the bureaucracy in what they've been -- in the performance of their duties. They need to shake that up.

If you have a security department that doesn't understand to take into consideration threat information, you probably should get a new security department.

BLITZER: If you read carefully the unclassified version of the report, as I did, they do seem to say the ambassador, Chris Stevens, he was partially responsible for this disaster. I'll read you a few lines.

"The board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi, independently of Washington, per standard -- standard practice. The ambassador did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale on the U.S. mission in the overall negative trend-line of security incidents from spring to summer 2012. His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy and his expertise on Benghazi in particular caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments."

So he's passed away. He was killed. Three of his associates were killed. But they seem to be suggesting he bears some of that responsibility.

ROGERS: Well, clearly, he bears some responsibility. But also, they say in the report that the Benghazi folks were begging for help along the way. They explained a deteriorating security posture. There were more intensity in the events. More bad guys in the neighborhood than ever before. And they were asking repeatedly. And in Washington, they were turned down for those requests. That's an important difference.

So are there more than one person at fault? I'm sure there are. But you can't have a security wing of the State Department that does not recognize that all of these threats need to be taken into consideration.

He went with the security posture that they gave him, which I argue was woefully inadequate.

BOLDUAN: Is there not a way to find out where the paperwork got stuck, in terms of these requests keep going in, these requests keep coming in. I mean, isn't that a question you want an answer to?

Absolutely. And the fact that I don't think the accountability review board that did the report can find that they can't find anybody to hold accountable for the death of these four Americans when there are some serious, gross negligent mistakes made in the security posture.

BLITZER: Here's what I want to know, and I think our viewers want to know. So there will be bureaucratic responsibility in all of this. The guys who actually, the terrorists, the al Qaeda-related terrorists who killed Ambassador Stevens and the three others, where are they? Who are they? Is there a hunt -- is there any progress being made to bring these individuals, these terrorists to justice?

ROGERS: Well, a great question. I had the same question. Brought those folks responsible for the -- the intelligence gathering investigation of that particular front. And as I said in a statement today, I am not happy with where we're at. We're not in the right posture. I don't think we have the right configuration. And we are not in a position right now...

BLITZER: Do you have any names...

ROGERS: ... to bring those to justice.

BLITZER: Do they have any names of individuals?

ROGERS: They're -- they're starting -- it's starting to come together. But it is, A, very slow. We're getting reports from people who are in that business that tell us it's going far too slow, and they can't figure out why it's going to slow. And that's my frustration.

BLITZER: Are the Libyans being helpful or hurtful?

ROGERS: No, they're -- they're -- they're not being completely helpful, and that certainly is an impediment to -- to the speed of this. But we have other means and other ways of collection. And that's why I'm saying, we're not exactly postured, in my mind, in the right way with the right resources to get to a swift action on catching these people and bringing them to justice.

If you recall the 9/11 Commission Report on the USS Cole, one of the reasons that they blamed al Qaeda's emboldenness to do the 9/11 attack was because -- they thought that nothing happened after the USS Cole. It took too long to try to bring someone to justice.

They felt that that empowered them.


ROGERS: Well, you're going to have that same attitude -- as a matter of fact, we know it is. One of the folks that they believe, at least public reports have shown was involved, a guy named Katella (ph), who was in the public square drinking, you know, a strawberry frappe and thumbing his nose at the United States.

That attitude will bring violence and trouble to the United States, if we don't bring those responsible to justice soon. And we're not there yet.

BLITZER: But do you think -- and we've got to go -- there's a mindset that, if they find out who did it, that the Navy SEALS will go out there and do what they did to bin Laden?

ROGERS: I don't want to say what capability we will use. We have certain capabilities that the United States has that, uh, I think would serve well to bring those to justice that -- that killed and took the lives.

BLITZER: You say bring those to justice, just kill them?

ROGERS: Well, I think there's options on the table. I think that they need to be brought to some sort of justice and that it needs to be swift and certain to remind those folks that we will not tolerate that kind of violence toward any U.S. unofficial anywhere in the world.

BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, thanks for coming in.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, sir.

ROGERS: Thanks for having us.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Chairman.

BLITZER: A new report is out on sexual assault within the United States military. We're hearing some very disturbing allegations about what's going on at the United States Navy Academy.


BLITZER: We're getting a disturbing new glimpse at sex crimes within U.S., the U.S. military, targeting women in uniform.

BOLDUAN: Yes. If you can even believe it. A new report shows the problem is growing, especially at military academies. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has heard some of the shocking stories. Barbara, tell our viewers what you've learned.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I've had an advanced look at some parts of this study. You know, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has made it a priority to stop sexual assault in the military. At the service academies, that is far from happening.


STARR (voice-over): Karley Marquet dreamed of going to the U.S. military academy at West Point. Once there, the dream became a nightmare.

KARLEY MARQUET, FORMER WEST POINT CADET: I remember him turning off the lights and me asking, what are you doing? And then he proceeded to rape me.

STARR: Many military women will tell you, they believe there's a greater chance they'll be raped by a fellow service member than killed in combat. And the risk of sexual assault is now growing, right from the time young people enter elite service academies.

CNN has obtained advanced details of a new military survey at academies, showing the problem is getting worse.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: So the problem, as I see it is, no heads have rolled. All of the generals have come before Congress and said the same thing over again. There's zero tolerance. But nothing ever changes.

STARR: In April, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta vowed things would change.

LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Sexual assault has no place in the military. It is a violation of everything that the U.S. military stands for.

STARR: Some of the most disturbing new information comes from the U.S. Naval Academy. CNN has learned the survey found 225 midshipmen, mainly females, reported they were victims of unwanted sexual contact. Everything from touching to forcible rape in the most recent academic year.

But only 12 actually filed formal reports. That's down nearly 50 percent from last year. The Navy's big worry: women are still not confident their reports will be taken seriously. SPEIER: The chain of command is part of the problem. You are required to report the incident to your chain of command. Oftentimes, the assailant is your commander.

STARR: At West Point and the Air Force Academy, the number of sexual assault incidents reported rose, as well.

While disturbing, the survey did find at these schools, women appeared to be more comfortable, going ahead and reporting harassment and assault, though there were many cases of unreported incidents.


STARR: Now, the military is cracking down on senior officers. An Army general is scheduled to go to trial in the coming weeks on a number of charges of sexual misconduct. But at the military academies, those commanders are under increasing pressure to keep these young students safe -- Kate, Wolf.

BOLDUAN: Those numbers are absolutely astounding. Only 12 formal reports, Barbara. Great reporting. We'll definitely be following up on this.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us this evening.

BLITZER: For many, it can be the invisible toll of a trauma. Two survivors of another shooting talk about the emotional damage that's left behind. We have their advice to parents.


BLITZER: We're just minutes away from a memorial that's about to begin at Western Connecticut State University. A memorial called A Tribute to Newtown. Our national correspondent, Gary Tuchman, is on the scene for us.

Gary, set the scene. What's about to happen?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, around the world, this has been such a painful situation, but here in Connecticut, it's a local story. So it's much more acute. And there is strength in numbers.

So what's happening here, a tribute to Newtown, Connecticut. What it is, is time for people to get together, to listen to religious leaders, to listen to students. The wind ensemble from Western Connecticut State University is here. They will play. And people will mourn together, and they will celebrate the lives of those who were lost together.

They're giving out things to everyone who walks in. To all the children, they're getting Mickey Mouse dolls that come from the Red Cross. Everyone is going to get a candle like this, and everyone is getting a rose.

I will tell you, Wolf, this has just been -- you and I were together in Oklahoma City, 18 years ago. Nineteen children were killed in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. The pain just never goes away. People often talk about closure and things like that. There's really no such thing, particularly for families who lost loved ones. But these kinds of things help.

You know, a short time ago, I did a story earlier this week. I talked with the husband and the daughters of Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of the university -- the principal of the school where the shooting happened, and this is really unbelievable. We went to her wake today, the visitation at the funeral home, to pay respects. There were about five or 600 people in line to get into the funeral home. It was probably a four- or five-hour wait. It was very cold. That shows you the love the people have in this community for the people who passed way.

And hopefully, this ceremony tonight will help a little bit -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Gary. Thanks very much.

I know it's a moving, moving experience for so many people.

BOLDUAN: For those who survived the shootings in Newtown, there may not have been physical injury, but there is emotional trauma that will linger. Two young men know exactly what's ahead. CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, has their story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw some of the bullets going past the hall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard yelling and "Put your hands up." "Don't shoot." We heard lots of scary stuff.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These innocent eyes have witnessed unspeakable horrors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was like crying.

COHEN: Images that could haunt them forever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She walked past the body. She saw the principal, she saw the blood.

COHEN: Physically, they escaped, but how will these young survivors do mentally?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very serious situation at the North Valley Jewish Community Center.

COHEN: Ben Kadish and Josh Stepakoff know what it's like to face the nightmare. Thirteen years ago, the boys were at summer camp in Los Angeles when a gunman stormed in and shot them. Ben was 5.

(on camera) What do you remember happening around you? BEN KADISH, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Screaming. Tons of screaming.

COHEN (voice-over): Josh was 6.

JOSH STEPAKOFF, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: He came in and he shot all the way around, and the next thing I remember, I was just getting up and running as fast as I could that way.

COHEN: The boys survived, but were never the same emotionally.

STEPAKOFF: I didn't live a normal childhood. In no means did I have a normal childhood.

COHEN: The shooter, Buford Furrow, had robbed them of their security.

(on camera) When you were dropped off at school, you wondered, "Am I safe?"

KADISH: yes.

COHEN: For how long?

KADISH: Probably through middle school.

STEPAKOFF: If we heard helicopters, sirens, loud noises, anything that would startle me, the house was unlocked.

COHEN: So you would go around and lock?

STEPAKOFF: I locked every door and I locked every window.

COHEN: Why did you lock every door and window?

STEPAKOFF: That was the closest thing I could feel to safe.

COHEN (voice-over): Now 19, these two young men are among the few people who've experienced what the Connecticut children have experienced.

STEPAKOFF: The pictures of the kids being taken out, and all standing in this line, I could accidentally mistake the pictures from when I got shot.

COHEN: They worry for the Newtown children.

KADISH: I think they are going to feel, you know, afraid of the dark, afraid of loud noises.

COHEN (on camera): What advice would you give to these participants in Connecticut?

KADISH: Listen to your kids, you know. They're a lot smarter than we take them for. And so, you really have to -- to just listen to them and be understanding to them and know that there will be times when they really do want to talk about it, and there will be times when they don't. And if they don't want to talk about it, don't push them.

COHEN (voice-over): Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Los Angeles.


BLITZER: Good story (ph). Let's check in with Erin Burnett to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

What are you working on, Erin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, we're going to continue to focus on some of the mental health aspects here as we still try to figure out what sort of mental ailment Adam Lanza may have had. A lot of people have talked about whether it was Asperger's or autism, although, of course, that hasn't been formally diagnosed.

But autism, Wolf, if you have autism, a few of the key things, according to the National Institute of Health that you may suffer from include a lack of empathy and acting up with intense tantrums and showing aggression to others or to yourself.

We're going to talk to a man who has made it his life's cause to try to combat autism in this country. Bob Wright of Autism Speaks is going to answer some of these tough questions about whether autism can cause or be a part of violent behavior.

We're also going to be talking to the funeral director who has had to bury 11 in Newtown this week. There's only one funeral director in that small town. A truly, truly tragic week.

That's coming up at the top of the hour. Back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few minutes, Erin. Thanks very much. Thanks for your great reporting this week, as well.

BOLDUAN: Also at the top of the hour, that memorial for the Newtown shooting victims at Western Connecticut State University. It's about to begin. You'll see it live.


BLITZER: Six-year-old Newtown victim Jack Pinto was an avid football fan. His idol as the New York Giants receiver, Victor Cruz. Victor Cruz paid an emotional visit to Jack's family in Newtown.


VICTOR CRUZ, NEW YORK GIANTS RECEIVER: When you visit a family that's going through so much and that's facing so much -- so much turmoil in their lives, and you know, you meet their family and see what kind of things they're going through, it just helps you look at life through a different lens. Like I said, in this -- it really changes your view of -- you know, the way you used to look at things changes your view a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hug your kid a little bit more when you got home last night?

CRUZ: Yes, most definitely. Ever since it happened, I've kind of been, you know, just spending more time with her, just you know, cherishing the little moments, the little times you get with her, because it's you know, you never know when that can be taken from you.


BLITZER: Cruz gave Jack's older brother the shoes he wore during last weekend's game. One says, "Jack Pinto, my hero." And the other says, "R.I.P.," rest in peace, "Jack Pinto."

BOLDUAN: And more gut wrenching farewells in Newtown, Connecticut. Let's take a look at the three first graders and the beloved teacher who were buried today.

Caroline Previdi has been described as precious, with her cherub face and a toothy grin. She loved to draw and dance.

Daniel Barden played the drums in a family band. He loved the beach and lost his two front teeth in his fearless pursuit of life.

And Charlotte Bacon, sweet, outgoing and full of energy with a mass of beautiful red curls. She loved school and she loved dresses.

Bagpipers played outside the funeral of teacher Victoria Soto, and a police honor guard saluted her casket. Vicky, as she was known, always wanted to be an educator just like her aunt. She died trying to shield her students from the barrage of bullets inside Sandy Hook Elementary.

I met one of those students that she saved and who was able to make it out alive.

BLITZER: This is a such a -- we were there for four days.


BLITZER: Such a sad, sad -- and I've covered a lot of, unfortunately, horrendous stories, but this was unique. You just think of those 20 first graders, just 6 and 7 years old.


BLITZER: So sad.

That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.