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Seeking Shelter From The Storm; Jodi Arias Asked to be Spared Death Penalty; Anthony Weiner Announces Run for NYC Mayor

Aired May 22, 2013 - 05:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: The painful transition from search and rescue as we learn the tornado that leveled Moore, Oklahoma, was even stronger than first thought.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Lending a helping hand. Oklahoma asking for the country's help to recover from this massive devastation.

SAMBOLIN: And a little girl gone. A family struggling to put back the pieces after losing their 9-year-old daughter Ja'Nae.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman live in Moore, Oklahoma, this morning. And this town of 56,000 people really picking up the pieces this morning after one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the nation. You can see what it did to this neighborhood all around me. The National Weather Service now confirms that this 1.3-mile-wide monster that roared through here Monday afternoon, killing 24 people, it was an EF-5 tornado. EF-5. The scale does not go any higher than that.

The twister packed 210-mile-an-hour winds at its peak, left 2,400 homes damaged, 10,000 people directly impacted, and damage that is expected to top $1 billion. It will be expensive to recover, it will be hard. We've also learned the schools here, they will be closed for the rest of the school year.

As we said, recovery here will not be easy. And right now, the entire country seems willing to lend a hand. Everyone looking for ways to help Oklahoma through this terrible tragedy. I'm joined again by Pamela Brown with that part of the story. Good morning, Pam. What's the greatest need here would you say?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the need is great overall here, John. I mean, a lot of people are waking up today without a loved one, without a home like right behind us here. So, right now, officials of this community are looking for basic for people, like batteries, like flashlights, even tetanus shots for people who might have stepped on a nail.

Also, Oklahoma's governor talked about the need for counseling, support, for those people that we talked about who are waking up today with really nothing, but perhaps, loved ones that they're surrounded by.

BERMAN: And from the outside, how are people from the outside trying to help people here?

BROWN: Well, there's actually an incredible outpouring of support from the outside. We were just at the University of Oklahoma yesterday where they're providing temporary housing and they were inundated with donations. Diapers, children's clothing, anything you could possibly imagine. And also, a lot of celebrities are stepping up to the plate here.

Toby Keith who's actually from this area talked about the fact that he's holding a benefit concert. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.


TOBY KEITH, SINGER: Well, always when these things happen, music people get together. And I've had 500 text messages from people all over the music world saying, what are we doing? You know, we want to help. And that's just everybody's way.


BROWN: And -- go ahead.

BERMAN: I said I saw the same stacks of diapers and stacks supplies in some of the centers. This isremarkable how much aid is pouring in.

BROWN: Yes. Everyone really wants to help. And you look at -- we mentioned celebrities. Kevin Durant, of course, the big basketball star of the Oklahoma City Thunder, he's stepping up and donating a million dollars to the Red Cross through his foundation. Also, baseball player, Matt Kemp said that he's going to donate $1,000 for a home run.

So, you see so many different examples of people willing to help. And also, just everyday people, you know, digging into their pockets, donating to the Red Cross, donating to the salvation army, and there's also an Oklahoma City tornado relief fund, as well. So, there are many ways that people can help out.

BERMAN: And of course, there's also If you want to find out how you can help, please come to our website, We have all sorts of information for people there, how can they chip in and help this community. Money, in so many ways, is the greatest need. That may be the easiest way to help out here. Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Immediately after Monday's disaster, an Oklahoma storm shelter, the storm shelters were filled, business reported about a tenfold increase in phone calls about having a safe room or an underground bunker. People understandably wanting that extra bit of security. And as Gary Tuchman explains, some people here believe that having one may have been the difference between life and death.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The people who lived in this house that has destroyed survived. They survived because they left well in advance. But if they did not leave well in advance, they would have survived also because they had this heavy metal storm shelter. I want to show you how it works. You open the door and you take a look inside. And you see, it's very cramped inside.

There's not much room, but plenty of room to survive. Walk down the steps with your family, you could probably fit seven or eight people and fit important things in here, clothing, pictures, valuables. You come in and then you just shut the door, and you are safe and sound as a tornado goes above you.

There's no doubt the people would've survived if they went inside this shelter. When the storm's over, you open it up and you all come out. One thing to keep in mind, you may say, wow, if the rubble falls on this, how do you get out? Well, you don't lift it out. You slide it, and you slide it under here. Now, if the rubble falls on top of here, lots of rubble, you may not be able to slide it.

But then you're alive and presumably you've told your relatives you're in there and they told rescuers and they come and they rescue you. Now, one thing you might wonder, why don't schools in the tornado belt in Oklahoma and Texas and Kansas all have storm shelters, all have basements? Well, you should point out, it's not a law.

And the fact is, many school districts say it's just not economically feasible to have these. They cost several thousand dollars, these personal shelters.


BERMAN: It's interesting, one of these on this block where I'm standing. We saw people yesterday bringing supplies out of their storm shelters. Things they have kept underground there. So much of this neighborhood is water logged because the rain was just pouring down here yesterday. But the stuff that was in that storm shelter was dry and usable. Another argument for getting one of these things.

And a storm shelter salesman says that most of the interest over the past couple of days has actually come from areas that just missed a direct hit. Something to think about.

Coming up, a grieving family speaks out. We will hear from the family of nine-year-old Jenae Hornsby lost from the storm hit her elementary school. Stay with us.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone to the special edition of EARLY START live here in Moore, Oklahoma. The slow, painful process of recovering now begins for people who really have lost so much. And for families like the Hornsbys, it is an especially painful time. Nine-year-old Jenae was a third grader at Plaza Towers Elementary School. She did not survive when the tornado hit. CNNs Anderson Cooper spoke with Jenae father, an Iraq war vet, also her aunt.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: When you first saw it, what did you think?

JOSHUA HORNSBY, JENAE'S FATHER: My heart just sank, and I started worrying and panicking. I just needed to find my baby. I just kept waiting and hoping that I'd find her. I was looking through the other kids that were already gotten out and just waiting.

COOPER: When did you get word about her?

JOSHUA HORNSBY: This morning.

COOPER: Where were you? What happened?

JOSHUA HORNSBY: I was at first Baptist Church. They had opened a shelter for parents that haven't found their kids.

COOPER: What do you want people to know about your daughter?

JOSHUA HORNSBY: Just she was the best kid anybody could have. She was -- she was Jenae. She was, you know, a ball of energy, a ball of love.

COOPER: Your face lights up when you say her name.

JOSHUA HORNSBY: Yes, that's my baby.

COOPER: You're nodding your head.

ANGELA HORNSBY, JENAE'S AUNT: Because, I mean, there is no other kid like her. We're a unique bunch, and she is all of our uniqueness balled up into one. And, she's the sweetest thing, the bossiest thing, the most fun. Always trying to make us laugh. She's just a sweet baby. Sweet baby.

COOPER: Does it seem real yet?

JOSHUA HORNSBY: No. It still ain't sunk in. I'm still hoping, you know, for that call and say we made a mistake, you know? I just pray that's what it is, you know? That's all I can hope for. But, just got to take it as it is.

COOPER: How do you face something like this?

JOSHUA HORNSBY: Just got to face it minute-by-minute, day-by-day, there's no way to face it. Just got to be strong and carry on.

COOPER: Does it seem real to you?

ANGELA HORNSBY: At moments. You know, when it hurts, it feels real. But then when I can laugh and talk, it's not really more than something will happen, it hurts and the pain is real. The pain is real, and I have a daughter who's 14. COOPER: How did you tell your daughter?

ANGELA HORNSBY: I broke down and she was nearby. And I don't think she knew was it a relief sob or a pained sob. And then, she asked me, is she OK. And I just -- I told her she didn't make it.

JOSHUA HORNSBY: Life, you know, it's not fair. You've just got to take what life gives you. You know what I mean? I can sit and dwell on it and, you know, let it ruin me or I can, you know, make my baby proud and keep pushing on like I know she would want me to do.


BERMAN: It's hard to hear. And our hearts do go out to that family and all the families that lost loved ones here in Moore, Oklahoma.

So, where you take cover during a storm like this, it can make so much of a difference. Up next, we'll hear from a family who is making news because of the way they survived a powerful tornado in their hometown.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. So, when a twister packing 200-mile- an-hour winds comes roaring through your neighborhood, deciding where to take cover can make all the difference in survival. Two years ago, deadly tornadoes tore up the town of Athens, Alabama, 250 people died. But one family, one family made national news because of the way that they survived. Here's John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There wasn't much left. The Harrisons, Kevin and Sarah Beth navigated through the debris that was once their home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it was her -- her bath stall that she used to take a bath. But --

ZARRELLA: A bit dirty now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It's a little dirty now.

ZARRELLA: The tornado had done what big tornadoes do, wrecking just about everything in its path as it careened through Athens, Alabama, two years ago, one of a series of storms that killed about 250 people. A memory here or there is all that Kevin and Sarah Beth hope to find.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Found another family picture. This is this year's Christma picture, which was one of our ornaments. I found one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It only lasts about 30 seconds. About 30 seconds, I thought there was a hot chance of, you know, being read about in the papers.

ZARRELLA: This is what kept the Harrisons alive, a safe room. Kevin and his dad built it inside the family's detached garage. After the storm, the garage was gone. All that stood was the homemade concrete and cinder block safe room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a humbling experience altogether, you know, how little we are, you know, and how it can all change in a second.

ZARRELLA: This single image of the Harrisons emerging alive with their children in their arms went viral. A survival story captured without a word needing to be spoken. The Harrisons were later honored and rewarded at a federal alliance for safe homes gathering in Orlando.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deluxe model triple dead bolts.

ZARRELLA: A company that manufactures safe rooms donated one to the Harrisons. So, where to put it, Kevin and Sarah Beth had just the spot. Bolted to the garage floor of their new home in a new neighborhood. Since the Alabama tornadoes, all weather safe rooms has installed an average of two a week, most in towns and communities impacted in the past.

KEVIN JULIAN, ALL WEATHER SAFE ROOMS: It's heart wrenching to go in and see the devastation and know that a lot of these people didn't have to die. They could have had a safe place to go.

ZARRELLA: The Harrisons know that what happened in their old neighborhood that April afternoon will always be with them. The moments of fear, the numbness at the sight of all the destruction, smoke rising from piles of rubble and an orange sun setting over the one thing left standing, that handmade room that saved their lives.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


BERMAN: They can make such a difference. Safe rooms undoubtedly saved lives here on Monday. I want to show you a map right now. Take a look at this map of Moore. Look at all these green dots you're going to see in the twister's path. Every single one of them marks a safe room that was built with the help of FEMA.

It can make all the difference, Zoraida. It is certainly something to consider for families who live in storm zones like this one.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the affordability of that is what I wonder about, right, if everybody can actually have the money to build one of those. Thank you for that, John. I had never seen one of those before.

Forty-nine minutes past the hour. In just a few hours, an Arizona jury resumes deliberations in the Jodi Arias murder trial. Jurors must decide whether Arias will face the death penalty now. On Tuesday, Arias asked them to spare her life.

She says she could make a difference in prison, teaching fellow inmates how to read, helping victims of domestic violence, and even donating her hair to locks of love. Last night, she gave an interview from jail. CNNs Casey Wian has more.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jodi Arias began her plea for her life with an acknowledgment, the pain she has caused the family of Travis Alexander, the former boyfriend she brutally murdered in 2008.

JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED MURDERER: Nothing drove that point for me more than when I heard them speak last week. I never meant to cause them so much pain. To this day, I can hardly believe I was capable of such violence, but I know that I was. And for that, I'm going to be sorry for the rest of my life.

WIAN (on-camera): The rest of arias' statement to the jury was in sharp contrast to the interview she gave to a local reporter minutes after her conviction, then she spoke of suicide and said she would prefer the death penalty.

ARIAS: I know then that if I'd got life instead of death, I could become employed, self-reliant. I didn't know if I got life, there were many things I can do to affect positive change and contribute in a meaningful way. In prison, there are programs I can start and people I can help.

WIAN: Arias promised among other things to continue her practice of donating hair to cancer victims and to teach Spanish, sign language and reading to other inmates. One surprise, she displayed the T-shirt she's been selling to raise money for domestic violence victims even though the jury rejected her claims that she killed Alexander in self- defense.

ARIAS: Some people may not believe that I am a survivor of domestic violence, they're entitled to their opinion. I'm supporting this cause because it's very, very important to me.

WIAN: As convicted killer, Jodi Arias, waits for a jury to decide if she will be executed or sentenced to life in prison, she's sat for a new round of media interviews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had ample opportunities to apologize to Travis Alexander's family. It doesn't seem like you did it today. Why didn't you apologize to them?

ARIAS: I did apologize to them in my allocation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never heard you say I'm sorry.

ARIAS: I don't think I used those two words. But, I feel that I conveyed my remorse. And if I didn't adequately convey it, then I regret that. But --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to do it now?

ARIAS: Well, there's nothing I can do to take back what I did. I wish that I could. I really, really wish that I could. WIAN: Earlier Tuesday, she began pleading for the jury to spare her life by acknowledging the pain she has caused the family of Travis Alexander, the former boyfriend she brutally murdered in 2008. Without any mitigation witnesses testifying on her behalf, it was entirely left to Arias to appeal for mercy by showing her artwork and family photos.

ARIAS: Every time I've had the thought or desire to commit suicide, there's one element that is always -- almost always caused me to waver. They're sitting right over there. They're my family. Either way, I'm going to spend the rest of my life in prison. It'll either be shortened or not. If it's shortened, the people who will hurt the most are my family. I'm asking you please, please don't do that to them.

WIAN: Alexander's Family watched in silence. Their faces saying everything.

Casey Wian, CNN, Phoenix.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-three minutes past the hour. New this morning, Anthony Weiner's political comeback has officially started. Early this morning, the former New York congressman debuted his for New York City mayor on YouTube. You remember Weiner resigned in disgrace after he tweeted lewd photos of himself to several women.

In a two-minute video, you see Weiner strolling through the Brooklyn neighborhood where he grew up. He even acknowledges, sort of, the troubles that shut down his rise to stardom.


ANTHONY WEINER, FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN: Look, I made big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down, but I've also learned some tough lessons. I'm running for mayor because I've been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life. And I hope I get a second chance to work for you.


SAMBOLIN: At the end of the video, it features Weiner sitting on a stoop with his wife, Huma Abdein, who has stood by him.

Fifty-three -- 54 minutes past the hour. Coming up, we take you back to Moore, Oklahoma, for a story you don't want to miss. A teacher who turned into an incredible hero. How Janice Brim (ph) saved her sixth graders as the tornado leveled their elementary school?


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Janice Brim (ph) is a teacher by trade with a class of sixth graders in the Plaza Towers Elementary School. You know, many of us think teachers are always heroes. But on Monday, she became a lifesaver. On the advice of her husband who works in construction, she took shelter in a closet with her students as the tornado simply leveled their school.

That is exactly where her husband found her when he rushed to the school to help and he talked to Anderson Cooper about this experience.


COOPER: So, you go in there, you see the hallway's destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going down the hallway. There's knee deep of stuff, all the roof now, all the ceiling stuff, everything is down on the floors, plus her shingles from the houses all around are down on the floor, and crawling through and I could see the printer closet and it was three quarters of the way covered from stuff on the outside.

And I'm banging on the door with a piece of metal yelling, yelling at her. And I could hear them in there. And pretty soon, a guy comes up on top of the wall and says, hey, I can see them through the top, I'm going to try to lift them out.

About this time, the teachers that were in the bathrooms, they come out and the kids are just screaming and crying, and the teachers, some of them were -- one of them was barefoot and the kids were trying to get out and there were still some electricity because I saw some lights and I said walk down the hall here, keep your hands on the wall, don't touch any wires, and so, they began to filter out one at a time.

I said just help the one in front of you, OK? They were just crying so hard and the teachers were helping them out. About that time, some other men began to come from other areas, two or three in the hall. So, they started helping them out and some more guys were showing up.

To me, it was amazing to watch over the five-minute period that I was there, the number of men and women that were coming from the neighborhoods that had been destroyed to come and help try to pull out the kids. We worked our way around back where the rescue area was, where the walls were falling down.

COOPER: And you saw her again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Janice, when they brought her out of the room, we saw each other, I threw a jacket, and she knew she need to go find some people. I went with some other guys to see if we can clear some other rooms. I was just glad that she was OK.


BERMAN: It was the quick thinking of teachers like that in the immediately quick response of workers like that that really helped save lives. Such a wonderful thing to see here in this town of Moore, Oklahoma.

A special edition of EARLY START live from this city continues right now.