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Family Describes Living Through Las Vegas Massacre; Beyond The Call Of Duty; Season Three Of "The Wonder List" Takes You To Patagonia. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 6, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:31:25] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It is the victims, their families, the survivors, the first responders. Those are the most important stories out of the Las Vegas massacre. Those are the people you should always remember.

And a family is with us this morning going through unimaginable pain.

Paige and Stephanie Melanson were at the country music concert with their mother, Rosemarie. You see that happy picture there. That's when the shots rang out.

A bullet hit Rosemarie. Paige was also grazed by a bullet, as well. Rosemarie, their mother, is still in critical condition at the hospital.

And with us is her husband Steve, as well as her two daughters. Thank you for being here.

And Steve, let me just start with you. How is Rosemarie doing? I know she just got out of her second surgery. How's she doing?

STEVE MELANSON, WIFE SHOT AND CRITICALLY WOUNDED AT FESTIVAL: She's doing better. She's still critical. Still can't talk, though.

She's still on life support with a ventilator. She has improved.

She had more -- after talking with the doctor she had more damage than what we thought. I talked to the doctor last night and she's developed a complication with her kidneys.

Her kidneys were also injured, as you put it, because of the loss of blood -- the amount of loss of blood to her kidneys so now, the doctors are addressing that issue. But they're optimistic and hopeful that she'll overcome the situation with her kidneys.

The bullet passed through right about here and from the trajectory from the 32nd floor went through her body and ended up in her abdomen. Unknown to us for a few days until we spoke with the doctor, it penetrated her stomach, it penetrated her spleen, and it also penetrated her lung, and her liver took the brunt of the force of the bullet.

HARLOW: Wow. You know, girls, Stephanie and Paige, I know -- we were talking in the break. I know what it's like to be in that room with a parent when they're on a ventilator and they can't talk to you, and it is so scary. But I also know that your mom knows you're there.

So why don't you tell us -- as she is recovering, why don't you, Stephanie, start to tell us a little bit about your mom. I mean, that picture of you guys at the concert -- this was a fun-loving mom you have.


It was a Mother's Day present from my boyfriend and I. My sister and I have gone to the concert since the first year. We've attended every year. We'd come home and talk to our mom and tell her how much fun we were having. And we enjoy country music, we enjoy our friends, we enjoy the company.

And she talked about wanting to go one year and we were so excited that she could come this year, so, it's hard.

HARLOW: Of course.

STEPHANIE MELANSON: But we finally were able to take her and this was the outcome of it.

HARLOW: Paige, I know you were also shot. I mean, you took a bullet. It grazed your arm. I'm glad to see you're doing OK but it is terrifying and I know --


HARLOW: I know it was 11 hours between when you guys knew if your mom was even OK.

P. MELANSON: Yes, yes. It was horrifying, really. And I got separated from everyone.

[07:35:00] I was taken by ambulance to the hospital to get treated for my arm. But because there were so many more people that were so much more severe than I was, you know, I was in and out because they just said -- you know, they checked my vitals after an I.V. and said you know, can you walk? I said absolutely and they said OK, come back the next day.

So my arm was actually wrapped when I got to the hospital already. The first responders had a tent on Las Vegas Boulevard and had wrapped my arm already there. So they didn't even look at it when I initially got to the hospital.

And then from there, I had to go home and tell my grandma -- her mom -- that there had been an accident and we didn't know where she was. And so, with that, I had to stay by her side. She's 88 years old so, I mean, she could not afford to be up and running around all over town looking for her either. So I had to stay with her and just stay and wait and hope and pray that she was found.

The second we were, you know, informed that she was found we were down there at the hospital. And then, as soon as I saw her and made sure I saw her breathing, I went and checked myself back into the E.R. and they had said that the wound was about an inch or two deep and stitched me up. So --

HARLOW: Steve, you are the rock holding your family together right now, your girls by your side. I don't know if you've even had time to process all of this. I mean, you -- there were those 11 hours you thought -- you thought your wife -- love of your life -- you thought Rosemarie might be dead.

STEVE MELANSON: Yes. As everything was happening to the girls and to my wife, about an hour beforehand she texts me -- my wife texted me and said she's having so much fun. So we had a small compensation by text. And then, Stephanie texts me with the same happy thoughts of how much fun they were having.

And then shortly after, within five minutes after, I got a text from Stephanie saying OMG and I'm like OMG? So I thought maybe they saw somebody, you know.

And then the next thing -- the next text was there's a shooting in front of us. And then the next text after that, she says mom is hit and mom is down. That was -- that was the last.

So I called Stephanie and in all the chaos she just told me daddy, daddy, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.


STEVE MELANSON: Then that's the last conversation I had and the last text I spoke with my wife.

So while that all was happening I headed immediately down but I couldn't -- I couldn't get there. The roads were blocked.

So I talked to one sergeant that was there and he told me the best thing to do was head to UMC hospital. That most likely she'd be transported there. So I went there and met other family members there.

And I remember that there was another woman that was there and we talked. She cried -- I told her about my wife. She cried and held me. I cried and I held her.

I asked her about her loved one and she told me that her husband was shot in the head.


STEVE MELANSON: So from there, the police had us go down to the police station with all other family members for briefings and updates.

HARLOW: Right.

STEVE MELANSON: So they had three different times they came out with updates of victims that were in the hospital -- at the seven area hospitals. After the third time, my wife's name was not on the list. My heart sunk to my feet and I thought she's dead. She's not, you know -- that was my first thought.

HARLOW: But she's -- but she is --

STEVE MELANSON: But I still had hope.

HARLOW: Yes, she's a fighter.

STEVE MELANSON: Yes. I still had -- I still had hope. Well, I still had hope that somebody would find her because up until that time we didn't know where she was.

HARLOW: And they -- and --

STEVE MELANSON: But eventually, we were led to Sunrise Hospital --

HARLOW: And they did --

STEVE MELANSON: -- and we found her.

HARLOW: There's this amazing story, Stephanie -- this amazing story.

I mean, first of all, your boyfriend -- you call your boyfriend. This guy served in the Army, served our country. He races over there, in your words, like a bat out of hell. I hope I can say that on morning television. Really though, and here he is like helping you, helping Paige, and saving people's lives with tourniquets.


STEPHANIE MELANSON: Yes. I called him as soon as it happened.

I remember just telling him please just yell -- yell into the phone. I couldn't hear anything on the other line and looked at my phone to make sure the call had gone through. I knew it was going through. I knew he could hear me but I couldn't hear anything.

[07:40:03] And he came down to look for us. And, I mean, he got in between police cars and ambulances -- jumped over curbs as fast as he could. He searched for us and couldn't find us. He searched for my mom and couldn't find my mom.

And he just couldn't help himself but start to help those that had been wounded and hurt, and anything he could do.

HARLOW: I think -- I think this is a guy you keep by your side for a real long -- for a really long time.

Let's talk about meeting with the president. I know that you guys got to meet with the president and the first lady and that was really meaningful. Can you tell us about it?

STEPHANIE MELANSON: Yes. I received a lot of calls and texts about oh my gosh, how exciting. You got to meet the president and the first lady. Like, what was the experience like? What'd you think? And, you know, even in this moment they're real people. He's a real human. She's a real human.

They had a heart. They were caring, they were sympathetic, they had a listening ear. He sends -- he sends his condolences.

HARLOW: And she raced over to hug you.

STEPHANIE MELANSON: It was hard to take in.

Yes, yes -- before he could finish talking she got up and just beelined over to us and just hugged me and told me your mom is strong. She's a fighter, she'll be OK. She's going to make it.

HARLOW: She is, according to what the doctors are telling you. She is a fighter.


HARLOW: Steve, can you just -- can --


P. MELANSON: She's a warrior, that one.

HARLOW: A warrior -- I think that's a good word.

Steve, can you tell us a little bit about what she was like as a mother, especially early on. I mean, I think about when I look at my husband with our daughter and just like how he lights up holding her. What was she like holding these little girls when they were tiny?

STEVE MELANSON: She -- her girls -- all her kids -- all our children -- she was just -- she just lit up like a lightbulb. She was a mother that you would dream about to have raising kids.

She was all for the kids. Put herself secondary to her kids. She always took care of them, saw them through dance school, worked. We worked two jobs.


STEVE MELANSON: In fact, I worked three jobs to help put them through school. You know, put them through dance. Now they're both professional dance teachers and, in fact, they just have their own studio we opened about a year ago.

So we had so much love and support from the students, from the -- from the parents. I mean, the outpouring of love here in Las Vegas, too, not only just our dance friends but the whole community, you know, rallied together.

It was an incredible experience. I mean, we have people that we know and people that we don't know from around the country, from around the world supporting us and it's just an incredible feeling. And my heart goes out to all the family members. I've met several

family members and listened to their stories and it's heartbreaking for those still injured critically and in the hospital, along with my wife. I pray for them. I pray for the families that lost their family members.

HARLOW: yes.

STEVE MELANSON: My heart is broken for them -- for those who lost their loved ones. And I'll always -- I'll always remember them, you know. I don't know them but I will always remember them. So, yes --

HARLOW: We will all always remember them.

And from all of here at CNN, we can't wait until the day that you guys get to sit down, have dinner together, go to your dance studio together, and be your full family again. We wish you all the best. Thank you so much.



P. MELANSON: Thank you.

STEVE MELANSON: Thank you very much.

HARLOW: Chris --

The mother everyone dreamed to be. They worked multiple jobs, raised those girls. Pretty unbelievable.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And now, this which, you know, hopes winds up being ultimately a bonding, you know. But what a way to have to live through something. So many lives affected by something so terrible.

HARLOW: They said they know their mom knows they're in that room. Even though she can't talk to them yet she knows they're standing by her bed.

CUOMO: And they've got a long way to go.

And those stories, you've got to update them.


CUOMO: You've got to stay with these families and children. They come back -- it's part of being connected to this situation.

All right. We're going to have more stories of heroism and horror because of this Las Vegas massacre.

A deputy police chief from Texas is one of the thousands at the music festival when these shots rang out, but this chief stops and puts his life in danger to help people in need. [07:45:00] CNN's Ed Lavandera tells us how he went beyond the call of duty.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bruce Ure had the best seat in the house to the country music festival in Las Vegas, right on stage.

BRUCE URE, DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF, SEGUIN, TEXAS: We were high-fiving, you know, some of the performers. We were talking on stage, walking up to the microphones. It was like a dream come true.

LAVANDERA: But when gunfire killed the music the best seat in the house turned into a front row seat to the most horrific massacre in modern American history.

URE: I felt like I was going to die but I knew I wasn't going to die without fighting.

LAVANDERA: Ure is the deputy police chief in the small Texas town of Seguin. Even after 33 years in law enforcement he'd never experienced an attack like this.

URE: I was right in this corner right here, which is the closest spot --

LAVANDERA (on camera): Right.

URE: -- inside the venue.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): When the gunfire erupted, Chief Ure dropped to the ground. A bullet fragment sliced his finger.

URE: That's probably what saved my life because when that hit, then I knew I was in the wrong spot.

LAVANDERA: Ure and a group of others raced for cover between two buses where he recorded this chilling video.


URE: Bullets were flying everywhere. It reminded me of an old west -- the westerns where the outlaw tells somebody OK, dance, and he starts shooting the ground around him. That's exactly what it was like. You could watch the grounds popping everywhere.

LAVANDERA: Ure knew the only way to survive was to run. As they tried to escape, the killer took aim at them again.

URE: I could hear it hitting the pavement behind us. And then, as we were running you could feel some of the asphalt kicking up on the back of your legs. And I hollered at my friend, what are we -- you know, he's almost on us, and then it stopped.

LAVANDERA: But the horror of the moment was just about to sink in. LAVANDERA (on camera): And where do you find the two people that you helped?

URE: They were right over here. They were right about in here and this is where we drug them to -- this corner over here.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ure found a man with a severe leg wound in a pool of blood. He turned a belt into a tourniquet and stopped a car driving by to race two victims to a hospital.

URE: And so I told the man -- I said hey. I said, I can't let go of this until we get you to a hospital so it's you and me, brother. So --

And they're all crying and they're saying we're going to die, we're going to die. And I told them -- I said too many people have died tonight. You guys aren't.

LAVANDERA (on camera): And you get emotional thinking about, you know, you're looking into that guy's eyes. You get emotional thinking about that.

URE: Yes, yes. Yes, I do. I -- when you have somebody there and you kept thinking they -- you're saving my life, you're saving my life. He said that all the way there.

And finally, I had to tell him just shut up, man. Just shut up. Save your breath.

And, you know, I get it. You're welcome, you're welcome. But you're not -- you're not dying.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Bruce Ure says he was told those two victims survived. He doesn't remember their names.

He's back on the job in Seguin and says he witnessed the greatest evil he'd ever seen that night, but what helps him deal with it is knowing he also witnessed heroic goodness all around him.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Seguin, Texas.


HARLOW: Amazing people.

CUOMO: And, Ed Lavandera, a beautifully told story there. It's important to remind that this isn't just about the one man --


CUOMO: -- who was evil, who was the murderer who stole so many people's lives and their families now afflicted by what he did. There were so many more who did was is right in humanity. Men like this police chief.

We show you the faces now. All 58 lives lost accounted for. These are the people who were stolen by one evil man.

And the test for the rest of us now is to figure out what to do about it. We want to make sure that they are remembered for how they lived, not for how they died.

We'll take a break.


[07:53:28] CUOMO: Season three of "THE WONDER LIST WITH BILL WEIR" premieres tomorrow. The show is just an amazingly beautiful look at things that you may never get to see again.

This one -- well, let me just show it to you and then we're going to have Bill tell us what it's all about.


KRIS TOMPKINS, MULTIMILLIONAIRE DESIGNER TURNED CONSERVATIONIST: We were two foreigners buying up huge tracts of land, all pristine forest, and not cutting the trees. What the hell are they doing?



WEIR: -- if a -- if a Saudi prince bought half of Montana --

TOMPKINS: Exactly.

WEIR: -- or a Chinese national, you'd be, whoa.

TOMPKINS: And, wait a minute, we're foreigners. Border to Argentina to the sea and we didn't cut the trees.

This is some kind of cult and it was serious. There were death threats. You know, military planes flying over our house.

There were all sorts of things. It was quite serious.

WEIR: Because Doug and Kris weren't the kind of neighbors who kept to themselves, they were out to change hearts and minds, practices and policy. And when European power companies unveiled a plan to dam five of the wildest rivers in Patagonia, they helped start a grassroots war of resistance.

Meanwhile, suspicious ranchers and politicians formed a group to stop them, "Patagonia Without Tompkins."


CUOMO: Bill Weir joins us now. Another fascinating look at a part of the world that's in danger.

[07:55:03] WEIR: Right. CUOMO: Take us through the Patagonia issue and then, what do we get to see?

WEIR: So this is a love story, Chris and Poppy.

It's about this couple -- that was Kris McDivitt Tompkins. She met her husband Doug later in life and they both loved the outdoors and both were fabulously wealthy.

She was the CEO of Patagonia, the clothing company. He had formed the North Face and made millions as the head Esprit.

But they felt empty. They had the biggest art collection in the world but they decided to sell it all and start buying land -- big chunks of land in South America -- Chile and Argentina -- because they believe as a human race we're kind of in trouble. We're burning through this planet faster than is healthy and we need to preserve as much biodiversity -- as much pure wilderness as possible.

So they set out to create a series of national parks down in Chile. And you'd think the locals would be gracious and grateful of that.

Instead, it was fierce opposition. They were very suspicious of these gringos with these strange ideas about taking cows out of these valleys and putting jaguars and pumas back in.

And so, in the middle of all this big fight her husband Doug, who loved the outdoors, died on a tragic kayaking trip on a lake in Chile. And so now, this was her first interview -- television interview since he passed and she's carrying the mantle of this mission that they set out on.

Two weeks after Doug Tompkins died, Chile made him an honorary citizen of that country but then reversed it because the politics are so complicated by these foreigners who want to change environmental policy.

But, Patagonia is what has been on my list -- personal list forever, and it's the most gorgeous -- some of the wildest corners of the planet.

HARLOW: This is the third season of "THE WONDER LIST."

WEIR: Yes.

HARLOW: Where else are you going to take us?

WEIR: We're going to go diving to a city that sank into the Nile Delta off the coast of Egypt 1,600 years ago and hold pottery that hasn't been touched since the day it all went crashing --


WEIR: -- into the sea.

We're going to follow the salmon run up into Alaska where there's a big fight between gold miners under the Trump administration and island fishermen who want to preserve the last great salmon run.

We'll take you to New Zealand where more Americans are moving after the election because it's this gorgeous haven down --


WEIR: -- at the bottom of the world where they're trying to poison every rat, and weasel, and mouse on the whole island to save their native bird species.

So we always -- we go around the world looking for just incredible stories --


WEIR: -- that speak to larger themes about change.


WEIR: The precious places we love so much we agree should be preserved and whether our choices are putting those things at risk.

HARLOW: Bill has the best job in television. If you were wondering, that's his assignment.

CUOMO: If you have wanderlust, you want to watch "THE WONDER LIST."

WEIR: Thank you.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something while I have you. Florida, the Keys, where we were --

WEIR: Yes.

CUOMO: -- it's still banged up.

WEIR: Yes.

CUOMO: Puerto Rico's a different order --

WEIR: Yes.

CUOMO: -- of disaster and a bigger challenge.

Where is your head right now in terms of what people need to know about what's going on in Puerto Rico.

WEIR: People need to know that Puerto Rico is the worst humanitarian crisis involving American citizens since Katrina. Since people were, you know, drowning in their attics there. It's a slow-motion disaster.

You were there. You saw it.

So much of the country that you're not seeing outside of San Juan is completely stomped flat and the basic necessities people are fighting sort of hour-by-hour just to survive. They're drinking -- a million people are drinking rainwater and if that were happening in Iowa, you know --

HARLOW: Right.

WEIR: -- or South Carolina, there would, you know, be massive riots.

They're used to sort of colonial second-class status as a commonwealth way down there. The infrastructure's been shot forever. But that story's huge.

And this Vegas shooter -- beyond the carnage on the strip, taking attention away from those American citizens who need, that should be on his head as well.

CUOMO: Good point. Bill --

HARLOW: Thank you, Bill.

CUOMO: -- thank you very much. And thank you for bringing us this treat of being able to see --

HARLOW: Of beauty.

CUOMO: -- beautiful storytelling from places in the world --


CUOMO: -- that need to be preserved.

All of you can watch Bill's craft at work -- the third season premiere of "THE WONDER LIST" tomorrow, 9:00 p.m. eastern. When? Tomorrow, 9:00 p.m. eastern.

All right. There is a lot of news. What do you say on Friday? Let's get after it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone by that same name as the shooter rented a hotel room overlooking Chicago's Grant Park in August.

CUOMO: Authorities are analyzing a note that the shooter left in the hotel room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day, it becomes more confusing.

ERIC CHURCH, SINGER, SONGWRITER: That moment in time, it was frozen. There's no amount of bullets that can take it away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She lived life like it was her last.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a really great guy a lot of people are never going to get to know.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You guys know what this represents?


TRUMP: Maybe it's the calm before the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be nothing, it could be something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he should be calming the storm, he's predicting one.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your new day. Yes, it's Friday, October sixth, now 8:00 in the east.

It's been a long week.


CUOMO: Alisyn's taking a day. Poppy Harlow very graciously stepping in. Thank you.

HARLOW: And you woke up this morning, somehow.

CUOMO: I did, with my 7-year-old grabbing my hair and shaking my head. Here we are.