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Victim's Boyfriend Finds It Hard to Say Goodbye; Huge Storm Threatens Holiday Travel; House to Vote on Plan B; Cory Book Mulls Senate Run; Parents Buy Bullet-Proof Backpacks for Kids; Doomsayers Await End of World.

Aired December 20, 2012 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: It is not easy to say good-bye to loved ones, especially when all you've had with them is one year and not the eternity that you hoped for. And teacher Lauren Rousseau's boy friend says he's trying to come to terms with the cruel way she was snatched away from him. It happened days away from when he planned to propose to her, on Christmas.

Our Poppy Harlow has the story.


TONY LUSARDI III, BOYFRIEND OF LAUREN ROUSSEAU: It says, me since I've been with you, thanks for rubbing off on me.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 30 and in love, Tony Lusardi and Lauren Rousseau.

(on camera): Do you remember the moment you realized you were in love with her?

LUSARDI: Oh, yes. Like right -- the first date I had with her, I knew.

HARLOW (voice-over): At a wine bar where they shared their first kiss. Lauren called him Lovie. He called her Busy Bee. One of those people without a mean bone in her body.

LUSARDI: She didn't like to honk her horn at people that cut her off in traffic because she thought it would be mean if she honked at them.

HARLOW: Lauren liked to send Tony cards like this one.

LUSARDI: Tony, this card made me giggle and think of you very appropriate. It says bananas.

HARLOW: These still photos taken at a friend's wedding exactly two months before Lauren died.

LUSARDI: This is the second try of making funny faces. There was a first one where she was like, I don't have a funny face.

HARLOW: She just celebrated one year of dating in November.

LUSARDI: I'm glad that I had a good relationship for a year instead of a relationship that had fights for years.

HARLOW: The same month, she became a permanent substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary.

LUSARDI: She was thrilled and she loved to tell me what she was doing that week. You know, she would send a text. Oh, we're doing this, doing that. And send tons of pictures of kids had created that day.

HARLOW: They were planning to see "The Hobbit" on Friday night, but the last text Tony got from Lauren was at 8:58 a.m.

LUSARDI: It doesn't seem real. It doesn't seem permanent and finite.

HARLOW (on camera): You think you might see her again?

LUSARDI: I'm convinced that I'll see her again. I have like a little squish pillow that's like a little pillow for your head that she had that smells like her, because it smells like her perfumes and stuff.

HARLOW: And it still does?

LUSARDI: Yes. When I wake up in the morning, I can smell my girlfriend's perfume and makes me cry.

HARLOW (voice-over): "The love of her life," is how Lauren's obituary describes Tony.

LUSARDI: I only got one year with her. I don't know if -- it's like kind of bad to say, but I'm jealous of her friends that got more than one year. All I got was one. But it was a really good year.

HARLOW (on camera): You hugged President Obama when he was here Sunday night.


But I want a hug from Lauren, you know. I'm not going to get that.

HARLOW (on camera): I know.

(voice-over): It's this song they both loved, and this song that will always remind Tony of his Lauren.


LUSARDI: I want the world to know Lauren was a great person. She touched the lives of everyone she ever met. Even if you only met her once, you liked her. She was a great person and she didn't deserve this. No one deserved this.

HARLOW: Poppy Harlow, CNN, Courtland Manor, New York.


BANFIELD: And if you want to find out how you can help the Connecticut shooting victims, go to (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: As if holiday travel isn't chaotic enough. Just as millions of you are about to hit the road or head out for your flight for the holidays, many of you are going to have to deal with this instead, a massive storm system causing blizzards in the Midwest, stirring up a deadly dust storm on the bottom of your screen there and also spawning tornadoes in the south. Half a dozen states across the Midwest, from Nebraska to Minnesota and Wisconsin, all of them are under blizzard warnings as we speak.

I want to get you straight to our meteorologist, Karen MaGinnis, who is monitoring everything from CNN's Severe Weather Center.

How fast are things changing, Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Really, hour by hour. And, Ashleigh, we've watched this sweep across portions of the Midwest.

But for our viewers in Chicago, just wait, the next couple of hours this is going to have a serious impact, not just on the ground, but as far as air traffic is concerned at the airports there.

We've got captivating video coming out of Iowa. This out of Ames, Iowa. It's from our iReporter. And he said that this is the first significant snowfall they have seen pretty much since the last three years. Now, Kevin Cavallin sent this to us. He said they've gone with a long period of no snowfall, but some parts of Iowa, they're anticipating as much as 14 inches of snow.

Well, this very vigorous weather system is winding its way across the southern Great Lakes. As it does, it's going to bring with it first the rainfall right around Chicago. And then it changes over to snow. And not just the snowfall, but we're looking at near blizzard conditions. Some of the winds may get as high as 50, possibly 60 miles an hour. Take a look at the wind now, coming straight out of the north, 30, 40. I saw some of the winds topping out at close to 50 miles per hour already. But look at Chicago, wind coming up from the south. So, we've got the milder air and this is all rainfall, at least right now, but very quickly it's going to change to snow.

Look at some of the snowfall totals we've seen over the last 24 hours. Hastings, Nebraska, eight inches, a portion of Interstate 80 was closed over the last 12 hours or so. That's about 150 miles. They were saying the interstate there was so tied up because of the snow, very dangerous and treacherous driving conditions. Blizzard warnings from Green Bay all the way down to Iowa, impacting a huge swath of the central United States, Ashleigh. It is going to be very treacherous.

BANFIELD: Just miserable. So the headline here, check your flight before you head for the airport.

Karen MaGinnis, thank you.

MAGINNIS: I dare say, Chicago is going to be one of the biggest delays. Already two-hour delays there. BANFIELD: Oh, rats.

OK, Karen MaGinnis, keep an eye out for us. Thank you.

And the FAA is reporting most airports at this point are operating normally, but then you just heard Karen MaGinnis say if you're planning to travel in Chicago, take a look at those pictures. Two- hour delays right now, but that could change, Karen just reported, hour to hour, so call before you go.



REP ERIC CANTOR, (R-), VIRGINIA: We do not intend to send members home after this vote. We want to stay here. We want to avoid the fiscal cliff from happening. And again, I think that the decision is for the White House and the Senate Democrats to come join us so we can avoid the tax hike on American people and avoid the fiscal cliff.


BANFIELD: Speaking to reporters just moments ago, that's the second highest ranking house Republican who said he's sure that the Plan B for taxes will pass. But lawmakers' work is still far from over.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer joining me now from Washington.

So that was Eric Cantor, Wolf. Plan B, does it have a point? And does it have a chance?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Certainly has a chance of passing the House of Representatives. I don't know if it would then pass the Senate. The president said he would veto even if it were to pass the Senate because it would allow -- there would be no tax increases for incomes up to $1 million a year. Right now, the president, he started, as you remember, Ashleigh, $250,000 for families, but he's gone up to $400,000. But he says $1 million is too much. And they've directly threatened to veto that legislation if it were to pass the Senate, and the House and then the Senate. So there's still a lot more negotiation that's got to go on before they come up with a plan that can satisfy the president, satisfy the speaker, and satisfy their respective liberal Democratic and conservative Republican bases, because this is a complex notion.

They've still got some time. They might not get it accomplished for Christmas, but the hope is they'll get it accomplished before New Year's. And I'll add this point. Even if they don't get it accomplished before New Year's, they still have a few days early in January, the new speaker has sworn in, the new Congress is sworn in January 3rd. So they'll have a little wiggle room after that, as well. But they don't have a lot of time.

BANFIELD: That's a fiscal foothill, shall we call it.

Let me ask you about the pressure of Christmas and the holidays, because the speaker has said before, several weeks ago, in fact, he'd be prepared to stay throughout the holidays on capitol hill. I believe Eric Cantor has said this, as well, that they're going to be working to actually get a deal. Is there some kind of real pressure that the holidays represent to them? They want to go home and that's more important to them to get a deal than getting the deal itself?

BLITZER: Well, there's no doubt that the pressure to go home for Christmas and then stay home or go wherever they want to go between Christmas and new year's is a powerful source of pressure. They've got family commitments. They'd like to get away from Washington, do other stuff, so yes, I think that the pressure of Christmas and New Year's getting away, that's a real pressure. At the same time, these are politicians and they don't want to compromise on what they see as their core principles, if you will, because they don't want to be facing a primary the next time they run from somebody more conservative or somebody more liberal. So they've got political pressures, as well.

But I think you make a good point. The pressure to get out of dodge, if you will, to get out of Washington before Christmas and stay out of here until after new year's is a pretty powerful source of pressure.

BANFIELD: This should be more powerful that we're all devastated and our country could fall apart. But, OK, if it's just the holidays that may get them get a deal, all right, I'll take that.

I want to switch gears a bit, Wolf. It was crossing over the wires that a bright young man from Newark, who has been a rising star in the political sphere for quite some time now, Cory Booker, has intimated he is looking to run for the Senate race when Senator Frank Lautenberg's term is up in 2013. I suppose it's not that big of a surprise, although some thought he might try to challenge Chris Christie in the gubernatorial race.

BLITZER: Yes, there was some speculation that Cory Booker versus Chris Christie, gubernatorial race, would be a powerful race there. But I think Chris Christie right now is pretty popular in New Jersey, especially in the aftermath of his behavior following the Superstorm Sandy.

I think Cory Booker has a huge future, and I think if he runs for that Frank Lautenberg seat from New Jersey as the Democratic nominee, he'll have a pretty good chance of winning. I don't know who the Republican might be. That's not going to happen until 2014. So we still have some time. The gubernatorial race is next year.

BANFIELD: He has some big money behind him already and has had some for quite some time already. This is a guy who maybe, you know, if Americans are starting to hear more about him because of his super hero, you know, business -- he rescued someone from a fire and had all these wonderful light stories that have hit the press. But this young man, for at least the last seven, eight years, has been on the radar of those who make politics tick. And I'm talking about the people with the money.

BLITZER: Because everybody sees that he's, you know, he's got a really, really good future ahead of him. A popular mayor of Newark, New Jersey. I think he's a Harvard University graduate. He could've gone into other areas. He just decided he wanted to do this.

And as you point out, you know, he's very active in social media, got a large following out there on Twitter. I know I follow him on Twitter, watch to see what he's up to. But there have been some highly publicized cases where he's run into dangerous areas to try to do something. And that certainly has helped his reputation. So I think he's in -- if Frank Lautenberg retires, decides he's not going to run for reelection, Cory Booker's got a good chance of becoming a United States Senator.

BANFIELD: And Frank Lautenberg, isn't it sort of popularly known at his age, right now, he is highly considered stepping down --


BLITZER: He's almost 90 years old.

BANFIELD: I'm looking for it on the wires, 89. Turning 89 in January.

BLITZER: Yes, he's almost 90.

Frank Lautenberg, I've known him for long time. He's a great guy. And he's still very active, still very lively. He's got legislation that he wants to introduce on guns. He's still pretty active. You know, you're getting to be 90 years old, maybe there's something else he wants to do.

BANFIELD: Can I tell you something, Wolf?

BLITZER: I wish him the best, obviously.

BANFIELD: My step-dad, Graham -- I don't know if he's watching right now, but he is 91. And there are no flies on that man. He's like Superman. I'm telling you, no flies on Lautenberg either. I've meet him, too. He's a great guy.


BLITZER: Frank Lautenberg, he's very -- he's very active, very lively, very smart. Doing a good job for the people of New Jersey. And if he decides to step aside and not run, I think Cory Booker, who is exploring -- let's be precise. He's exploring the possibility.

BANFIELD: I should have used that in my headline. I'm sorry. I think I said "has decided," but you're right, he's exploring.

Hey, Wolf, I'm going to take a little holiday after today's show, so I won't see you until the New Year. So have a nice holiday, my friend.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. You did a great job, by the way, on this Connecticut shooting. It was good to see you up there.

BANFIELD: Thank you. BLITZER: Thank you.

BANFIELD: It was good to see you too, and I hope we reunite under different circumstances in the field.

BLITZER: I hope so, yes.

BANFIELD: Take care.

BLITZER: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And I also want to remind viewers, Wolf, about your show, every day 4:00 eastern right here on CNN. Best in the business right there beside me.

Happy holidays, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.


BANFIELD: There was a time when kids had to worry about putting in their backpacks was lunch and books, but now, after Friday's shooting, there are fears amongst parents when they send kids to school that no place is safe. If you can believe this, some parents are buying bulletproof backpack inserts for their children's backpacks.

Our Miguel Marquez has the details.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a disturbing sign of the times.

(on camera): You guys make inserts for children's backpacks?


MARQUEZ: Bullet-resistant inserts?

BRAND: That's correct.

MARQUEZ: This is one of them?


MARQUEZ: Show us how this work.

BRAND: This is our military-grade product.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): COO Rich Brand says in the last week sales have jumped 500 percent and they're still climbing, desperate parents trying to protect their kids in the most extreme situations.

(GUNFIRE) MARQUEZ: The material will not stop high velocity rounds like the up ones used in Newtown, but three shots with a .9 millimeter at point- blank range --

BRAND: All of the kinetic energy and penetration was absorbed with the armor.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Three small holes, the armor is a little stiffer. The rounds are inside here?

BRAND: That's correct.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): And Amendment II is not alone. In Boston, Bullet Blocker promises "your peace of mind is our business." In Austin, Texas, says sales are up 50 percent. New customers are schools and day care facilities.


MARQUEZ: Even the Colombian designer of fashionable protective clothing has a request for bullet-resistant garments for a toddle.

(on camera): People do say you're profiting off of terror and horror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's the last thing we wanted to do. This is something we put out there at the request of parents trying to meet the neat.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Amendment II says its proprietary carbon-nano 2 material lends to a product some teachers have asked for, a protective blanket.

(on camera): Because of the lightweight nature of the material that the company uses, they say it could be used as a mat in a school, for instance. In an emergency, for protection.

(voice-over): At Salt Lake City, Get Some Guns and Ammo owner, Stuart Wallin, says protective gear won't stop a killer, only another gun will.

STUART WALLIN, OWNER, GET SOME GUNS AND AMMO: If you knew every teacher in the school had a gun, you would think differently about your little plan.

MARQUEZ: Since 1995, Utah has allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons. The law is yet to be tested, but after Newtown, anything seems possible.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Salt Lake City.







BANFIELD: Yikes! That's how Hollywood sees it. That's Hollywood's version of doomsday from the movie "2012." Awesome. Great. I love those effects.

A lot of people are convinced that the world as we know it is going to end, in fact, tomorrow. It's going to happen, they say, because a centuries-long cycle of the Mayan calendar due to end on the Winter Solstice, which is December 21st. We should point out that the Mayans themselves, the modern day Mayans are not buying into all of this. They're quick to tell you that a brand-new cycle of their cycle will start on Saturday. That would be the day after the end of the world.

However, this is not stopping all the thrill seekers and party-goers that really, really believe this myth, and they're pouring into Chichen Itza, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. As you might expect, a lot of businesses couldn't be more thrilled about this craziness. They're raking in the profits to the tune of an estimated $15 billion in tourist money.

Nick Parker, who is not on vacation, but is working, is reporting from one of the greatest Mayan centers.

First of all, how many people are you encountering there just there for the fun of it all, and how many are there because they truly believe this is the end of it all, Nick?

NICK PARKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an interesting question. I would say probably 70 percent, 80 percent of the tourists you see behind me now and sort are in the morning and a steady stream coming in here, 70 percent or 80 percent are here because they're intrigued by the idea of it and tantalized by the date. I would say maybe 20 percent or so or maybe 30 percent are here because they believe that it's the end of an era, that the Mayan calendar ending is highly significant, and it corresponds with certain astronomical beliefs they may have. We've seen a lot of some spiritualists that converged around the world here in Yucatan in Chichen Itza and in the wider region.

BANFIELD: So I suppose the fact that most people believe everything is OK -- in fact, NASA has put it out on the web site that we'll be OK after tomorrow. This is great news for the locals there? They are bringing in a lot of money. They must be thrilled about the tourism.

PARKER: Yes. It's interesting. If you go to a Mayan community -- and there's only about a half hour drive from here, which has hardly changed in 200 or 300 years. They still have thatched houses and cell phones -- you see a situation where a lot of the Mayans believe in the calendar, but they haven't all seen the economic benefit yet trickle down away from the hotels here.

BANFIELD: All right. Nick Parker, if you're still there tomorrow, and we are, too, we'll see you then. And thank you for reporting.

Thank you, everyone, for watching. NEWSROOM begins now with Suzanne Malveaux.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Here's what's going on right now.

The first major storm of the season hitting the Midwest, closing roads, forcing holiday travelers to stay home. A blizzard warning stretches from eastern --