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Four Former Massachusetts Governors Attend Service; Boston Police Looking For Two Men; Up To 15 Killed In Texas Explosion; Air Quality After The Texas Blast

Aired April 18, 2013 - 13:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Boston bombing and the explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant. I'm Erin Burnett here in Boston.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm also Jake -- and I'm also here in Boston. I'm Jake Tapper. We have reporters across the country who are covering these two stories, here in Boston, of course, the terrorist attacks and then, of course, the explosion in Texas.

All they could do was watch and then duck for cover. This is that incredible moment yesterday when a major fire turned into almost complete devastation for a small town near Waco, Texas. It's a chemical plant. It makes fertilizer and it's surrounded by homes and schools. The fire is still right now burning. More than 60 homes were either leveled or badly damaged. And emergency crews are still searching for a few first responders who are missing. A few minutes ago, we heard from the governor of Texas, Rick Perry.


RICK PERRY, GOVERNOR, TEXAS: To that end, I am declaring McLennan County a disaster. We'll request an emergency declaration from the president. I also want to commend the hard work put in again by Chief Kidd and his team at the Texas Division of Emergency Management. They quickly responded to this disaster. It is unfortunate for us that we face both natural and manmade disasters all too often in this state. But the bright side of that is that we've got the finest emergency management team in this country. And it is very important to stress that, at this point, much of the information that we have is still very preliminary. And more information is coming in all the time.


BURNETT: There are a lot of questions, obviously, about what happened and how that happened in Texas last night. Here in Boston, the memorial service, which the president attended, wrapped up just a short time ago. It was a very poignant beautiful service I thought watching it honoring those killed and wounded in Monday's twin bombing here in Boston.

The focus of the (INAUDIBLE) service was on healing and the spiritual wounds caused by the attacks. Watching, I saw some people singing and there were tears streaming down their faces. The president offered words of reassurance to the families, to the killed and to the wounded. He also had praise for the city of Boston. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You showed us, Boston, that in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what's good. In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion. In the face of those who would visit death upon innocence, we will choose to save and the comfort and to heal.


BURNETT: Police identified two men seen in images near the finish line moments before the explosions. Our Deborah Feyerick has reported on this extensively. They've been looking at these pictures of the man and said that perhaps the bags that they were carrying were bigger than they should have been. Photos have been circulated to state and law enforcement agencies, but the pictures are not being released to the public yet because they're worried in so doing they could impede the investigation. It is still unclear whether this was an act of domestic or foreign terrorism, Jake, which seems to be, you know, the huge question out there and unanswered at this time.

TAPPER: Also, just the debate going on in law enforcement circles right now about whether or not to release the photographs, to get the help of the public. Do you know who these people are? And then there's the risk of course of tipping them off that they know --


TAPPER: -- who they are.

Another story we need to update you on. A Mississippi man has now been charged with making threats against President Obama and sending threatening letters to him and to a Mississippi Republican senator wicker. Paul Kevin Curtis was arrested at his home in Corinth, Mississippi for allegedly sending letters to the president and to Senator Wicker. Final tests are being carried out right now to determine definitively if those letters are contaminated with the deadly poison, ricin. As we know, initial tests are often wrong, false positive. But the initial test did say that they were contaminated with ricin.

BURNETT: All right. And now, one of these images that most of us will remember from the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in west Texas. The city's medical director, his face bloodied, organizing the search and rescue effort after he had obviously undergone injuries himself. And then updating reporters on the situation.


DR. GEORGE SMITH, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, WACO, TEXAS: There was just a major, major explosion. The windows came in on me, the roof came in on me, the ceiling came in. I worked my way out to go get some more help. Of course, we lost all communication because the power went out. The (INAUDIBLE) station has badly damaged a whole 1,500 block of still meadow which is the closest street to it. My son lives there, luckily he was on the second floor when he fell down or the roof would have fallen on him. His house -- that whole street is gone.


BURNETT: Dr. George Smith is on the phone with us right now. And, Dr. Smith, first of all, how are you doing? You know, we see that picture of you last night. We see your face bloodied. How are you today?

SMITH (via telephone): I'm doing fine. I promised DMS (ph) people I'd go to the hospital. So, about 4:00 in the morning when we got things calmed down, I (INAUDIBLE) Hospital and had everything sutured I needed to get sutured. So, I'm all right.

BURNETT: Well, I'm glad to hear that, sir. And what can you tell us about the other casualties? There seems to be so much uncertainty today as I know they're still going door-to-door. How many people do you know at this point lost their lives?

SMITH: There are somewhere between five and 15. We haven't really been able to get in yet because it has not (INAUDIBLE) into the investigation. (INAUDIBLE) now. (INAUDIBLE) the bodies are covered. And we'll have a better picture when we can get in. We have not been allowed in yet.

TAPPER: Dr. Smith, it's Jake tapper here in Boston. We've been told that three to four firefighters were missing or unaccounted for. Can you give us any update on that? Is there -- is there a more concrete number than three or four?

SMITH: We really don't know yet. I know for a fact that two U.S. DMS volunteers are fatalities because my ambulance on the scene was about 400 feet back and they saw the (INAUDIBLE.) (INAUDIBLE) to as many as six (INAUDIBLE) firemen.

TAPPER: And, sir, you were involved in helping evacuate a nearby nursing home. Can you tell us about the status of those patients? Are they all right?

SMITH: Yes. Luckily we had absolutely no fatalities at the nursing home. When I saw the fire, I knew there's chemicals so I went to the nursing home and immediately get them -- transfer them away from the fire at the other part of the building. And I think that maybe saved some lives because the explosion happened right after (INAUDIBLE) away from that side of the building. But all nursing home residents have been accounted for. We were missing 10 earlier, but after we were able to get in, the urban search and rescue teams found there were no bodies. So, it's (INAUDIBLE) because it was very hectic.

BURNETT: Dr. Smith, thank you very much. We both appreciate you're taking the time.

SMITH: You're welcome.

BURNETT: Good luck, sir. We're all hoping for a good outcome for some of these people. We just don't know how they are. I want to get now to the search and rescue command post which is where the focus is still on those missing. As Jake and I were talking before the program, they're out there right now searching door to door to try to find if people are still alive. And Martin Savidge is there for us. So, Martin, have they made any progress or have a better sense of how many people are still missing?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. Those numbers that you continue to hear five to 15, that's the number of casualties. But I've also been told, you know what? Don't put a lot of stock in that. They really just don't know, at this particular point. I asked them, well, what about missing? Do you have any idea of how many people are missing? They say, no. They have no idea. And there's a couple reasons for that. Primarily, in the chaos, in the aftermath of that event last night, they were literally taking the injured and throwing them into the back of police cars and squad cars and sending them off to hospitals. Nobody was writing down names, at that point. Lives were on the line. So, there are a lot of people who have been disbursed. They may be displaced but they are not necessarily missing. And that process is working its way through so that's why the numbers are very fluid.

Talking about the search and rescue. They did it all night long. And they have covered the entire blast area. But that was the kind of quick look to find the obvious. Now, they're going in and doing the very difficult, the very methodical. The problem is so many buildings, so heavily damaged, so dangerous that the search and rescue crews to go into that they literally have to shore the buildings up, hold them up so that the rescuers can go inside and continue to look for survivors. They have not declared this a recovery mission yet. They are saying it is still search and rescue and hope is still strong that they will find more people alive in the ruins -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Marty, thank you. Well, if you're looking to try to help those affected by the Boston bombings or the Texas explosion, please visit CNN's Impact Your World. There are ways there that you can try to help as we know so many people are trying to do. And, you know, they care, they feel so far away but there is a lot you can do. One thing a lot of people have been worried about in the west Texas area was the air quality. You know, when the ammonia exploded last night when we were covering it that people were talking about the fumes and the smell and the fear. So, we're going to have the very latest on that and how significant that ammonia in the air could be after this.


PATRICK SWANTON, SARGEANT, WACO, TEXAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: The last word that I had was that the chemical in the air aspect of it was not a significant concern, apparently that's been somewhat contained or under control.


BURNETT: And we are back now with our other big story here in Boston, Massachusetts. The president, just a few moments ago, arrived at Massachusetts general hospital to visit with the victims. Michelle Obama is visiting victims at Bringham and Women's hospital. And they had just wrapped up the memorial service, the inspiring service, just a short time ago. Our Don Lemon was inside the church during that service and he joins me now live. Don, you know, when I was watching it on T.V., it was -- it was really poignant, even more so than I expected. It made you sort of choke up. What was it like to be in that space?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you think it was -- if you choked up being outside watching on television, I hope that I can convey to you what it was like on the inside. It was a very solemn service. And, quite frankly, a very beautiful service and a very moving service. And I don't mean this in a cynical way, but as it all started to play out, as the speakers started to speak, as the president spoke, I kept thinking, Erin, we have been -- we have covered so many tragedies lately. We have covered so many acts of terrorism whether it's by gunfire, whether it's by explosion, that we collectively are becoming too adept at reporting this, speaking on it and almost too elegant. These things should be things that shock us and leave us speechless. And it's happened so much, we seem to be doing it by routine.

It was moving in the sense that the speakers there who talked about the firefighters, the rescuers, the volunteers, the heroes who finally felt that people appreciated what they had done and they got time to reflect in that service on what had happened and what they had done.

And I looked around as the president was speaking, as Governor Deval Patrick was speaking and I looked around and saw these big rugged guys with tears in their eyes. This one woman was sitting next to me in a gray suit, she had gray hair. And the entire time she was crying her head was down during the ceremony. There was also a gentleman sitting next to me who was also I would imagine one of the family members involved in the tragedy. He was with his two daughters, a teenage daughter and a pre-teen daughter and his wife sitting next to me. And when the children's chorus of Boston started to sing, the entire family just really broke out into tears and started crying.

And I think one of the most poignant moments to me I think Boston needed this, I think the victims families needed this. I think the country really need to grieve and reflect on what had happened. I saw these big guys with tears in their eyes when the president said, listen, they messed with the wrong city, stiff upper lip pushing their chins out trying to hold back the tears and standing up applauding the president saying, you know, collectively, we're going to get over this, we're going to get over this. You did mess with the wrong city.

And so it was very moving. And also I think it's important to point out when you look at the list of speakers, you know it sounds like a rabbi, a preacher, a priest, a Jew, an Hispanic walk into a church, but that's exactly what happened here today. And it was a true reflection of America. You had speakers from every different type of faith, every different background, you had an African-American governor, a black President of the United States, all in unison saying that the country will get over this, Boston will get over this. It was a true reflection of America. And I was quite honored to be there and I think it was exactly what the country needed to hear today. BURNETT: Don Lemon, thank you very much. I want to just for a moment listen, you know, as Don so describing what it was like to be there just to have us for a moment listen to what President Obama had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our prayers are with the injured. So many wounded, some gravely. From their beds some are surely watching us gather here today. And if you are, know this. As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you. Your commonwealth is with you. Your country is with you. We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that, I have no doubt you will run again.


You will run again because that's what the people of Boston are made of. Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act. If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us, to shake us from those values that Deval described, the values that make us who we are as Americans, well, it should be pretty clear by now that they picked the wrong city to do it.


Not here in Boston.


Our love for each other. Our love for country. Our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences there may be, that is our power. That's our strength. That's why a bomb can't beat us. That's why we don't hunker down. That's why we don't cower in fear. We carry on. We race. We strive. We build and we work and we love and we raise our kids to do the same. And we come together to celebrate life and to walk our cities and to cheer for our teams. when the Sox and Celtics and Patriots or Bruins are champions again to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans, the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston street. And this time next year on the third Monday in April the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston marathon.


Bet on it.


BURNETT: You hear the president speaking, but as he finishes there are so many questions surrounding the investigation of the Boston bombings. What we do know right now the very latest we understand is they have honed in on a couple crucial images of two men who were hovering by the finish line. I want to go to exactly what we know about those images right now because they could be the key to finding out who did this heinous act. That's after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need every ambulance we can get this way. A bomb just went off inside here. It's pretty bad.


BURNETT: President Obama has offering praise to the police and firefighters who rushed to the fire and explosion at the West, Texas fertilizer plant last night. In a statement today the president offered prayer and support for a shaken community. He wrote "West is a town that many Texans -- are continuing to respond to the tragedy. I want you to know they have the support of the American people."

TAPPER: Here in Boston President Obama attended an interfaith service honoring the victims of Monday's bombing. He told the congregation that the spirit of the city remains undaunted. Authorities say they're making significant progress in the investigation. They're trying to identify two men, these men appeared in images near the finish line moments before the blasts.

Deborah Feyerick joins me now. Deb, so I know law enforcement officials have been debating whether or not they are going to release these images. Have they made any decision? Are they still grappling with this issue?

DEB FEYERICK , CNN CORRESPONDENT" No, there's been no determination as to whether to release those photos. Those photos you're referring to were widely circulated yesterday. They showed two young men, both of them carrying bags. One is a backpack, the other is sort of a sling shoulder bag. But now after speaking to an intelligence source, I am told that in fact investigators are dialing back on those two individuals. They were clearly wanted or of interest because of where they were standing, how they were standing, the size of the bags. But right now it looks like those two individuals are sort of falling farther down on the list of people who need to be identified.

There's been a lot of reporting about who these two individuals might be. And CNN has actually reached out to some people who know these two individuals. So right now looks like those two are falling down the list. There's still a lot of other suspects.

That's one of the things, Jake and Erin, we've been talking about is investigators have to rule things out. There are so many images that are out there. It's important that they identify people and say they're not of interest as it is to say, you know, this one goes sort of on the priority list. That's what they're doing right now. We were told earlier that in fact investigators are looking at surveillance video from weeks past. They want to see if there was anybody walking the marathon route who may have looked suspicious, may have been checking out for example the tree where it's believed one of the devices may have been placed. So all of that is underway. And the teams like we're doing on some levels, the investigators are brainstorming, they're trying to figure out whether the bombs went off as they were supposed to. Whether one was supposed to go off first and then the second. So there's a lot of things that are going on. In a way it's been a quieter day for investigators as far as the glare of the media spotlight because the president is in town. They've been able to do what it is they're hoping to get done. Right now no determination on whether there are going to be any photographs released or any presser today, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Deb, I spent some time with an amateur photographer who took a bunch of pictures of the marathon, his boss's wife was running in the marathon. He posted these images on Flickr. He let the FBI know about them. And since then they've been clicked upon, his Flickr site, 7 million times. This tremendous interest by the public in looking into these photographs. Obviously a lot of conspiracy theorists out there. It's like the film on steroids. Are law enforcement officials still interested in getting images, photographs from the public, or did they feel like that area has been covered?

FEYERICK: No, you know, look, absolutely. They don't want to leave anything unturned when it comes to what it is they're looking at. And various images from various angles may show a detail that is missed in a photograph that they already have. So it is crucial that they get those. Jake, just to mention, there's another image of a young man who seems to be bolting away from the scene of the crime. Even that young man has been sort of lowered down on the list. I spoke to one person who said, look, everybody's a suspect until they're not a suspect. So everyone's trying to avoid that language until we really know who we're talking about and what we're looking at, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you, Deborah Feyerick. Check in with you in a bit.

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