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Power Outage Cripples World's Busiest Airport; Putin Thanks Trump in Phone Call; Trump Not Considering Firing Mueller. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 18, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:12] NATALIE Allen, CNN ANCHOR: Thousands of travelers stranded inside the world's busiest airport right here in Atlanta after a power outage leaves them in the dark.

Also, a message of gratitude shared between these two presidents. We'll tell you what that's about.

And CNN celebrates its 2017 Hero of the Year. That will warm your heart.

Hello, everyone. These stories are all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for joining us. We are live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm George Howell, live at Hartsfield- Jackson International Airport. As Natalie just pointed out, the power is coming back here at this airport.

You see the lights are on right now. That's the good news.

But we'll tell you about the situation as it stands now. There is a ground stop that has affected the United States and certainly international travelers.

No flights have been coming in or out of this airport since Sunday. At least a thousand flights so far have been canceled.

And the result, you know we have seen, basically people stuck on planes for hours. They're off those planes now. But it has been a long, long wait for a lot of people. No elevators, no escalators working, no information booths to understand what is happening.

We went inside just before the power came on to give you sort of the before and after. A snapshot of the situation as it stands right now. Take a look.


HOWELL: The only light in the terminal right now is by generator and you see that there are crews here on the ground doing their best to distributed water. Water, very important because people cannot buy; they can't get water, food and necessities. So this work continues until power is restored. And also want to show you over here. Just look at all of the baggage, people will obviously have to reclaim their bags. But this is a sense of what it will be like when this airport gets back up and running.

Again -- getting water to people very important. So you see water cases throughout the airport. And this is where many people are staying the 2night -- people who've been stranded here for hours at a time, unsure of what happens next.

One person that I spoke with just a moment ago -- Mary, headed to Jacksonville.


HOWELL: Well, tell me what it has been like for you so far?

MARY: Well we have been here -- I have been here since about noon. We were just about ready to board, hop down to Jacksonville and power went out. So we were just kind of waiting around. We were on the C- concourse, and I guess they had some kind of small fire over there.

So they evacuated everybody over here. And here I sit.

HOWELL: Do you have any indication of what happens next for you?

MARY: I don't. My family is in Jacksonville. I'm from Phoenix. So, I'm just trying -- my phone is dead -- so I'm trying to see what Southwest does.

How I ended up over here, I don't know. I have never been to Atlanta airport before.

HOWELL: And there are thousand of people around you in the same position.

MARY: Yes, they are. I know some have gone to hotels. Some are waiting for people to pick them up. But, for me, I'm not sure. I'm just kind of waiting to see what, what happens.

HOWELL: Again, people are just trying to get in position -- again sleeping at the ticket counter. But I can tell you this.

As of 11:16 Eastern time, the lights flipped on here the baggage claim and the check-in terminal here at the Atlanta airport. Again, you do see the line starting to form. Many of these passengers trying to figure out what their next steps are; a lot of uncertainty about the hours ahead.

You guys mind if I just chat with you. Victoria and Ganzie -- you guys are traveling. But first of all, tell me what have you been told about when you can get back to your travel plans?

VICTORIA, PASSENGER: They are telling me I can't leave until 9:45 tomorrow night.

HOWELL: Tomorrow night. VICTORIA: Tomorrow night. And people have work like myself and I

can't go. Because why I'm trapped in an airport where I don't live, and I'm unfamiliar to the area. So what do I do?

HOWELL: What about yourself?

GANZIE: Well, I called Southwest. And the best they could do is 9:45 like Victoria but they wanted to charge me for a new airline ticket just to get out of here tomorrow night.

HOWELL: Charge you again, you say? And --

GANZIE: To leave tomorrow night.

HOWELL: Tomorrow night. What did you guys think about how this was handled so far?

GANZIE: There was no communication from the airport, or TSA, or Southwest. It was horrible.

VICTORIA: Yes, everyone was scattering around. And every time you tried to approach somebody you get the same answer. "I don't know". Then what do you know?


HOWELL: So that's the quote that they were given from their airline -- 9:45 tomorrow night. For our viewers around the world it is midnight eastern time here in the United States. So, a long wait for a lot of people.

[00:04:59] I do want to though give you, some information that just came across. Again, we say midnight. This information came across from the city of Atlanta at 12:01 a.m.

And it reads that, "Power has been fully restored. Please contact your airline to check the status of your flight for Monday."

So again, if you are waiting for someone who has to connect through Atlanta -- that is a bit of good news to report to you that power has been restored, according to this information from the city of Atlanta, has been restored fully.

I want to give you just a sense of what the mayor of the city Kasim Reed had to say about this in the latest news conference, regarding this power outage. Take a listen.


MAYOR KASIM REED (D), ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Georgia Power is actively engaged in getting our power back up. But because we don't know the source of the fire, we have no way of absolutely knowing at this time that some -- that our system may have been tampered with, in order to create this kind of chaos and confusion.

So we are not going to allow that to impact our security measures which is why Chief Shields is here, and the deputy chief with responsibility for this campus.


HOWELL: All right. The big concern, chaos and confusion -- what does it look like in the hours to come as again, you see just a few of those passengers cuing up to speak with their airlines to get quotes about when they can leave Atlanta on to their next destinations.

But again, a lot of questions about when they can leave, a lot of questions about where they will stay, what they will do as they wait.

Let's bring in our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri who's been tracking the flights in and out, around the city of Atlanta. Again, Pedram -- four our viewers around the world, this is the world's busiest airport.


HOWELL: Not only affecting U.S. travel but certainly international travel. From what you are seeing, what do you expect Monday to look like?

JAVAHERI: It's not going to look good. You know, the implications are widespread. You see the scenes playing out across this region, in Hartsfield Jackson in particular.

I want to show you something here because when you look at the misery index on Flight Aware. And this essentially shows you what the worst case scenario is across airports, when it is read in its entirety. That means it's as bad as they come. That's right there in Atlanta.

But notice just about every single major airport -- Chicago O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles International, San Francisco, New York, Washington -- a bout a tenth or a quarter of their flights have all been impacted directly as a result of what is happening in the Atlanta area. So it really kind of puts it in perspective of the significance of this event.

And on an average day when you are talking about Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson, that's what it looks like. It is just a cluster of flights coming in and going out on the order of 2,500 flights to be exact. And of course, that accounts for about 270,000 passengers that are impacted by this.

I want to show you what it looked like as this occurred because, of course, at around 1:30 in the afternoon, flights were coming in, upwards of 1,100 flights had already come and landed just fine into Atlanta. It was a cloudy day across the area, some showers as well.

But the perspective beyond the outage of the power there at 1:35 or so, you begin seeing flights come in. No flights go out. And essentially a pileup effect occurs across this region. And that is exactly how things have played out since, across that region of Atlanta, Georgia.

2And one last element here to discuss and talk about when it comes to air travel because, we know the cancellation of upwards of 1,100, delays upwards of 207 -- there is a monetary value to all of this for the airline industry and, of course, for the passengers as well.

For cost of an airline -- it's about $6,000 for each aircraft to be canceling -- canceling a flight for an airline. When it comes to a passenger's perspective, of course you put it all together, $60,000 for all the passengers that they have to spend on lodging, on food, missing work potentially.

All of this is available by aviation data tracking site, their mass flight that kind of breaks down the value and the cost of this. And you can see for the passengers it's to the tune of 60,000 cumulatively speaking.

So a lot of headaches to go around from time lost and, of course, money lost as well for some people there -- George.

HOWELL: Pedram Javaheri -- thank you, at the International Weather Center. We'll stay in touch with you.

Now let's bring in Mary Schiavo. Mary is a CNN transportation analyst and former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Mary -- it's always a pleasure to have you with us to try to sort this out.

First of all, we understand the cause of this -- a fire. We expect to get a little more information from officials here just about the nature of that fire and why, you know, the redundant systems didn't kick in here.

But what are your thoughts about this situation? First of all, the cause; and then secondly where we go from here?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Well, U.S. airports have had power outages for many times in the past, not of this magnitude and duration. But usually it's a combination of construction issues and computer issues. In this case, sound like it might be the same again.

Again, a fire in the substation and the computers that were supposed to limit the damage did not function properly. Occasionally on power outages in the past, there have been isolated instances of sabotage, but, it brings to mind.

[00:09:57] The second point is that is the whole point of all the backup and redundant systems. So when we do have, you know, a construction crew hitting a power line or computers failing to do the proper damage control with the power we're supposed to have backup generators and systems to limit the damage.

So Atlanta will be having to do a lot of investigation and searching as to why those backup systems didn't work. But the whole point is in airports like a hospital, there are generators and backup power.

HOWELL: And Mary we understand from the city that there will be an investigation into what happened here. SCHIAVO: Right.

HOWELL: But let's talk about the day ahead. I mean I don't know if you got to see just a bit of the misery in this airport with these passengers. We just feel for folks who, you know, they ran into a situation that they couldn't be expected.

But, what does this look like? I mean you've got so many layers here -- right. You've people who have to check into their flights. You've got computer systems. Mary the screens are blank. So these computer systems have to reboot.

And then, security -- you try to get to the airport ahead so you can beat the security line. There will be thousands of people trying to press through the security lines -- Mary.

SCHIAVO: Right. And you know, certainly in a lot of people's mind, the most wonderful time of that year. But that means it's also the most crowded time of the year in airports. So re-booking on already crowded planes in the holiday times, planes are booked now at 85 percent and above, already full capacity.

So not only will they have to get their own schedule up and running again. It's going to be very difficult to rebook passengers at the holiday season. So they've got to double (INAUDIBLE) and that is getting your own flights back in the air and coordinated nationwide and worldwide.

But they could not readily put passengers on to other carriers that they may have agreements with so it's going to be difficult on so many fronts. Of course the -- while the FAA has generators that run the backup power for the air traffic control tower that did not go down, nor should it. That's a separate generator that keeps that running.

You are right about the problems with the electric system needed obviously even to check people in, to sort the baggage. Most importantly TSA and the security relies on power for that.

So, this is going to be a huge problem getting it up and running and people rescreened back into the airport.

For some, fortunately, who didn't leave -- that might be a wise choice. But they will probably be (INAUDIBLE).

HOWELL: And Mary -- you certainly imagine what that will be like for international travel as well, just even more inconvenience.

One other question that I have for you. So we heard one quote from a passenger; and again in that interview, 9:45 p.m. tomorrow or today rather. So do you expect the airlines to press back? Push back travel for people that far?

I mean could you see people leaving tomorrow rather than today.

SCHIAVO: Most certainly. And I do expect that because, you know, once they get the flights back up and running they don't have, you know, a lot of excess aircraft anymore.

You know, over the past two decades airlines have looked to take out excess capacity meaning extra planes, extra flights, extra seats to maximize revenue. So those seats were already filled.

When the flight -- electricity is fully back functioning and all flights are back up and running -- they're going to be running today's flight, and tomorrow's flights are already almost full before they can think about re-accommodating those passengers.

Again, it's the worst time of year for passengers -- it's holiday season and they're running at their peek. And then there will be the push back on price. You heard one traveler say that one airline wanted to re-charge them again to rebook.

Again that is a function of the computer system somewhat at this point. But there are going to be a lot of passengers, seeking financial accommodation from the airlines as well.

And unfortunately, the federal laws aren't very good about clarifying this. They allow the airlines to cancel flights and (INAUDIBLE) -- and so there will be a lot of negotiations going on with passengers (INAUDIBLE).

HOWELL: Mary Schiavo -- we appreciate your time, CNN transportation analyst. Thank you -- again.

And Natalie -- back to you.

But again, you have got people who are traveling for vacations. You've got people who, might have been traveling back in for work. This is -- we're in the holiday season. Some people just making miles runs -- right, I mean. But now they are stranded here, thousands of them and a great deal of uncertainty Natalie about what happens next.

ALLEN: Yes. Right -- George.

Even reports that some people that had just landed couldn't de-board. They were stuck on the airplane for seven hours. Can you imagine?

All I can say is at least people are able to start recharging their phones. At least they can get that far before they figure out when they're going to take off.

I had a flight this morning. I won't be coming to the airport any time soon. George -- we'll talk with you again.

HOWELL: No, Natalie -- you won't. Yes.

ALLEN: I'm going to just talk with you on your cell -- ok. George -- thanks.


[00:15:01] ALLEN: All right. We have other news coming up.

A phone call from Vladimir Putin to U.S. President Donald Trump, and we'll tell you why the Russian leader is thanking him.

Our Nic Robertson has a report on that.

Plus, CNN reporting on slave auctions in Libya has sparked some global action. Why it is being called a wake-up call to the world.

That's ahead here as we push on here on CNN NEWSROOM, live from Atlanta, Georgia.


ALLEN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is thanking the United States for its help in preventing ISIS-inspired terror attacks in St. Petersburg. Mr. Putin spoke by phone with U.S. President Donald Trump Sunday. He thanked Mr. Trump for the CIA's information on the planned attacks.

Well, a spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller says e-mails from the Trump transition team were obtained legally. President Trump said his team is very upset and he added it is quote, "pretty sad" that special counsel got hold of thousands of e-mails. But he told reporters, Mueller's job is safe.




ALLEN: There you have it. Three words -- "No I am not."

Let's talk more about the investigation. Joining me now from Los Angeles -- conservative commentator Alexandra Datig and CNN political commentator Dave Jacobson who's also a Democratic strategist. Thank you both.

First of all, we just heard it from the President after a weekend of rumors and alleged reports about alleged possibly firing. Mr. Trump says that is not the case.

I'll start with you -- Dave. How do you think it got to that point where people thought maybe he was going to pull the rug from Mr. Mueller?

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think a lot of this -- you know, all the rumors started this week. Congresswoman Jackie Speier had said earlier this week -- a Democrat by the way on Capitol Hill that she had heard rumors among Republican colleagues.

And you have a lot of op-eds lot earlier this week on the Republican side who interviewed deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein who, of course, oversees the Mueller investigation. And there was intense questioning at that committee hearing. And so I think perhaps there was back-channeling, there was conversations behind closed doors raising the question. But you haven't heard leadership among Republicans whether it's Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan, you know, giving any validity to those rumors.

And so I think perhaps the President may have had conversations with Republican leadership and perhaps they gave indications that they still think that the investigation should go on. They believe there is immense integrity behind Mueller and his team.

And they want to get to the bottom of the Russian meddling and whether or not there was any collusion.,

ALLEN: Right. Alexandra -- what is your take on this because certainly there have been many attempts, more from conservative commentators, to undermine this investigation and question where it is at and what it is about. What do you think?

ALEXANDRA DATIG, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Well, my overall impression of the investigation is, Mr. Mueller has spent an awful lot of time sending the impression to exonerate Hillary Clinton and impeach President Trump.

His team has certainly shown that it is biased. You have nine out of 16 donating to Barack Obama -- or Hillary Clinton. And you have these text messages with Peter Strzok and then you have the Fusion GPS scandal with Mr. Ohr.

So I am a little bit disturbed by all of it. And I'm sort of surprised that, you know, this is -- I mean at this point I feel it's a tainted investigation. And while Mr. Mueller himself may have not done anything inappropriate, enough, to be fired -- firing him is a game of musical chairs in itself.

ALLEN: You really think that there have been credible instances where Mr. Mueller's team has showed that they're biased or this is tainted. They did let go the person working for them that they felt was anti- President Trump.

Is this not, Alexandra, just any effort to undermine the investigation, because quite clearly, this administration is very concerned about where it could lead.

DATIG: Well, we should all be concerned about this investigation because a lot of things are coming to light that we didn't know. A lot of things are coming to light that the President didn't know like these illegally obtained e-mails from the General Services Administration, that, that could be fourth amendment privileged.

There was also the predawn raid of Paul Manafort where there was attorney-client privilege material taken. So I don't think we're going to be -- this is not going to be the end of-- of us hearing about privileged materials being obtained by this investigation.

I just don't -- I haven't heard anything, any smoking gun. I haven't seen anything that this investigation has concluded where we would say this is not a complete and total waste of taxpayer money thus far. And it is --

ALLEN: Well, there have been people charged and there have been people that have, you know, entered please in this situation.

Let me get David here though because Dave -- does Alexandra have a point though about these e-mails whether they were obtained legally? Of course, Mr. Mueller's team sent out a response over the weekend that they were indeed. But what's your take.

JACOBSON: I think it is a credibility issue. Here you have Donald Trump and his cronies in the White House and associates, that the "Washington Post" reported just a month ago, have lied or misled American public over 1,600 times.

On the flip side you have Bob Mueller who served under two terms of a Republican president, President Bush; and then also under President Barack Obama. This is a decorated prosecutor, law enforcement leader who'd been widely praised by both Republicans and Democrats who's spearheading this investigation.

[00:25:02] So I think it raises the question of credibility -- who do you trust? The President and his team of folks, who have lied to the American public an unprecedented 1,600 plus times? Or a decorated former FBI director, top prosecutor who served this country in a decorated fashion? I think that's the big issue.

And then going back to the other point. The Bob Mueller special counsel investigation has actually moved (ph) forward and gotten some wind. There have been four charges put forward, two of which have led to guilty pleas. And I think those are substantial and telling that this is moving forward at an intensely accelerated rate.

And look at the end of the day if Republicans on Capitol Hill and top leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, agreed with top heads on the committee that oversaw and questioned Rod Rosenstein earlier this week and they'd be supporting firing Bob Mueller. But they're not.

And let's also point out Rod Rosenstein who's overseeing the investigation of Bob Mueller is a Trump appointee. So he was actually supported and appointed by the President. So at the end of the day if Rosenstein doesn't see any reason to fire Mueller, Republicans on Capitol Hill shouldn't be.

ALLEN: All right. We thank you both. It certainly indicates the paralysis that this country remains gripped in over this issue. We thank you both for your comments -- Alexander Datig, Dave Jacobson.

DATIG: Thank you -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Thank you.

Coming up here CNN's reporting on slavery in Libya keeps having an impact. Why the international organization for migration says it has been transformational. That's ahead.

Plus, a prince interviews a president. Britain's Prince Harry sits down with Barack Obama.




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories for you.


ALLEN: Updating our top story, power is now being restored at the world's busiest airport, right here in Atlanta, Georgia. There is still a long to go to recover from Sunday's power outage. No flights have been coming or going from Hartsfield Jackson in Atlanta since Sunday afternoon.

Thousands of travelers are stuck for the time being. Passengers were forced to navigate through dimly lit terminals. Some were sitting on planes for hours. No escalators, elevators or information screens were working.

Restaurants couldn't be -- couldn't work. This man had to carry another passenger on his back as he walked up an escalator. The full ground stop has impacted the entire United States. More than 1,000 flights to and from Atlanta's airport have been canceled.

Officials say an underground electrical fire caused the outage. But they don't believe it was started deliberately. Much still to investigate there.

Another story we continue to follow, the National Organization for Migration is set to repatriate 15,000 displaced people to their home countries from Libya. This follows exclusive reporting by CNN, which exposed a modern-day slave auction in Libya. CNN's Nima Elbagir and her team witnessed people being sold for as little as $400. Many migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe. My colleague, Amara Walker, spoke earlier about the organization's repatriation efforts with its spokesman, Leonard Doyle.


AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Leonard, a pleasure to have you on. Thank you for your time.


WALKER: Your organization described the impact of CNN's reporting as the dam bursting. Tell us more about how this report served as a wakeup call around the world.

DOYLE: This was a really important report. Indeed, IOM, U.N. migration agency, we did break the story back a couple of months back. But just putting out a press release and describing it isn't really good enough nowadays.

What it really took was extraordinary bravery by CNN's reporters going into Libya, witnessing an auction of human beings and then broadcasting it. It was just seminal in its importance. And it transformed the debate, which has been a bit toxic to say the least about migration. Many people a bit negative on migrants, say the least, blaming them for the problems they get into.

I think when we saw people being sold as pieces of commerce, it changed everybody's mind. And it brought the Africans and the Europeans together in a way I haven't seen before.

WALKER: Tell me more about that because now the IOM is going to help repatriate 15,000 displaced people/migrants back to their home countries from Libya.

What kind of conversations had to take place for that to happen?

DOYLE: IOM has been working in Libya for a long time in the detention centers, helping migrants, making sure that they're safe, keeping women separated from men and trying to improve their lot and advocating strongly for them to be released from these detention centers. Now the difficulty is that's not been happening.

But once this slavery issue came to the fore, we were getting phone calls from the director general of IOM, got a phone call from the African Union, and from the European Union, and that is what led to this happening.

WALKER: Was this a matter of getting those home countries to help in the repatriation process?

DOYLE: It was really -- I think it was --


DOYLE: -- first of all, everybody had to see that it's a disgrace for this to be happening. So let's try and fix it. Let's try and get to these people to safety. And I think once they recognize that everybody was going to be blamed if you couldn't fix it quickly, they quickly found a solution, like getting overflights along entry without visa, making sure that the money is there to pay for the chartered flights that are taking people back.

It's an enormous airlift, as you can imagine. And IOM has surged and many staff have come from around the world to make it a success. And it's terribly important that any of those who are being brought out be any who are entitled to refugee status, be taken aside and given to the U.N. agency or the U.N. Refugee Agency, any trafficked people are protected, any unaccompanied minors.

So it's not just a question of people -- putting people on planes. It's a question also of helping when they get home to make sure that they have something to look forward to. They have a business grant or some support. WALKER: We're glad that CNN's reporting was able to effect some change and we should mention that the U.N. estimates that there about 700,000 to 1 million migrants in Libya, many of whom are trying to make their way to Europe. They're obviously in a very vulnerable position and of course a challenge is getting, finding ways to either get them back -- deported to their homes or keeping them safe.

We're going to have to leave it there, Leonard Doyle, we appreciate you joining us with the International Organization for Migration.

DOYLE: Thank you very much.


ALLEN: We will continue to follow up on various stories related to our reporting on that story.

Delegates in South Africa's ruling party will vote in the coming day for a new leader. The African National Congress is replacing embattled president Jacob Zuma, whose presidency has been plagued by corruption scandals. David McKenzie has more from Johannesburg.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ANC delegates pray for unity before welcoming the president central to their party's decline.

This is the public face of a bitter battle. The ANC has lost supporters. And Zuma faces hundreds of allegations of corruption and fraud. So delegates hope this crucial vote for his replacement as party leader will signal the revert of their once-proud ANC, sending a message to South Africa and the world.

They're openly disagreeing with the party's (INAUDIBLE). So this is democracy in action. But fewer than 5,000 people will make the choice for more than 50 million South Africans.

Just down the road in Soweto, on the street where Nelson Mandela lived, South Africans died in the struggle against apartheid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't know that, what is it that we are going to meet when we arrive at the village down the street?

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The survivors are disillusioned with the party of Mandela. Oupa Moloto (ph) says the ANC has lost its way.

OUPA MOLOTO (PH), ANC VETERAN: It's painful being you really have a question like that, do these people know how much we have sacrificed for this country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) this same thing as well.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): He says whether the deputy president or a former minister and Zuma's ex-wife win, the ANC must still reckon with the rot.

And the woman perhaps most responsible for exposing the allegations agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not all of it is about President Zuma. But is it only about President Zuma? No, that would be a mistake because I think the waters have been poisoned.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Zuma denies all the charges of corruption and he's famous for surviving scandal. Will the ANC overcome his legacy? -- David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


ALLEN: CNN is honoring this year's heroes, who are making extraordinary contributions to their communities.


KELLY RIPA, CNN HOST: The 2017 CNN Hero of the Year is...

ALLEN (voice-over): Next, how the top winner was inspired by her two children with Down syndrome.




ALLEN: CNN's 2017 Hero of the Year is an advocate for people with disabilities. She was inspired by her two children with Down syndrome.


AMY WRIGHT, CNN'S 2017 HERO OF THE YEAR: People with disabilities have been in the shadows for too long. But no more.


WRIGHT: Thank you, CNN, for this incredible honor.

To my two youngest children, Bitty and Beau, who are my inspiration, I want you to know because I know you are watching at home tonight, Bitty and Beau, that I would not change you for the world. But I will change the world for you.


ALLEN: Amy Wright employs dozens of people with disabilities at a coffee shop in North Carolina, called Bitty & Beau. Through her non- profit she helps them show they can contribute and participate in the workforce.

Visit to support the Top 10 Heroes. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $50,000 for each hero. And you must read their stories. What they're doing is really incredible. Scoring an interview with the former president is a pretty big deal. But when you are a prince, your odds are pretty good. Just ask Britain's Prince Harry, who recently sat down with Barack Obama for a radio interview. The two have been friends for many years. And that closeness was on full display, as Harry explained his editorial process to the former president.




BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do I have to speak faster? Because I'm a slow speaker.

PRINCE HARRY: No, not at all.


Do I need a British accent?

PRINCE HARRY: If you start using long pauses between glances (INAUDIBLE).



I don't want to see that face.


ALLEN: That's the radio interview. So we won't. But the full interview will air December 27th when Prince Harry fills in as a guest editor on BBC Radio.

"WORLD SPORT" is coming up next. And I'll be back with CNN NEWSROOM and our top stories and the latest on the Atlanta airport shutdown at the top of the hour. See you then. You are watching CNN.