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Airplane Debris Falls On Denver Neighborhoods After Takeoff; Safe Water Now The Biggest Need In Storm-Battered Texas; Biden Makes Clean Break From Trump On Foreign Policy; Teachers Push For Vaccines Amid School Reopening Debate. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 20, 2021 - 20:00   ET


MIKE MASSIMINO, FORMER ASTRONAUT: It's not just about going there, it's about making life better on Earth.


And that's really what our space program is all about.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: All right. Mike, thanks for laying it all out for us. We really appreciate it.

MASSIMINO: You bet, Pamela. Thanks for having me.

BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And we are following breaking news tonight out of Colorado. Look, stunning new images of the moment an engine failed on a United Airlines flight out of Denver this afternoon. Eyewitnesses say it was, quote, raining metal in Broomfield, Colorado, when a Boeing 777 with 241 passengers and crew on board started shedding debris that fell to the ground.

And you can see here in terrifying video posted on social media, allegedly showing one of the engines failing. This was shortly after the United Airlines flight to Honolulu took off. The plane turned around for an emergency landing. There were no injuries to anyone on board and there are no known injuries on the ground from the falling debris.

And here is audio from the very moment the pilot issued his mayday call to Denver air traffic control. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, United 328, 328, heavy mayday, mayday aircraft.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Denver departure United 328, heavy mayday, aircraft just experienced heavy failure need to return immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: I'm going to turn now to our Lucy Kafanov. She is right there at the scene. What are you seeing, what are you hearing there, Lucy?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, the fact that there were no injuries to either the 241 people on board or any of the people on the ground here in Colorado is truly a miracle. Where I am standing right now, and I just want to give you a sense of sort of scope of this debris field, down behind this police car, down that street is a massive park. There is a dog park.

There is a soccer field. This is an area -- it's snowing now, but it was pretty good weather earlier this afternoon, where kids were practicing soccer, families were out walking their dogs. People were enjoying the weather.

There were a lot of folks out and about, not as much, obviously, in the time of COVID, but still a lot of people enjoying the day. So when this incident took place and this debris of plane material started raining down from the skies, a lot of people could have been injured. It's a miracle they have not been.

I'm going to walk over here, the street, the residential street that you see now behind me. It's too dark to really point out the details, but there's a big R.V. truck and on the other side of that is where that sort of now iconic image of that round sort of piece of the engine that landed right in front of one family's house. No one was hurt, but that is over there.

And all over this neighborhood, there is police tape, there is do not cross tape, there are pieces of debris, some very large. I saw something that almost looked like the casing of the engine. It was white and very, very large, laying sort of sectioned off by police tape. And then smaller pieces sort of wherever you look as well.

And police are urging residents to phone the non-emergency line, to report the debris, trying to not touch it. They're warning people not to touch it because investigators really still have yet to determine the scope of this debris field. It's a very large area here that has been affected. And, again, an absolute miracle that nobody was hurt, Pam.

BROWN: A miracle is right. Lucy Kafanov, thanks so much for that.

And right now, I want to talk Jim Gugger, he is a retired commercial airline pilot who flew the 777 for many years. That is the type of airline involved in this incident today. Jim, thanks for coming on. I look forward to hearing about what you have to say.

I mean, this video, Jim, and we're going to show our viewers now probably the most horrifying thing an airline passenger can see. This video that we're going to put up right here posted on social media that allegedly shows this plane's engine today on fire with giant pieces missing and falling off. This is the stuff of nightmares.

As a pilot for nearly 40 years, what is your reaction to this, what stands out to you? JIM GUGGER, RETIRED COMMERCIAL AIRPLANE PILOT (voice over): Hi, Pamela. I probably have a very different perspective on it, as do all pilots that have been trained in this type of a thing. And believe it or not, these are things that we are trained in, and this is just -- and I'm not going to say it's a typical day at the office, but it's something that we're trained to address. And I look at it as though it's just, you know, nothing life-threatening or anything like that.

BROWN (voice over): Okay. So you're thinking that as a pilot, and that was reflected in the mayday call, the pilot was very calm.


But I want to just pick apart what we're seeing here in that video that we just saw, because our Pete Muntean is saying that they didn't dump the fuel, and that that is normally something you would do, that would standard procedure in a situation like this. What is your takeaway on that front?

GUGGER (voice over): Fuel dumping happens if the aircraft is too heavy to land. And when you take off, you've obviously got all this fuel to get you to your destination. And when you get to your destination, that fuel is burned off. So you're significantly lighter when you arrive at your destination. If you have to return for landing in a case like this, and you're too heavy to land, then you're dumping fuel.

Now, I don't know how much fuel they had, how many passengers they had, so I would assume they were light enough that dumping fuel was not necessary.

BROWN (voice over): So when you're watching this video though, if you would, tell our viewers what they're seeing exactly.

GUGGER (voice over): You know, I'll be honest, I don't have the video in front of me, I didn't realize we were going to discuss the video. I did see it earlier. And, yes, I mean, the engine --

BROWN (voice over): It's the video of the engine on fire, just so you know, it's the one from a Twitter user with the engine on fire while the plane is still in the air.

GUGGER (voice over): Yes. Any time -- not to make it sound like this is something that is, you know, common or anything like that, but, you know, you've got something with moving parts, you're always going to have failures. And, obviously, this engine had some sort of a failure. They're spinning very fast. And when you have a failure like that, it's not -- I mean, it's not rare for parts to come apart. It's essentially exploding.

And so what they're looking at is parts that have been, you know, exploded off, or from an explosion off the engine, and residual fire from it. But, again, this is something we're trained for. It's something that we just continue on.

BROWN (voice over): You say you're trained for this, but there are many things that could happen. I mean, from my understanding, some of the parts could have gone through the fuselage. I mean, there's a lot of different scenarios, devastating scenarios that could have played out.

When this initially happened, how is a pilot first alerted to this? How do they first know about it? You have got to wonder about the passengers who look out the window like this one who was filming this video and sees the engine on fire?

GUGGER (voice over): Well, in a case, in today's case, obviously, everybody heard the explosion. So the first indication was that. And then in the cockpit, we have multiple warning systems that tell us when something goes wrong.

BROWN (voice over): Gotcha. All right, Retired Commercial Airline Pilot Jim Gugger, thank you so much for coming on.

GUGGER (voice over): Thank you.

BROWN (on camera): Well, the temperature in Texas has finally gotten above freezing but the crisis is far from over. Millions of people need the most basic lifelines, food, water and medicine. Our Omar Jimenez is standing by in Austin.

Stay with us, you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



BROWN: And we are continuing to follow breaking news out of Colorado tonight. Take a look at this, debris falling out of the sky near a dog park in Broomfield, about 20 miles outside of Denver. This from a United Airline flight carrying 231 passengers and ten crew members headed to Honolulu from Denver today.

The Boeing 777 experienced engine failure but was able to turn around and land safely. Now, no reports of injuries in the air or on the ground, the debris is reportedly spread out for at least a mile.

And the National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation. We will continue to follow this breaking story and bring you the very latest.

Well, last weekend's bitter cold is easing in Texas. Statewide, though, fewer than 50,000 residents are still without power right now. But more the half the state is still under boil water advisories. And as things begin to thaw, broken pipes are becoming the latest headache.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Austin where some people are turning to an unexpected source for clean water. Tell me more, Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Pamela. Well, over the course of really just the past few days, obviously, water has been a very precious resource that not many people can get. So they've been coming to breweries, like meanwhile a brewery here in Austin where they have water, they have been able to pour into people who have shown up with literally empty jugs just so they can have something at their homes to wash with.

And while the electrical situation has gotten better over the past 48 hours, water is that next frontier with more than 14 million people in Texas remaining with their water disrupted this year.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The water is not even bubbling --

JIMENEZ (voice over): The he lights may be on, but across parts of Texas, the water isn't, drinking water still needed.

DEBORAH WRIGLEY, HOUSTON RESIDENT: There's a panic mode that we didn't have enough drinking water. We would love showers, but we will get that when we get our water turned back on.

JIMENEZ: Texans waiting in long lines just to pick up cases of water with nearly of half the state under boil water advisories.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D-AUSTIN, TX): This is a community of people that are scared and upset and angry. We're eventually going to need some better answers. Right now, we're just trying to get water to our neighbors.

JIMENEZ: But it's not just drinking water. Some residents can't even flush the toilet without melting snow.

SMITA PANDE, AUSTIN, TEXAS RESIDENT: We relocated back to our house, five adults and two dogs, and we started harvesting snow because we had also lost water at that point, harvesting snow for toilet water.

JIMENEZ: That lack of water making it especially difficult for those suffering from kidney failure. Some dialysis clinics have been forced to temporarily close, meaning patients have to go to the hospital to keep their kidneys from shutting down.


DR. PAUL NADER, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS DELL MEDICAL SCHOOL: So we've had double, sometimes triple coverages of physicians at all of the hospitals. We covered many hospitals in Austin.

Ordinarily, we finish most of our dialysis between about 8:00 and 5:00 or 6:00 at night for a regular day. We were working 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning dialyzing patients in the hospital.

JIMENEZ: President Joe Biden approving a major disaster declaration for Texas, freeing up more help from FEMA.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): When disaster strikes, this is not just an issue for Texans. This is an issue for our entire country. Disasters don't strike everyone equally. When you already have so many families in the state and across the country that are on the brink, that can't even afford an emergency to begin with, when you have a disaster like this, it can just set people back for years.

JIMENEZ: And as residents wait for the water and power to come back, some still forced to use their cars for warmth. Others, if they're lucky, find shelter in a hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guests, frankly, it's been the equivalent of camping indoors.


JIMENEZ (on camera): Now, moving forward, a lot of the conversation is going to be trying to figure out what went wrong, so catastrophically wrong over this past week.

And one thing Texas officials are now looking at is how electric bills in some parts of the state skyrocketed over the course of this, up to nearly $7,000 in one case at least. But, overall, the good news is that we are not heading into another night of freezing temperatures as we saw every night this week. And the water pressure in Houston seems to be getting under control. And in Austin, I know, we're at least over halfway. Pamela?

BROWN: So things are moving in the right direction but people are still suffering there in Texas. Omar Jimenez, thank you for bringing us the very latest on the ground there.

And if you're looking for ways to help Texans, go to CNN's Impact Your World, that's

And we are following breaking news tonight out of Colorado. A United flight to Honorlulu forced to turn around because of engine failure and then dropped debris along its path.

Coming up, I'll speak to the man who was standing next to a massive piece of the plane that fell right outside of his home.



BROWN: And we have been following this breaking news out of Colorado where pieces of a Boeing 777 came blasting out of the sky earlier today. The debris falling from a United flight that took off from Denver bound for Hawaii. Miraculously, there are no reported injuries on the ground or in the air, and the plane was able to make a safe landing back at Denver International Airport.

But this video right here gives an idea of what it was like for people on the ground.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's -- something blew up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: Just imagine if you're standing there and you see that. That video was shot in the neighborhood of Broomfield where authorities say the debris radius extends for at least one mile.

And joining me now is Broomfield resident Kirby Klements. He had an extremely close call this afternoon as debris from that plane rained down on his neighborhood. Kirby, tell us about this narrow escape.

KIRBY KLEMENTS, EYEWITNESS: Yes, it was pretty surprising. My wife and I were sitting inside the house, just finishing up with the paper, and we heard this big bang. And we kind of looked at each other and go, what was that? Then all of a sudden, there was a bang and a crash.

And this object just rolls right in front of our house, right out the front window. So I get out and look outside and I'm trying to figure out what it is. And since I opened the door, I go, uh-oh, it's an engine part.

BROWN: So you knew immediately?

KLEMENTS: So my first was that a plane had gone down.

BROWN: Okay, wow.

KLEMENTS: Yes, I knew immediately what it was, yes.

BROWN: That's impressive. I'm just imagining, you're at your home reading the paper and then you see an engine part go by the window. What was going through your mind?

KLEMENTS: My first thought was that the plane had gone down. So I stepped outside and looked up, and there were pieces of this honeycomb soundproofing insulation that goes around the engine that was just floating through the air like ash from a volcano.

And it probably floated down for a good three or four minutes before it all landed. And that stuff is scattered all over the neighborhood. But, yes, we were very lucky. Ten feet a little closer and it would have gone right through our living room.

BROWN: Well, that's what I was going to say. I mean, we're looking at these remarkable images on the screen. I'm looking down so I can look, and that's where my screen is. But it's just remarkable to think how close it came to falling on your home or falling right on top of you and your wife when you're in there.

So when you walk out, you see this big piece. Tell us, first of all, what was it like to see it in person right there in front of your home, what did it look like? Just describe it for us.

KLEMENTS: It was a little overwhelming, because I knew what it was, but I really didn't piece together why is this here, you know? So I kind of went up to it and touched it a little bit and realized it was really heavy, I mean, really heavy.

[20:25:00] So I went out to talk to my next door neighbor and asked him what he had heard. And we came out and looked. And it was just -- then all of a sudden people started coming out from everywhere who had heard the crash.

So it was probably, I don't know, a little while later when I realized it had actually landed on top of my truck. So it landed and caught the corner of my garage, and then landed square on top of my truck and fell off of my truck.

BROWN: Well, better the truck than you, I think we can safely say.

KLEMENTS: Oh, absolutely.

BROWN: It's just remarkable, we're looking at it right now. Tell us about our damage in your neighborhood. I mean, this happened in your home but you are not alone tonight.

KLEMENTS: No, there's a house behind me and catty-corner, they had a piece of debris, I don't know what kind it was. It actually went through their roof, put about a five-foot hole into their roof. Most of it stayed, from what I understand, up in the attic area, it broke through the ceiling in their kitchen.

I heard one other house may have had some roof damage, but other than that, it's pretty remarkable, because there's a -- down the end of the block from where we're standing behind me, there's a big five-foot section of what I'm guessing to be fuel line pipe that's laying in the street down there. If that would have hit anybody or a car that was driving down the street at the time, somebody could have been seriously hurt from that.

But other than just the pieces of the covering of the airplane and the insulation around it, I haven't really seen any engine parts or heard of any engine parts. Some people say there's a little bit of metal around but I haven't seen that myself.

BROWN: So now all of this, and the debris at your house, is part of an investigation. Have you talked to investigators yet? Have they given you instructions about what to do?

KLEMENTS: The city of Broomfield sent out an alert because the debris, as you've seen, covers a fairly large area. Most of it is between myself and the park, which is just east of us, which is in the direction of DIA. We're about ten miles west of DIA. So the flight path heading to California in that area is right over this area. So the debris field is scattered through there.

But other than the local police and the fire department, there hasn't been any other authorities here yet.

BROWN: But they told you not to touch it, right, not to do anything, right? I imagine they've given you instructions.

KLEMENTS: Right, jet fuel and all that stuff is highly corrosive and not good for you to come in personal contact with. So they've got pretty much a couple of square block area around this neighborhood that's all blocked off, that they're not letting anybody but residents in through. And they've advised everybody not to pick up or disturb the debris.

BROWN: So you're going to be at your house tonight? You're going to stay there?

KLEMENTS: Well, our house was not -- it just knocked the gutter off of my garage, but as far as damage to my house, no. It's not damaged at all. And other than talking to the local police and fire department, there has been no other authorities who have come by and issued any kind of edict or demand or telling us to not do anything or that we had to leave or whatever.

So we're probably waiting -- I don't imagine anybody is going to show up until tomorrow morning. So I hope not, anyway. I don't want them to come here in the middle of the night and try to do that.

BROWN: I don't blame you. You probably want a good night's rest after what you've been dealing with today. But now you're going to go to bed in your house with a big piece of that airplane engine at the front.

KLEMENTS: It's probably going to be a while before the adrenaline slows down and the nerves get back together. So we've had phone calls from friends and everybody from across the nation that we haven't talked to for a while, was that your house? yes, that was us.

BROWN: Well, it's nice that we can smile, right? I mean, we can smile right now because no one was injured, but it was a close call.

KLEMENTS: That's exactly right, because no one was injured either here on the ground or in the plane, it turns into more of an adventure and excitement than a catastrophe.

BROWN: Exactly, yes.

KLEMENTS: And, really, it's just personal damage, a little bit of property damage that was hurt. So I think even the house that had the roof damaged slightly, they should be able to spend the night in there.

It is starting to snow right now, as you can probably see.

BROWN: Listen, I'm going to let you go get warm, I don't want to keep you outside in the cold with the snow and everything. But thank you, Kirby, after the day you've had to come on and share your incredible story with us. What a Saturday for you.


Thanks so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no problem. No problem. OK.

BROWN: All right, bye-bye.

And now, I want to bring in CNN analyst and former FAA safety inspector, David Soucie joining me now.

So, David, we just saw that huge piece of an engine that smashed Kirby's truck, just so heavy were these pieces that were falling. Put it in perspective what we were just seeing there.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: That piece itself can be more than close to about a ton, about 1,800 pounds or so it's very heavy, very heavy. It's what -- is -- that's -- that part of the engine is what keeps the ice from getting in the engine in building up, hot air is piped into that, and it's filled up and it keeps it full of nice and hot, so that whatever air is coming in there doesn't ice up on the sides and then break off and get into the engine.

BROWN: So, it's clearly an important part of the engine. What can you glean from the terrifying passenger videos allegedly showing the engine failure in real-time you see in the video here?

SOUCIE: Well, there's a lot of information actually from those videos, it's really nice to be able to have those. And as you mentioned before, it's nice to be able to discuss this without the tragedy of deaths or injuries around it. Just incredibly fortunate.

I've done several accident investigations where parts have come off in an aircraft or even just a cube of ice is built up and falling off an aircraft and caused fatalities on the ground, namely, in Chicago that happened at midway airport, that I recall is very difficult. This is really, really amazing that no one was injured because of this.

But if we talk about what's happened to the engine, it appears because where the fire is coming from, there's fire extinguishing mechanisms around the engine.

Because of where the fire is coming from behind that kind of first phase of the engine, it looks to me like it's an intermediate compressor failure of some kind. It's not in the hot turban section, which would be further back, and it's not in the high-pressure area of the turbine compressor, so it's somewhere in that first part.

There's the big fan engine, you can see that turning. It's not turning at a high rate of speed though. It's pretty slow, and it's very shaky, and that's a very well-balanced piece of equipment. So, the fact that it's shaking and moving the way that it is, that big fan, tells me that there's something that failed in that medium compressor pressure -- compressor just behind the main fan.

So, something got in there cause it to fail. It wasn't a bird strike, I can guarantee you that. Something happened that really made this fail. If there is one thing that I've seen similar to this and that it was a bird strike, there were several birds that went into an engine and caused what we call a compressor stall.

And what that is, is that the high-pressure turbine is constantly burning in the back and driving that big fan to push the airplane forward. And so, what can happen is that compressor, if it gets plugged up, it can actually push that power all the way back out through the front of the engine and cause damage to the front of the engine. So that's another possibility I'd be looking at if I was investigating tonight.

BROWN: But you do not think this was a bird strike to be clear.

All right. David Soucie, thank you so much for all of your insight. They're really interesting as we learn more about what happened there with that plane.

Meantime, President Biden is looking for a reset on the world stage. But how will that play at the Kremlin or in Tehran? We're going to take it up with David Sanger up next. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



BROWN: Well jailed Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, hit with two court defeats and Moscow today. He'll remain behind bars after a judge partially rejected his appeal of a two and a half year prison sentence, shortening the sentence by just over one month.

The fallout over Navalny's detention in Russia is just one of the foreign policy challenges facing President Biden. And in his first month in office, Biden has already made a clean break from his predecessor on a host of those issues.

In stark contrast to Donald Trump, Biden has rejoined the Paris Climate Accord. He's spoken out on Russia's cyber warfare efforts invited Iran back to the negotiating table, and he's calling for a global effort to combat coronavirus. Biden set the tone for his approach Friday during his first major speech to world leaders.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm sending a clear message to the world, America is back. The Transatlantic Alliance is back, and we are not looking backward. We are looking forward together.


BROWN: New York Times national security correspondent and CNN national security analyst, David Sanger, joins me now.

So, David, this is a complete 180 from Trump's go it alone approach Biden is essentially saying, hey, we're back, America is back. We're going to work with our allies. But what was so interesting in this article you wrote for the New York Times, it's not like some of America's allies are running into Biden's warm embrace and saying, OK, we're back where we were before, right?

DAVID SANGER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that's right, Pamela, and thanks for having me back on. I think what was interesting about this past week is there's obvious relief on the part of the allies that Joe Biden is there. He's somebody they know well, he gave that speech, the random clip from at the Munich Security Conference, something he went to for years as a senator, vice president, even came back as a private citizen running for president two years ago.

So, they are very comfortable with him. But I think their message back was sort of twofold. The first was, don't expect it just because Donald Trump is gone and Joe Biden is in, that we're going to agree with you on everything. And that came particularly from Angela Merkel of Germany, who's got some differences about how to deal with China, and how to deal with Russia.

And the second was that they are all concerned that while Joe Biden is a familiar character, they worry that four years from now, everything that he does, could be reversed as quickly as he is trying to reverse what Donald Trump did.


BROWN: And, of course, they've seen that play out with the Iran deal, right? I mean, I want to ask you about Biden's approach with Iran, which he addressed yesterday. Let's listen.


BIDEN: We're prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5 plus one on Iran's nuclear program. We must also address Iran's destabilizing activities across the Middle East. And we're going to work in close cooperation with our European and other partners as we proceed.


BROWN: What has the Biden administration learned from Obama and Trump that could help make progress on the Iranian nuclear issue?

SANGER: Well, I think that what you heard in when he said that we had to address Iran activities across the Middle East, that was cold words for we know that the Iran deal signed in 2015, didn't do everything it needed to do.

So, what they're trying to do is figure out a way to reverse President Trump's action, which, of course, in 2018, he pulled out of the Iran deal, get back into those restrictions so that the Iranians are no longer producing uranium, nuclear fuel at the pace of which they had been in the past year and a half, where they basically broken out of the agreement because the United States did. But they can't just go back into the deal, because it's not long enough, and it's not strong enough.

And so, they need to hold back enough leverage that they force the Iranians to do more. And that's going to be hard panel, in part, because the Iranians have their own presidential election coming up in June. And there's going to be a great temptation in the next few months to show who can take a harder line against Washington and against Joe Biden.

BROWN: All right. David Sanger, thank you for bringing us the very latest, national security correspondent at the New York Times. Thank you so much.

SANGER: Thank you. Great to be with you.

BROWN: Well, after a month of near total silence and mostly staying out of public view, former President Donald Trump is headed back into the political spotlight on the biggest stage he has available. A source confirmed to CNN that Trump will speak next weekend at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.

But tonight, a source telling me also that former Vice President Mike Pence will not attend. Source telling me and my colleague Jim Acosta that Pence won't be attending, that he plans to stay under the radar for the next six months.

And earlier tonight on this program, Pence's former chief of staff, Marc Short, acknowledged what Trump has that -- what Trump has such a difficult time accepting that Joe Biden won the election barely that the election was not stolen. Here's what he said.


MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I think that we did have concerns about some of the events that happen in a few states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but we accept that Joe Biden is the duly elected president United States. And I think that the process, we just want to make sure -- the vice president wants to make sure the process played out to its conclusion.


BROWN: Short also tried to downplay the tension between Trump and Pence, after Trump suggested even as the riot was unfolding that the vice president inside the Capitol, that Pence lacked courage.


SHORT: I think the reality is that the president and vice president met, they've they talked several times before they departed, they departed amicably. The president told the vice president he did a great job for him, and they've spoken since.

And so, look, the reality is that clearly there were differences about what the vice president's role was on January 6th. But I think that in that moment, the vice president was focused in doing his job and staying in his post until it was complete.


BROWN: But he wouldn't directly answer the question if Pence felt betrayed by Trump. And Short also tells me that Pence saw Capitol Hill rioters from his office. And when he was being evacuated, he saw rioters as well, but he didn't hear those who called for Pence's hanging.

Short says they weren't worried about their safety because they were surrounded by Secret Service agents.

Well, as more Americans get one of the coronavirus vaccines, there is a growing debate whether children should return to in-person schooling. A new study suggests it's safe, but what do teachers think? The president of a national teachers' union, Randi Weingarten, joins me live to discuss.



BROWN: We have been following this breaking news out of Colorado tonight. This video posted on social media allegedly showing the engine of a Boeing 777 on fire. The United flight bound for Honolulu from Denver started shedding parts of the plane about 20 miles right outside of Denver in Broomfield this afternoon.

And pieces of that plane here seen falling out of the sky incredibly though the pilots were able to make a safe landing back at Denver International Airport, 241 passengers and 10 crew on board are safe and there are no reported injuries on the ground. The NTSB is investigating. We will keep you up to date with the very latest on this developing story.

Well, President Biden promised that in his first 100 days, he would try to come up with a plan to safely reopen schools. As the country nears the one-year mark of the pandemic, many children have been out of school for almost as long.

Despite this huge push to get schools reopen this week, only about 41 percent of students had a traditional in-person every day schedule. That's according to Burbio, a website that tracks K-12 School re- openings. About 26 percent of students had a mixture of online and in- person learning, and 33 percent are online only.


And as teachers push for the vaccine to get more schools back up and running, California announced it will set aside 10 percent of its COVID-19 vaccine doses for teachers and childcare workers in about 28 states and D.C. also allow teachers to get vaccinated right now.

Joining me now is Randi Weingarten, she is the president of the American Federation of Teachers representing 1.7 million members. Randi, thanks for coming on.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Thank you, Pamela, for having me. Really appreciate it. And so good -- glad that nobody was hurt in Colorado.

BROWN: Yes, we are -- we're all very thankful for that for sure.

So, I want to get right to it with what the CDC director said Dr. Rochelle Walensky. This is what she said yesterday about schools and red zones being able to reopen for in-person learning.


ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: In the areas that remain red, and they're about two-thirds of districts now with the numbers continue to decline, and the numbers that remain red, we say with universal masking and physical distancing and densification of classrooms, there are opportunities for in-person learning, as well as for middle and high school learning, and assuming you're able to do the densification that we suggest.


WALENSKY: So, as you heard -- just heard there, she's emphasizing that if masks are used, if physical distancing is in place, schools in red zones with high transmission can provide in-person learning. Does your teachers' union support that position?

WEINGARTEN: Yes, we do. Actually, there's, you know, the places that are beyond red, like in -- the purple places, like in LA, you really have to go from purple to red. But what is happening is -- and I give Dr. Walensky a lot of credit, she has put out a safety guardrail that we asked the Trump administration to do months ago.

You know, we basically said, we know teachers know, that in-school instruction is really important for kids. So, we basically said, we need the guidance for how to limit or effectively eliminate transmission and we need the resources.

And the Biden ministration has been a sea change within -- see change, excuse me, within three weeks, they've gotten us guidance that we can use. And then hopefully, we will get this package this rescue bill that he's trying to pass out of the Congress. These are the two elements that are needed, plus, prioritizing teachers for vaccines, like other essential workers, just like we prioritized health care workers, so that we give them --

BROWN: Hold on. I just want to jump in really quick, because I want to get to teachers vaccinated in just a second. But I want to stick on this really quick. So, you're saying you agree with Walensky, but there's so -- there's only 40 percent of schools that are offering, I think it's K-8, the everyday in-person learning. And basically, Walensky just said, look, if you're masking up and you can social distance, you can operate safely, that's something to you -- go ahead.

WEINGARTEN: Actually, what the --what's happening in schools is that if you're doing the social distance, and the dedensification, you pretty much need 30 to 40 percent more space and more educators. And the reason that you have so many places that are in hybrid is because they don't have the space, and they don't have the educators.

So, the real issue right now is, how do we help take the places that are on remote and turn it around. Teachers are still scared. But what they just told us in a recent poll in the last two weeks, is that if we get the testing, the vaccine prioritization, and these mitigation strategies, 85 percent of them are comfortable being in school. So essentially, we can put our money where our mouth is, which is if it's really important to do, we've got a roadmap, let's make it happen.

BROWN: But that's a lot of ifs. And the CDC says the testing and the vaccines are secondary, that they're not a prerequisite to opening up the school safe right now.

And I want to just ask you, because the teachers unions, as you have heard, they received criticism that they are -- some parents have said and other critics have said, the teachers' union are hold -- holding children's education hostage. I just want to give you an opportunity to respond to that criticism.

WEINGARTEN: So, Pamela, let me just say this. First off, all teachers' unions are not monolithic. But my local union, the one I come out from, from New York City, reopen schools with these kind of safety guardrails in September and October, and we learned how important testing was because it was the testing that it's given us this data to know that schools are effectively not transmitting a virus.

We need the guardrails to make it happen. And that's what we've called for months and months and months, including vaccines.


BROWN: But there's also the cost factor -- New York has the money, but there's the cost factor, but it's a complicated --

WEINGARTEN: That's why Biden -- that's why -- I'm sorry to interrupt. That's why Biden -- that's why the President is actually calling for the $130 billion or the $130 million for schools as part of the relief package.

But what I'm saying is we're in the middle of a pandemic, and ultimately, do we care about our kids enough? The NFL used all this testing to reopen the NFL, industry is doing the same thing. If we care about our kids enough, let's make sure that we have these guardrails in there. This time, teachers can't widdle.

BROWN: It's a complicated issue. That is for sure.

WEINGARTEN: It's complicated.

BROWN: It's complicated.

Randi Weingarten --

WEINGARTEN: But teachers want to do it. Thank you.

BROWN: Absolutely. They care about the kids. Thank you so much.

WEINGARTEN: They do. They care about them a lot. Thanks.

BROWN: All right. Thanks so much.

Thank you for joining me this evening. And I'm going to see you again tomorrow night starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.