updated 9/6/2005 5:35:38 PM ET 2005-09-06T21:35:38

Guest: Harry Connick Jr., Bernie Kerik, Carlos Melgar, Harry Lee, Amy Tuck, Ernie Allen, James Bernazzani

RITA COSBY, HOST:  We are now live tonight in New Orleans.  We drove all the way from Baton Rouge, and what a trip it was.  You could see the devastation along the way.  You could see roofs torn off.  You could see the flooding from probably about 50, 60 miles away, some incredible scenes, a city destroyed here in New Orleans.  And now an amazing sight.  Today for the first time—you can see the pictures—since Hurricane Katrina hit seven days ago, water is finally being pumped out of New Orleans.  And now word that at least one of the levees has been filled.  You remember the breaches in the levee system caused the massive flooding here that we still see today.
But also tonight, some dire news.  Now the mayor of this city is going on record with something that we have been reporting for days, but now he‘s coming out publicly and making the statement that as many as 10,000 may have lost their lives in New Orleans alone.  And the city is also dealing with a police crisis.  As many as 500 officers have not reported to work.  That came from the chief of police today.  A few have taken their own lives.
To tell us about all of the big developments today is NBC‘s Michelle Hofland, who joins me now live from New Orleans.
Michelle, first of all, tell me about the police officers.  This is a big portion of the force.
MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It is.  It‘s one quarter of the police force here.  The police chief fears that some of these people are dead.  We heard about that when we arrived here.  I talked to some of the police officers.  They said that some of the people, they were stuck in their homes during the floods and—because they were waiting until the—to come for the morning shift, and when they arrived—and they never arrived.
Also, there are a number of police officers who the police said—the police chief says just left their jobs and have gone away.  But there are two police officers who have committed suicide, one of them because he—what we understand is he returned home and found his family dead and his home destroyed.
Now, also we are hearing word, as Rita said, about the levee that was fixed.  This is the biggest break and the one responsible for the most flooding.  Now that that hole is patched, tonight pumps are pulling water out of the canal and back into Lake Pontchartrain.  No word on how long it will take to pump all the water out of New Orleans.
Rescuers continued today, day seven after Katrina slammed into this town.  Surprisingly, there are still some people who duck as rescuers go by because they don‘t want to be rescued, some because they‘re too scared or because they‘re just stubborn.
The body count has started in Louisiana.  It now stands at 59, but that‘s just the beginning.  The mayor of New Orleans warns the death toll could reach 10,000 in this city alone.  NBC News photographers went with crews to search homes just a few blocks away from here, homes that are not flooded.  In one home alone, they found nine bodies.
A makeshift morgue has been set up about 70 miles from here in a town called St. Gabriel (ph), a town that was also—used to be a leper colony. 
That town—what they—what they have done is there‘s a caravan of
trucks that arrived today, refrigerated trucks.  They believe they can
handle about 5,000 bodies at that location.  And as soon as they get those
bodies, they will begin identifying them and determining the cause of death
· Rita.

COSBY:  All right, Michelle.  Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.

And of course, some other good news that happened today, and that happened in Jefferson parish.  That is one of the counties, one of the areas around here.  And for the first time, residents were able to go back into their homes.  Some great news.  And Don Teague joined them for the ride.
It must have been an amazing moment, Don.
DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It really was.  You know, Jefferson parish, for those of you who aren‘t familiar, basically surrounds the city of New Orleans.  It‘s a population of about 450,000, and it was very hard hit by this hurricane.  Much of the flooding, much of the pictures and the rescues you‘ve seen are in Jefferson parish.  But the president of the parish early this week made a promise to people who evacuated that they would be able to come back in today and evaluate their homes, get in and get out.  And we were there as some of them did it.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
(voice-over):  Jefferson parish is home to the richest and poorest communities in greater New Orleans.  But as residents returned today, they discovered rich and poor had nothing to do with wet or dry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It really is a stench in there from the refrigerator.
TEAGUE:  After snaking through side streets and water up to two feet deep, Diane Bourgeois (ph) expected the worst.
DIANE BOURGEOIS, EVACUEE:  Doesn‘t look too bad.
TEAGUE:  Then realized a week of prayers had been answered.
BOURGEOIS:  It‘s just a blessing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sorry, sir.  You‘re going to have to make a U-turn right here.
TEAGUE:  Only residents who could prove they live in the parish were allowed back today.  Many who finally made it in wished they hadn‘t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s going to take a lot of work, man.
TEAGUE:  Most will follow the advice of officials and leave after seeing for themselves and salvaging what they can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The roof caved in.
TEAGUE (on camera):  Before returning today, residents in this area had no way of knowing if their homes survived.  This street is completely submerged for miles, but here at this intersection, there‘s hardly any water.
(voice-over):  Though just across the parish, in neighborhoods of stately manors, Katrina‘s wake left a lasting watermark, buckled floors evidence of the physical damage.  The emotional damage harder to see, but it‘s there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is going to be harder than any work that we‘ve ever had to do.
TEAGUE:  The water is slowly retreating here, but not the people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is not right!  This is not right!  This is not right!
TEAGUE:  There are tears today, but also resolve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ll rebuild.  We‘ll do it again.
TEAGUE:  To rebuild.
(END VIDEOTAPE)
So what an emotional day.  There was good news and bad news, and it depended on where your house was and whether the flood waters made it to your house or not.  But the people who came back today, really, it was all good news for them, and they all told me that, that they were the survivors, that New Orleans has never been about the buildings, it‘s always been about the people.  And at least the people we saw today got out before the storm, and they survived this terrible ordeal, Rita.
COSBY:  You know, we‘re standing here in the heart of New Orleans, even though it seems like a ghost town tonight, Don.  Give the folks at home a sense of where Jefferson parish is.
TEAGUE:  Right...
COSBY:  Obviously, New Orleans, the core of New Orleans was hit so hard.
TEAGUE:  Right.  The core of New Orleans is not Jefferson parish, but basically, any direction you go, you find yourself in Jefferson parish.  So it‘s hard to tell where you leave Orleans parish and you end up in Jefferson parish.  It‘s all one and the same to an outsider.  Of course, the people here know when you‘re in one and the other.  but they‘re all—you know, they may live in Metairie or Kenner, but it‘s all part of New Orleans and the same feel.
COSBY:  Incredible, Don.  And I took an aerial view.  We‘re going to show this later on in the show.  When I was seeing it from the sky, as we were looking at, like, some of the devastation there, what was incredible to me is some of the areas were so hard hit, the water—you could just see, like, the tip of the rooftops.  And then almost next door, you know, it was fairly dry.  It‘s amazing, the vantage point.
TEAGUE:  People here talk about being lucky because they‘re on high ground, and high ground here means, in some cases, you‘re at sea level.
COSBY:  That‘s amazing!
(CROSSTALK)
TEAGUE:  So that‘s really an amazing way to think of it.  But some people—and they tend to know from other flood events in the past, even minor flooding, whether their house sits four feet above the houses down the street, and that makes a huge difference.  And we see that so many times where on one block, there are houses inundated houses that are not under water at all.
COSBY:  And you know people are going to know the difference, especially after this.  They‘re going to know...
TEAGUE:  From here forth.
COSBY:  ... exactly where they stand.
TEAGUE:  For sure.
COSBY:  Don, thank you so much.
TEAGUE:  Sure.
COSBY:  Nice to see you in person after talking to you.
TEAGUE:  Yes.
COSBY:  In different—in different cities the last few days.  Good to see you.
And joining us now is the sheriff of Jefferson parish, Sheriff Harry Lee.  Sheriff Lee, great to see you here.  First of all, how many people took advantage today of going back to their homes?
SHERIFF HARRY LEE, JEFFERSON PARISH, LA:  Well, there were quite a few.  The lines were heavy and thick, but I think everything was quite orderly.  As I drove around the parish, many people are resigned to whatever they had.  And they took the parish president‘s advice.  They came back, got their valuables, surveyed the damage to their house, and did what we hoped they would do, turned around and leave.
COSBY:  How did their homes look, exactly?  What exactly—if you, like, sort of physically look at it, what did they look like?
LEE:  It depends (INAUDIBLE)  I have three homes in Metairie, my wife and daughter and other relatives.  Between the three of them, we don‘t have $5,000 of damage.  And fortunately, we didn‘t have any rising water in either one of those three houses.  But there are some houses, especially in the very affluent neighborhoods, the North Line (ph) section, old Metairie, the big multi-million-dollar houses are all still under water right now.  And it wasn‘t a result of the storm, it was a result in the break of the levee that happened on Tuesday night.
COSBY:  Which—and I know that they‘ve been working on some of the levees, but—you know, I took an aerial view.  It is incredible to see those folks right by the levee didn‘t have a chance.
LEE:  My assistant‘s mother—wife‘s mother and his sister live in Lakeview, right on the New Orleans side of the levee, and the water was up to the top of their roof.
COSBY:  Up to the top of their roofs.
LEE:  Right.
COSBY:  That‘s incredible.  That‘s incredible.  Tell me about the mood of your residents, sir.
LEE:  Oh, everybody‘s upbeat.  You know, I think that the—there‘s a lot of disappointment, a lot of frustration.  There was a lot of anger, not so much from our people because Jefferson parish, we had the capability to get out when we knew the storm was coming.  The problem with New Orleans, even some people, if they wanted to get out, they did not have the means to get out.  So what happened—and they probably could have survived the storm, too, but the breaks in the levee caused all of the death and—not the destruction, but the death because of the flooding, flood waters.
COSBY:  Well, Sheriff Harry Lee, I‘m so glad to see your residents.  How long until they actually all get back?  What do you think, weeks, months?
LEE:  Oh, I think in about a week, they‘ll all be back.
COSBY:  Oh, really?  That‘s great news.
LEE:  I think maybe a week, a week or 10 days, something like that. 
We‘re coming up with all our basic services now.
COSBY:  Great.  Well, hopefully, we‘ll be there to share in that great, wonderful moment.
LEE:  Good.  You come back when we get ready.
COSBY:  Thank you very much, Sheriff.  Good to see you.
LEE:  Come back in a year or two, we‘ll be thriving.
COSBY:  Oh, I‘m sure.  I think you‘ll be thriving before then, Sheriff.  Thanks so much.  Sheriff Harry Lee with some good news, which is nice to see.  And again, him saying that he‘s hoping back in just about a week, maybe some of his residents, or 10 days, may be back.  And let‘s hope, indeed, that he is correct.
And now let‘s go, of course, to Mississippi, because this isn‘t the only place that was hit.  A lot of places were hit incredibly hard.  And President Bush visited Mississippi.  Of course, he was in New Orleans just a few days ago, but today he was in Mississippi.  He arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but then went on to different parts of Mississippi.  And joining him there was Lieutenant Governor Amy Tuck, who joins us now.
Lieutenant governor, first of all, what did the president say to you?
LT. GOV. AMY TUCK ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Well, of course, the president was there, and he offered a ray of hope, and he brought hope to these communities.  He said that he was there to make sure that the federal government came with the resources that we needed to help us in the state of Mississippi.  We are grateful for our President Bush and his support.
And also, we today had the homeland security secretary was in our state, as well as the HHS secretary.  So we are—we are grateful for the support that we‘ve received.  And today, we were very pleased with the strong show of support that the president told us about as we were gathered in Poplarville with over 200 of our public officials throughout the areas that were devastated.
COSBY:  And Lieutenant Governor, you talked about the president touring the area.  Tell us about some of the devastation that you and he both saw.
TUCK:  Well, it‘s just—it‘s awful, Rita.  We see homes that are totally destroyed.  We see individuals who are waiting on water.  They‘re waiting on food.  But what we also saw that was encouraging is we saw a spirit of hope.  We saw people gathered together that were working together and taking care of their fellow man.  And that was encouraging and uplifting to all of us, to see those people.
When you ask them how were you, and how are your families, they replied, We‘re very blessed when we see some of the other devastation across the Gulf coastal areas and in the neighboring states.  So their spirit was remarkable.  But we saw, obviously, a lot of debris, and it‘s going to take time to have the debris clearance that we need in our state.  But we‘re doing the damage assessment now.  But it was absolutely devastating and heart-breaking to see what I saw today.
COSBY:  How long do you think it‘s going to take until make that damage assessment?  And what do you estimate it‘s going to be?  Any idea?  Any ballpark?
TUCK:  Well, it‘s hard to imagine right now because we are looking at trying to look to the future and build for the future.  And of course, we‘re looking at that assessment, and our officials are trying to get that data together as rapidly as they can so that we can begin to rebuild, rebuild our coast and make our state even better.
But what we need to know is not just the coastal areas.  Our entire state—the vast majority of our state has been affected by this.  We‘ve had deaths inland, as a result of—maybe even 300 miles inland.  We‘ve seen deaths across our state.  So it‘s going to take us years to rebuild from this.  But the good thing is that we have a spirit here in our state, and our people are absolutely remarkable.  And we are—we‘re going to be working together to make sure that we come back bigger and better.
COSBY:  You bet.  Lieutenant Governor, thank you very much.  We wish you the best of luck.  And I‘ll probably be back in your fine state soon.  I spent a bit of time there recently.  Thanks so much.
And joining us now is Ernie Allen.  He‘s with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  Their organization is doing an incredible job at bringing families together.
Mr. Allen, how many families have you reunited so far?
ERNIE ALLEN, PRES., CTR. FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN:  Well, we‘ve really just begun, Rita, but there‘s some really exciting signs—seven young children in a Baton Rouge shelter reunited with their parents in San Antonio, a 15-day-old infant reunited with her mother in Dallas.  We think this is a huge problem , but if we can get information out that we have people on the ground going into the shelters, taking digital photos, we believe we can reunite many, many of these families.
COSBY:  Yes, Mr. Allen, you just talked about reuniting a 15-day-old baby.  I mean, that must be an enormous task, going around saying—what, do you go to every shelter and say, Do you have a baby that‘s missing?
ALLEN:  Well...
COSBY:  I mean, that just seems astounding.  It‘s incredible.
ALLEN:  Well, Rita, this is really an information challenge.  What we‘re trying to do is work in partnership with state and local law enforcement, with the FBI, with the state missing children clearinghouses in those four states and with every possible resource.  We‘ve created—the Justice Department has asked to us to create a new national missing children‘s, missing persons hotline regarding Katrina, and we‘re urging people to go there to report cases, to give us leads about where these people are, so that we can link them with their families.
COSBY:  And we‘re looking at some pictures, incidentally, Mr. Allen, coming out of Houston.  And now we‘re looking at former president Bush, who was actually there, greeting some kids today, some beautiful pictures that we‘re seeing, and Mrs. Bush joining him.  So just some wonderful moments.  Of course, both of them being based there in Houston, a city that‘s near and dear to them.  And of course, that‘s where the Astrodome is, where there are so many folks.  Also President Clinton, who is joining them, of course, in the effort, helping in the relief efforts there, as well.
Mr. Allen, what I also thought was really just an amazing and
interesting angle, too, is that your group, because of the technology that
you‘ve been using for missing folks all these years, is also able to help
some of the unidentifiable.  Tell us about that
ALLEN:  Well, Rita, we‘ve done that for years because there are many cases in which a body in a morgue, because of the circumstances of death, is just not recognizable.  We‘re using forensic imagining, forensic art and other tools to do facial reconstructions and to create pictures of a person that could be circulated to the public for recognition.  There are some wonderful coroners and medical examiners who are doing the work to identify the decreased in the Gulf Coast region, but the Justice Department has asked for us to be a resource to them in that effort, and we‘re trying to do that.
COSBY:  Mr. Allen, best of luck to you.  I know we‘ll be talking with you.  And everybody, if you‘re watching from home, here‘s, of course, some information, anything you can do.  If you have any information about, first of all, about a missing loved one or want to report someone who has been located, both of those things can go through this pipeline here.  It‘s the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  And again, they also have a Web site.  You can see the phone number there, too, but the Web site is www.missingkids.com.
And stay with us, everybody, ahead because we‘ve got a lot more ahead tonight.  We‘re going to bring you along on an amazing search and rescue mission.  I traveled—you just saw me there—by helicopter with a military rescue team as they raced against time to save people still stuck in their homes.  Also, Harry Connick, Jr., is one of New Orleans‘s hometown success stories.  The mega-star will talk about his beloved city, hard-hit by Katrina.  He wanted to help.  Today, I caught up with him, actually, on the streets of New Orleans just a few blocks from here.  He‘s going to join us live.  Plus, we have some incredible new images of Katrina‘s devastation.  These ones are from millions of miles away and paint a grim picture of just how bad it is.  All that‘s coming up right after the break as we are live from New Orleans, the city hit by Hurricane Katrina the hardest.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, CMDR., JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA:  That‘s BS. 
I will take that on behalf of every first responder down there.  It‘s BS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY:  And that was Lieutenant General James (SIC) Honore, who‘s in charge—the commander of National Guard troops right here in New Orleans, a very difficult job and also a very feisty general, as you saw there.
And joining us now is someone else who‘s always (ph) seen as a good gauge of sort of all the troops and what‘s happening in terms of the FBI angle.  He was on our show the other day, James Bernazzani, special agent of the FBI in New Orleans.
Agent Bernazzani, great to have you back again.  When you and I talked a few days ago, the situation was still quite tenuous.  How do you rate the situation now because you guys have been terrific.  You guys have been on the ground, the FBI, since it really began.
SPECIAL AGENT JAMES BERNAZZANI, FBI:  Well, we have turned the corner, but we certainly still have challenges.  We still lack communications.  But we have fundamentally teamed with the elements of the New Orleans Police Department, the Louisiana State Police, law enforcement elements of DOJ and DHS, and we are putting together operational plans, as we speak, designed to reduce the violent crime.
COSBY:  How bad is the violent crime?  We just heard about, Agent
Bernazzani, the other day—I think it was just yesterday, late in the day
· a shootout on the bridge, at the main bridge here in New Orleans, some of the so-called deviant elements shooting at Army Corps of Engineers who are building the levee.  These are contractors.  Is it still quite difficult, still quite dangerous in certain pockets?

BERNAZZANI:  The city is dangerous.  Deputy Chief Warren Riley (ph) was correct in stating that nobody should come back because the city is not secure.  But we are moving in the right direction.  There are definitely shooters still in town.  And as the waters recede there, will be additional targets of opportunity.  And it‘s the intention of the FBI, with our law enforcement partners, to find those individuals and render those individuals to justice.
COSBY:  Who are these targets of opportunity?  When you and I spoke the other day, we were sort of just getting a handle.  Some of them sort of gangsters, but who else?  Who seems to be sort of coming out of the woodwork, unfortunately, to wreak havoc on this fine city and the good folks who are trying to make a difference?
BERNAZZANI:  Well, our intelligence tells us that prior to the storm, there was a significant violent crime problem in New Orleans to begin with.  These individuals have taken advantage of the aftermath of the calamity, and as they do, they loot, they murder, and they rape.  And it is the mission of the FBI and it‘s the mission of law enforcement, through intelligence and through—within the legal construct, to bring these individuals to justice.  And we will not stop until the job is finished.
COSBY:  OK.  Thank you very much, Agent Bernazzani.  Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.  You guys are doing a great job out there, and I‘m sure we‘re going to be talking with you some more in the coming days.
And just before the show, earlier today, we heard from the police superintendent.  We heard from a number of folks talking about the city.  Let‘s listen in to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDDIE COMPASS, NEW ORLEANS POLICE SUPERINTENDENT:  We were fighting odds that you couldn‘t imagine.  We had no food.  We had no water.  We ran out of ammunition.  We had no vehicles.  We were fighting in waist-deep water that was infected and polluted.  I have officers with infections from cuts.  See, this is the real story.  You‘re hearing it from the person who‘s out there on the front lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY:  Tough talk.  And again, this is the police superintendent mincing no words.
And another guy who‘s known to mince no words is the former commissioner of the NYPD, the New York Police Department, one of America‘s finest, Bernie Kerik.  Bernie, when you hear the police superintendent talking like that—I mean, this is an angry man.  This is a feisty man.  I can tell you, we just came in here, we were pretty scared driving in. 
What do you—what gauge do you make of New Orleans right now?
BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NYPD COMMISSIONER:  Well, I think I have to agree with the FBI agent in charge down there right now that they‘re on a comeback.  They had some problems going in, but I think between New Orleans, the state police, the bureau, DHS, and the other agencies assigned under DHS, I think they‘ll take back the streets and do what has to be done.  It‘s not going to be easy.  It‘s going to be a task.  But you know, in listening to the superintendent, I think he‘s got his mind made up.  He‘s got a job to do, and I think he‘ll get it done.
COSBY:  What would you do differently, Bernie—you know, New York City is a tough town, there‘s some great parts of the city, but there‘s some rough parts—to deal with this kind of a situation, a beautiful city, 35th largest city in the world (SIC), but now a ghost town.  When we pulled in, the only people we saw were a few reporters and lots of National Guardsmen, basically.
KERIK:  Well, I think, first and foremost, you have to instill law and order, and that‘s what they‘re trying to do, at all stakes, you know, no holds barred, get the people responsible for the murders, the shootings, the rapes.  They have to be taken off the streets one way or another, and get them out of the way because they have an enormous job to do.  There is still rescue and recovery going on.  There‘s going to be a number of things that follow the rescue and recovery.  But you can‘t do anything if you don‘t have law and order and you don‘t have safe streets.  So I think this is the time they have to do it and do it right.
COSBY:  Very quickly, what about the police force?  I mean, Bernie, I don‘t know if you heard about this.  This is pretty astounding -- 400 to 500 officers in the police department here in New Orleans have not been seen.  Some of them may have resigned.  We understand, unfortunately, some of them have taken their lives.  They‘re saying here 200 have walked off the job.  That‘s a big amount.  What do you make of just stress on the city?
KERIK:  Well, I think that‘s something that has to be dealt with.  You know, right now, you have all these other agencies that are coming in there.  You have the New York City Police Department that has already sent down 175.  They have another 100 going down today.  You know, you‘re going to have cops from all over the country that‘s going to assist in this process.
But New Orleans has its own issues, and they have to deal with their own cops.  There‘s going to be psychological issues.  There‘s going to be their own issues because these people live there.  You know, they may have lost their house.  They may have lost somebody in their family.  So they‘re going to have psychological issues they have to deal with, but that‘s going to have to go on as they clean up the streets of New Orleans.
COSBY:  All right, Bernie,.  Thank you very much.  Great to have you with us tonight.
KERIK:  Rita, thank you.
COSBY:  Former New York City police commissioner.  Bernie, thank you very much.
And coming up, everybody, I‘m going to show you an incredible tour that I went on.  I saw New Orleans from the sky.  It was stunning, the devastation.  I‘ve been covering this now for about a week, but to see it firsthand was incredible.  And we also participated and saw some of the rescues, which was just a wonderful moment.  And also, we have someone who‘s also trying to help the streets, New Orleans native and superstar Harry Connick, Jr.  We ran into him on the streets today.  He was helping some of the individuals, trying to make a difference.  We‘ll hear what he thinks of New Orleans when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COSBY:  And we continue here live from New Orleans.  Lots of activity here, and I‘m not alone.  Actor Sean Penn was seen in the Garden Distinct of New Orleans.  He‘s actually there to write a story about the disaster for “Rolling Stone” magazine, along with historian Douglas Brinkley, but they ended up actually participating and helping in an rescue. 
And he is not the only celebrity really putting his money where his mouth is and actually making a difference here in New Orleans.  Harry Connick, Jr., also was on the streets of New Orleans today.  And in fact, I ran into him just a few blocks from here.  He‘s a New Orleans native and, of course, very active also bringing some money back to the city.
And he joins me now live. 
Harry, first of all, I ran into you about two hours ago in the streets of New Orleans. 
HARRY CONNICK, JR., MUSICIAN:  That‘s right.
COSBY:  What were doing at the time? 
CONNICK:  Well, we were on our way back to the compound, sort of.  And I saw a woman with her daughter, who was about 18.  And then they had two little children, one was about maybe three, one was 11 months, I found out.  And they were pushing a shopping cart.
And I asked them where they were going.  They said, “Well, we‘re going to the convention center.  They told us to go to the convention center.”
And I had just come from there, and it had been long cleared out, at least 24 hours ago.  So I said, “Come with me.”  And I asked the cameraman and sound man if they would be kind enough to take her to a relative in Baton Rouge.  So at least, you know, it‘s the babies that freak me out. 
I mean, people our age can find a way out, but these children really have nowhere to go, so...
COSBY:  What do you make of the city?  This is your hometown.  I mean, this is the place you love.  You still come back in a number of times a year.  I understand—we‘re looking at you, by the way.  You took a boat tour today.  What did you see by boat? 
CONNICK:  I went to my dad‘s house.  I also went to Ellis Marsalis‘ house, who was a dear friend and a teacher of mine.  And there‘s just a lot of water and a lot of—it‘s sickening to see my city like this. 
But it‘s a city composed of very strong people, and very elegant, wonderful people, and I think, perhaps in this chaos, somehow something positive may come out of it.  You know, I think some light will be shed on some situations. 
COSBY:  You were here the day before the hurricane hit, you were just telling me.  What was that like? 
CONNICK:  Well, it was amazing.  I went to my Aunt Jessie‘s house.  And I took my two oldest daughters with me, and we baked a pie with my Aunt Jessie.  And it was nice. 
I love coming back here.  I try to visit as much as I can.  And I should take this opportunity to say that, long after this crisis part is over, Habitat for Humanity, which is an organization I‘m very closely associated with, now especially, is really going to be a big part of the rebuilding of New Orleans.
And if people want to contribute, they can go to Habitat.org, because there‘s a lot of people out there—they have no homes.  Many of them are in my band.  They have absolutely nothing left.  And Habitat is going to be a big part of that rebuilding process. 
COSBY:  How many of your band folks had their home damaged? 
CONNICK:  Well, three that I know of.  There may be some more, but three that I‘ve confirmed. 
COSBY:  Now, you had relatives.  Where was Aunt Jessie, by the way? 
Was she here or did she evacuate?
CONNICK:  Jessie had to get evacuated from her house, and ended up hitching a ride to the airport. 
COSBY:  So she got out?
CONNICK:  She got out.  My dad got out.  And I‘m hearing bits and pieces about cousins, and friends, and relatives, that are now slowly—everybody‘s out now, thank God. 
COSBY:  So everybody was OK, too, which is good news? 
CONNICK:  Yes.  Very good news. 
COSBY:  When you look at the city, as you and I have done—you know what I was stunned by?  I just got in here a few hours—I was just pulling in basically when I saw you.  It‘s a ghost town. 
CONNICK:  It is a very strange feeling. 
COSBY:  It‘s stunning to be at this lively city that is so vibrant, full of life.  What‘s the mood, as you look at it now? 
CONNICK:  I think people are stunned.  The woman that you saw when I met, she really didn‘t know what was going on.  I think people are pretty much stunned.
And it must sort of pull their reality out from underneath them.  I think it‘s going to take everybody a long time to sort of get a grip on how to restart and how to rebuild. 
I don‘t think there are any finite answers.  And certainly, this is not the time to point fingers or accuse anyone of anything.  I think everybody is trying as hard as they can. 
But it is a great city of great spirit.  And I think, over time, hopefully sooner rather than later, we‘ll prosper. 
COSBY:  You think it will come back and be as great as it was before? 
CONNICK:  Brighter, absolutely. 
COSBY:  And you‘re going to be performing here a lot, I hope? 
CONNICK:  I‘ll be as many times as they‘ll have me come back, I‘ll come back. 
COSBY:  Harry Connick, Jr., thank you very much.  It was great to see you in action today.  And that family looked so happy to see you.  It was great.
CONNICK:  Thank you.  Thanks, Rita.
COSBY:  Thank you very much.  Keep up the great work. 
CONNICK:  Thank you.
COSBY:  Harry Connick, Jr., this guy, I‘m telling you, he was working when I saw him today.  He was sweating.  And that family was so happy to see him.  It didn‘t matter who it was.  But when they realized it was Harry Connick, Jr., they got a double bonus, someone rescuing them and also obviously just a great superstar and a great smiling face.  So it was neat to see.
One of the other things that was neat for me to see, just a couple hours ago yesterday—it feels like it was days ago, because we‘ve been so busy here—but I went up with the Texas National Guard. 
These men and women were incredible.  These guys, so far, they have eight helicopters.  They‘ve been here less than a week.  And they‘ve rescued 7,000 people, not 700, but 7,000 people in eight helicopters, eight Black Hawks.  And I went on one of those Black Hawks along for the ride.  It was incredible.  Take a look. 
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
COSBY (voice-over):  We took off on a Black Hawk helicopter with six crew members, three with the Austin, Texas, National Guard, two heavily armed Border Patrol agents, and one emergency medical technician. 
(on-screen):  How important is what you‘re doing? 
BOB LUDDY, EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN:  It‘s pretty important.  Some of these people haven‘t had any food or water since before the hurricane.  So we‘re doing our best to get that to them.  We‘ve also been pulling out a lot of medical patients that we‘ve been getting to the proper treatment facilities. 
COSBY (voice-over):  As our tour of the region rolled on from the sky, the devastation was stunning and incredible.  In approximately a 10-square mile area, thousands of homes and businesses are decimated.  In many cases, only rooftops can be seen, and the water has not receded since the hurricane pummeled this area one week ago. 
Only minutes into our flight, we received word that a dozen evacuees have been spotted near the convention center after enduring many days at their flood- ravaged home.  They suddenly crammed into our chopper, some shivering and very scared, but grateful to be alive. 
(on-screen):  Where have you been the last few days? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve been at my house, trying to ride the storm out for the last three or four days, but I didn‘t have any food or water.  So I had to come to the convention center, you know, to try to get out of here. 
COSBY:  How do you feel? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I feel good now that I‘m getting out of New Orleans. 
COSBY:  What did your house look like? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s totally gone.  The water is covering the roof.  I live in eastern New Orleans, and it‘s totally gone.  Everything is gone. 
COSBY:  How does it feel to be rescued?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Great, great, great, great.  I am so glad to leave New Orleans, great. 
COSBY (voice-over):  After dropping them off to safety, our next step was to load up on necessities for those who are still determined to stick by their home. 
(on-screen):  This is normally a small parking lot attached to the New Orleans Saints football team training center.  But on this day, this is a main supply center, supplying food, water, and also medical supplies. 
(voice-over):  Unfortunately, it was clear many did not need supplies. 
We saw several bodies floating by their homes, but we also signs of life. 
People in the water on boats, even bicycles, and dogs still standing guard.
And there are signs on rooftops, vowing to rebuild, and telling these military men where to drop off supplies. 
But touching down in an urban city can be a dangerous task.  These well-armed Border Patrol agents accompany rescue-and-relief missions ever since some choppers were targeted by gun-toting criminals seeking to wreak havoc in this virtual ghost town.
(on-screen):  Are you surprised you got to carry this?  This is America. 
BRAD KIRKLAND, U.S. BORDER PATROL:  In this setting, yes, it‘s very almost upsetting, yes.  But you do what you have to do. 
COSBY:  Carlos, you‘ve been in some tough places.  Where?
SGT. CARLOS MELGAR, TEXAS NATIONAL GUARD:  I‘ve been in El Salvador.  I‘ve been to Nicaragua and Mexico.  And there have been some hard places there, but this is harder, I believe. 
COSBY (voice-over):  Despite the fires and sheer devastation, they stay focused on the mission at hand.  On this day, more evacuees run to our chopper, including a man with a bleeding head wound who is quickly taken care of.  Others are simply exhausted and uncertain of what lies ahead. 
(On-screen):  Where are you going? 
MELGAR:  I have no idea.  Just away from here. 
COSBY:  How does it make you feel to see these smiling faces when they see you?  It‘s like God has arrived. 
MELGAR:  It makes me feel great, especially when I see the kids that we‘re helping, and the elderly, and the sick.  I‘m glad that I‘m here. 
COSBY (voice-over):  And that attitude is critical, since their job and that of so many other rescuers will get even more difficult and painful in the coming weeks and coming months. 
(on-screen):  Is the worst what we don‘t see? 
MARK MONTAGUE, TEXAS NATIONAL GUARD:  Yes, ma‘am, what‘s in the house.  You know, when those levees gave way, the amount of water that came through, those people didn‘t stand a chance.  And probably, the worst is yet to come, once they get the levees breached, and the water pumped out, and they start the house-to-house search. 
COSBY:  What do you think we‘ll see at that point? 
MONTAGUE:  Unfortunately, a lot of victims tragically.
(END VIDEOTAPE)  
COSBY:  It was really amazing to see it from that vantage point and also to see just these incredible men and women risking their lives to save others.  I mean, it‘s very, very perilous touching down, even in that Black Hawk, on top of rooftops, on top of parking garages.  It was amazing to see firsthand. 
Even more amazing than these guys are the folks with the Louisiana National Guard.  These guys have lost everything.  Their base is not too far from here.  Their entire headquarters has been washed out.  They haven‘t located a lot of the guys, but yet they are up in the skies, along with the Texas National Guard and so many others, trying to do some good. 
Listen to what they‘re up to. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. PATRICK BOSSETTA, LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD:  Well, in my battalion, we‘ve had a difficult time getting a hold of everyone.  We‘re from New Orleans.  And we had recently returned from Iraq.  And all of us being New Orleans residents, it‘s been difficult to get a hold of everyone. 
COSBY:  What does your facility look like in New Orleans? 
BOSSETTA:  There‘s not much left of the facility.  When you tour it today, you‘ll see that New Orleans doesn‘t look like New Orleans.  And most of us have lost our homes, our businesses.  It‘s been very, very difficult.
But you know, we‘re soldiers.  We‘re here to support the community.  We drive on.  We were here four hours after the storm hit, flying.  And we haven‘t stopped.  We‘ve been flying eight to ten hours a day, day in, all through the night on the goggles, so, even after everything we did in Iraq, I‘m more gratified that we‘ve been able to do that here in our own community and save people.  And that‘s what we‘re here to do.
COSBY:  How long do you think you and your men and women will be helping in the cleanup and helping in the rescue? 
BOSSETTA:  I think it‘s going to be months, many, many months.  When you see the city in the condition that it‘s in, it‘s nothing like you‘ve ever seen. 
COSBY:  What‘s been the most emotional or painful moment for you personally? 
BOSSETTA:  The fact that my soldiers have lost everything they have, yet they‘re still here, doing their jobs as soldiers, serving their community, served their country in Iraq, and now we‘re serving our fellow soldiers and fellow citizens.
And to me, it‘s very emotional to know that they‘ve got enough grit, enough discipline, enough compassion and heart to do it, even though their own families aren‘t here.  So if people want to be proud of something in this country, they don‘t have to look any further than New Orleans to see how good things are and how good people are. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY:  The guys with the Louisiana National Guard, the guys and gals just doing an amazing job.  Not caring about themselves, but helping other people. 
And speaking of helping, some major help came today in terms of the waters, in terms of the flooding.  One of the major levees—remember that breach that were in several the levees?  Well, one of the biggies has been breached, lots of sandbags dropped.  You can see them there.
We‘ll talk about, will this make a difference on the city that you just saw an incredible perspective of? 
Plus, speaking of incredible perspectives, we‘re going to show you some amazing technology.  These are satellite pictures.  You can actually see your home from thousands of miles away.  You can click online zoom in, see if your house is OK.  Incredible technology of this century.  We‘re going to tell you how you can do it, right after the break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COSBY:  And we were just told that, in the city of darkness, there are some lights, of course, for our camera.  But there‘s one bright light shining on top of a sky scraper just a few blocks away from here, shining on a flag, an American flag at half-staff.  Sort of a poignant sight in a city that is so desperate, in so dire need tonight.  And much of it is a ghost town, except for a few emergency vehicles, which you can see behind me now.
Other than that, it is basically deserted, except for reporters.  It is quite poignant to see that American flag. 
And there‘s another light of hope tonight.  One of the levees has now been secured, completed.  There was a big breach in one of the main levees on the 17th Street Canal, which was really the key one, because that breach really flooded much of New Orleans. 
And tonight, some good news.  And joining us is Colonel Richard Wagenaar, who is with the Army Corps of Engineers, whose job is to breach much of the levees in town. 
Colonel, first of all, you and I spoke a couple of days ago.  At that point, none of the levees have been filled.  Tell us about this major one and when it was actually completed? 
COL. RICHARD WAGENAAR, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS:  Good evening, Rita. 
It was completed midmorning today, closed.  And now we are reinforcing it while we have the opportunity to do that. 
COSBY:  How big of a project is that?  How long have you been focused specifically on that particular levee, and how many bags of sand?  Because, Colonel, I went up in the sky.  Those bags are enormous, and they just kept on dropping? 
WAGENAAR:  We‘ve been focused on this specific one, on the 17th Street Canal, since Tuesday, right after the storm.  Thousands of bags have gone into that hole, but it‘s a significant event, completing it. 
COSBY:  How many more do you have to tackle? 
WAGENAAR:  There are two major breaches in the London Avenue Canal. 
And we‘re going to—we are starting to move equipment to those right now.  We are going to cap that canal, however, in that next week—it‘ll hopefully take less time than that, but that‘s our first mission, is to cap the canal, to prevent any water from flowing into it.
COSBY:  Now, I was seeing some of the water pumping out, also.  That‘s sort of the begin of the light.  How long is that project?  Are you getting any estimation on that, because as the water just sits there, obviously, these people can‘t get back into their homes, even think about getting back in? 
WAGENAAR:  Well, once we get all of the pumps operational, we‘re hoping it‘s going to take, I don‘t know, 35, 40 days.  There‘s a lot of estimates out there.  I think the optimistic estimate to get all of the water out is around 36 days.  That may be a little bit optimistic.  But you got to hope that that‘s what we can do. 
COSBY:  Let‘s certainly hope so.  Well, keep up the good work, and I‘m glad there‘s some good progress to report. 
Thank you, Colonel.  I‘m sure we‘re going to be talking a lot in the coming days.  Again, we appreciate it. 
And, everybody, stick with us, because you saw that from that vantage point, the levee.  Well, now you‘re going to be able to see it from the sky.  And also, some new technology‘s going to allow you to actually view your home from space.  We‘re going to tell you how that‘s done and also about the new storm system.  That‘s coming up next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COSBY:  Three more storm systems churning out there.  And also some new technology that can help you find your home.  To tell us all about it is MSNBC‘s chief meteorologist, Sean McLaughlin. 
Good evening, Sean. 
SEAN MCLAUGHLIN, MSNBC WEATHER ANCHOR:  Hi, Rita.  Good evening to you, too. 
We‘re taking a look at the tropics right now.  We‘ve got three areas of concern.  The first two, good news, no threat to U.S. landfall.  There‘s Hurricane Maria, our 13th named storm.  It‘s just kind of a good indication that we‘ve got a long ways to go still.  The ‘05 hurricane season lasts through November 30th. 
Tropical storm number 15 will also pass east of Bermuda, no threat to U.S. landfall.  That was just named late this afternoon.
Our problem zone is right here off the coast of Florida.  A large area of thunderstorm activity.  Hurricane hunter aircraft from the National Hurricane Center will fly down there tomorrow and check it out. 
Let‘s also check out a really good resource for our viewers here at LIVE & DIRECT to check out areas that they really know, are familiar with, or maybe have visited in the hurricane disaster zone. 
This is the National Weather Service main page at weather.gov.  This is kind of area where you kind of click on each state and get a forecast for your favorite city or town. 
Right here at the top, it says “Aerial Maps.”  I want you to click on that.  It brings you to this page filled with pictures all the way down.  At the very bottom, they‘ve got a great little link right here, aerial images of the USA Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina. 
They do this for every storm.  They take high-resolution satellite pictures.  You click on this little blue-and-white map.  That red line is Katrina.  And then all of these little squares you can kind of click in and figure out exactly which neighborhood you‘re going into. 
There‘s Lake Pontchartrain.  There‘s the southern tip of that, where they are protected by the levees and dikes there.  And take a look at the devastation, these neighborhoods here. 
These pictures are only a couple of days old.  And they go neighborhood, to neighborhood, to neighborhood, not just New Orleans, but all the way through Biloxi, Gulfport, all the way over through Pensacola.  In fact, there‘s Bay St. Louis.  Right over there is Pass Christian where Camille came through in ‘69. 
You can just kind of see the devastation.  Look at this storm surge, Rita, the impact that far inland, just total devastation.  So you might have vacationed down here, you might have some friends or family down along the Gulf Coast, you want to check how their properties are or just see this devastation.  It‘s a real easy way to do it. 
We want to keep you connected here on LIVE & DIRECT.  So we‘ll toss it back to you. 
COSBY:  Thanks so much, Sean.  And everybody, stick with us.  Our continuing coverage here from New Orleans continues right after the break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COSBY:  And I just arrived here in New Orleans just a few hours ago.  But on the way, we stopped at New Orleans airport.  You can see a picture of it there.  It doesn‘t look like an airport at all.  It is now a massive way station for the evacuees coming in.  Also, a major emergency room. 
Tomorrow night, we‘re going to show you my interview with the colonel who‘s in charge of that operation.  He‘s going to tell us what he has seen and all the different people that have come through that area.  It is really incredible.  You got to stick for that. 
And that does it for our show tonight.  We‘re going to be back here tomorrow night.  We‘re going to be bringing you coverage all week long, sharing some incredible stories.  But now let‘s go to someone who is also in the middle of the devastation, my pal, Joe Scarborough, who‘s in Biloxi, Mississippi—Joe?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  Hey, thanks so much, Rita.  I‘ll tell you what.  Remarkable stories coming out of New Orleans. 
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
END   
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Rita Cosby Live & Direct each weeknight at 9 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,