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Puerto Rico Still Without Power. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 25, 2017 - 14:30   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Christmas just is not the same in Puerto Rico this year after Hurricane Maria. There are thousands on the island that still do not have power, some still have no water after the storm that hit back in September. And some on the island are trying to make the most of the holiday season despite those challenges. CNN followed on of Santa's helpers, also known as Manny Rivera (ph) on the night before Christmas as he made sure that kids who have lost everything in the storm are not forgotten.




SANTIAGO: This Christmas just hasn't been the same this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The devastation in Puerto Rico was at another level.

SANTIAGO: For many, the magic of Christmas has been overshadowed by the daily struggles of life after Hurricane Maria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kid yesterday asked me to bring back his house the way it was before Maria.

SANTIAGO: As he's done for the past five years, this Santa is gathering his elves to make sure the children of Puerto Rico know Santa is still watching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...I'm going on -- on my sleigh, my personal sleigh and even though Maria banged it up a bit...

SANTIAGO: This year, Maria has forced some of the same kids he visited last year to move in with relatives in homes powered only by generators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This part over here was hit pretty bad also with Maria.

SANTIAGO: Other children are in homes without water. And Santa can relate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't -- I don't have power, still don't have water and still got to fix the roof to the house.

SANTIAGO: Maria destroyed his home, too. But when Santa visits these children, they forget, even if just for a moment, about the challenges of the last few months, the concerns or the future.

She says this year, because the children lost everything, they were concerned not just about life but also about Santa coming. But that's what makes this so special that he did come this year.

For this moment, six year old Alejandro (ph) forgets he doesn't get to spend Christmas in his own home.

He says this is what he put on his list for Santa to bring him. And he's just grateful he got it this year.

And Seven year old Jamel (ph) forgets he even doubted Santa finding him this year. Enough proof for at least a few families on the island to believe Santa is real.


KEILAR: And Leyla is joining me now from San Juan live for us. Great story, Leyla. Thank you so much for showing us that bright light there in what is a really challenging time for the folks of Puerto Rico. Are you getting a sense -- like a better idea of how long it's going to be before we can say most of the island will have it's power and it's water back?

SANTIAGO: You know, you ask any Puerto Rican that doesn't have power, anyway, when the power will be restored, they'll tell you not soon enough. If you ask the government, they will tell you -- and when I mean the government, I mean the Puerto Rican government, they will tell you they still don't have a good idea as to who actually has the powers. (ph)

But when you talk to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they will tell you -- just kind of depends on who you ask -- they will tell you that by March, most of the people who don't have power now will have power. But those in the very remote areas, areas like where we visited last night, it could be until May before they see power, Brianna. And let's put that into context. That will be a matter of weeks before the next hurricane season.

KEILAR: Leyla, that's just -- that is nuts when you say if you ask the Puerto Rican government, that they're not -- you're saying they're not aware of who exactly has and does not have power? They don't even have an assessment, an accurate picture of the problem?

SANTIAGO: Right now, if you talk to the Puerto Rican Power Authority, PREPA, they will give you power generation numbers. So right now, they will you about 70 percent is where they are on power generation. But power generation does not equal distribution or the number of clients.

And they are not giving those numbers right now, saying there's just not an accurate assessment. So to answer your question Brianna, yes, the Puerto Rican government, three months after Hurricane Maria struck is still saying they can't quantify the number of homes or businesses with power.

KEILAR: Well, Leyla, thank you so much for your important reporting that you've been doing now for months is Puerto Rico, a very Merry Christmas to you and to your family there in Puerto Rico as well. Next, Senator John McCain - thank you so much. Next, we're going to talk about Senator John McCain. He is applauding the Trump administration's decision to provide antitank weapons to Ukraine. Russia says it crosses the line. We're going to discuss what that means fro future relations with Moscow.


KEILAR: Russia's foreign minister says the U.S. should be the one to start talks with North Korea to stop a war from breaking out on the Korean Peninsula. This is happening as North Korea is calling new U.N. sanctions an act of war. And joining me now to discuss this, Kimberly Dozier. She's CNN's Global Affairs Analyst and Executive Editor of The Cipher Brief and Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent.

OK, so Barbara, since 2006, we have seen round after round of sanctions. Now you have a new round of sanctions, when you look at what's in them, they seem pretty robust but is this really something different? Is it going to have an impact?


STARR: You have the Russian proxy wars in places like Ukraine and Syria. You have Iran throughout the Middle East.

These are the key issues that President Trump is going to be facing even as he deals with North Korea, what he's dealing with is dealing with is the influences behind the scene, by Russia and China. So you have these security threats all over and then you have the proxy states behind the security threats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you so much. Kimberly Dozier, we appreciate it. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to both of you.

And next, we're going to be joined live by a mother and son who are behind a very touching reunion. He's been deployed for the last two years and her reaction when he comes home is priceless.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Military families across the U.S. are gathering today as some loved ones are stationed very far away and unable to come home for the holidays. And when they are able to come home for the holidays it makes it that much sweeter. Which is why this next story is just going to warm your heart.

Airman 1st Class Grant Jackson(ph) has been stationed in Japan for the past two years and he hadn't seen his family since he was deployed. Until an incredible moment where Jackson surprised his unsuspecting mother at home. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whats all this? Oh my. Oh gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mom, calm down, calm down. - Mom, breathe, breathe.


KEILAR: Well joining me now is Airman 1st Class Grant Jackson(ph) along with his mother Gwynn Jackson(ph) who you saw there. Not making words but certainly being very verbal in that video and sister Brittney Pettis(ph) as well. I want to say Merry Christmas to all of you and I want to thank you for sharing part of your holiday with us.

Grant, Grant I want to hear from your mom, she certainly made an impression in that video. But first I want you to tell me what this moment meant to you and how this went down.

GRANT JACKSON: This moment was pretty - I don't really have words for it. It was just like a great moment. Me and my sister have been planning since September and it just worked out perfectly. The surprise went well and my mothers reaction was like one of a kind, so. So it was not planned at all so yes it was great.

KEILAR: Gwynn(ph) what were you thinking when you saw him? And it seems like you were expecting that he would be home after the holidays?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but I turned around and I really didn't see him. I saw my sister and then I saw his head on my sisters body. And then I'm like - all of a sudden he started moving and keep(ph) moving. So I didn't expect him until July and so I'm like - I - after that I don't even know what I was thinking. I have no clue. I just went into crazy mom mode.

KEILAR: And so what were you feeling? Because it seems - you know - you just seemed overwhelmed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's it, I was overwhelmed. I saw him and I was over joyed. I'm so glad that that laundry room was right there because if I started running I don't know how far I would have gone. It was just something to behold, and when I could just touch him and I hadn't touched him in so long. Because we're a close family, we're close. My kids - I love my kids and we're so close and when I saw him and I could touch him, oh my god. That was a god experience, it really was.

KEILAR: Amazing, Brittany(ph) that is amazing to hear Grant(ph) say that you guys were planning this since September. That is a long time to keep a secret like this. Tell me - tell me about how you concocted this plan and kept it a secret and what you think about the video?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And yes tell us(ph).

UNIDETIFIED FEMALE: Well it's really hard to keep a secret from her because she's very nosey. But -


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he originally planned to come home for our birthdays, both our birthdays are in October. But it just didn't work out for him to come out then. So it was better for him to come home during the holidays, for Christmas and New Years. So the whole time, you know my mom would call me, trying to say, well where's Grant I miss Grant and I wish he could come home.

And I just had to say, well, he'll be home soon you know - it will go by - you know - the only thing you can know.

KEILAR: What did you miss the most about your son being away Gwynn?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh he's pesky(ph). He's always wanted me to cook, he's a jokester, a prankster - we have so much fun. He's a - he's a good kid and it was just a - my kids are just a blessing and he is just - he's is - he's just that final blessing and I was just - he's just a lot of plain peace -- a lot of joy into our lives.

KEILAR: And Grant(ph) are you going to be going back? Or are you home for good now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, mam. I will be going back to Okinawa, Japan.

KEILAR: And what - what do you want to say to your fellow service memebers who hopefully did get home like you , but even if they didn't, what do you want to say to them as their away from family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want all of my fellow service members to know that - keep your head up and keep fighting for our country because all their families really do love them and enjoy them. I know its hard being away from home because I was home last year and it was pretty rough, but I really do appreciate all of my fellow service members from Navy Branch(ph).

KEILAR: And Gwynn what do you want military families to know, or even just people to know about military families who are enduring the holidays without service members, without their family members or who are so lucky like you are to have them home?

UNKNOWN: To those who didn't get to have their family home, I - I just encourage them just to continue to pray, continue to try to reach out to them, via -- we do it via FaceTime and Messenger so we're able to see him some, but I know that touch is totally different than just seeing him. So just keep your heads up, keep praying, just keep in contact as much as you can. And for those that are - that are enjoying them at home, God bless you, enjoy your time.

UNKNOWN: Indeed, indeed. Well Gwen (ph), and Britney (ph), Airman Jackson (ph), thank you so much Merry, Merry Christmas to you guys.

UNKNOWN: Merry Christmas.

UNKNOWN: Merry Christmas to you all.

UNKNOWN: Merry Christmas to you too.

UNKNOWN: thank you so much for joining us on Newsroom, Finding Jesus starts in a moment.