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'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' for September 1

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Robert Eckels, Haley Barbour, Al Embry, Wynton Marsalis, Scott

Cowen, Joe Mammana, Mike Theiss, Jim Reid, Hope Hennessey, John Hennessey

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Hello, everybody.  We are coming to you LIVE AND DIRECT from the place you see behind me, the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.  For weeks, maybe even months to come, 25,000 hurricane refugees will be calling this place home.  They are leaving a desperate situation at the convention center in New Orleans, where the scene has turned to complete chaos.  Some 30,000 people are still waiting to be evacuated from the Superdome, and many are running out of even the basic essentials of life.

Their anger is also spilling over, leading to an outbreak of frightening violence and also looting.  Thousands of National Guards troops are in the area.  They're there to restore order.  And President Bush himself was among those asking refugees to remain patient.  But even local officials are frustrated, calling the situation a disgrace.

And tonight, those stuck in New Orleans are begging for help.  Joining us now live from New Orleans with the very latest is NBC's Don Teague.  Don, what are you seeing there?

DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Rita.  I can tell you what's going on behind me.  First of all, this is not the convention center in downtown New Orleans.  These are the lucky people that you see back here.  They have been rescued, most of them within the last 24 hours, and may find themselves on buses to Houston by later tonight.  But for countless others in this city, there's no end in sight.


(voice-over):  It's a profound humanitarian crisis that grows deeper by the day, tens of thousands of hurricane refugees trapped in a city that's dissolving into chaos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We haven't eaten in, like, five days!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have a 3-week-old infant won't be able to survive out here with no milk, no water.

TEAGUE:  At the Superdome and nearby convention center, victims, mostly poor and black, wait for 1,000 promised buses to take them to safety in Texas.  Officials want everyone out in 24 hours, a seemingly impossible task.  A few busloads did make it out overnight, but the operation shut down when someone shot at rescue helicopters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get back inside, please.

TEAGUE:  Police arrested this desperate family, who'd stolen a car, saying they just wanted out.  There is widespread lawlessness, fires citywide.  One police lieutenant told NBC News there's no one in charge here, and even officers have to loot their own food and water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No food.  No water—I mean, the bare necessities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What do we get?  Nothing!

TEAGUE:  But victims who've suffered for days say they need help now and want to know where it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is wrong!  We have no water!  You could have dropped it from the sky from the helicopters.

TEAGUE:  All this as rescue efforts continue around the clock, the death toll clearly mounting, but officials so overwhelmed by the living, they can't even begin to count bodies.

At the city's primary triage area, helicopters and ambulances bring an unending wave of shell-shocked victims, most among the 28 percent of New Orleans residents who live below the poverty line and lacked the resources to get out before the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We ain't got nothing.  I know that.

TEAGUE:  And increasingly, it's apparent those who stayed have made heart-breaking choices, sometimes splitting up.  Wardell Edwards (ph) rowed a boat to safety with 18 children from his housing project.  Their mothers couldn't fit in the boat and stayed behind to wait for rescuers.  That was two days ago.  Today, still no sign of the women.


That's why I do all I can do for them.

TEAGUE:  And some children arrive here completely alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And your mommy?  Where's your mommy today?

TEAGUE:  A heartbreak this National Guard major experiences again and again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What would you do?

TEAGUE:  It is all simply too much to comprehend, and in rare, quiet moments, too much for those still trying to save this city to handle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We will prevail.


TEAGUE:  I should tell you that man, Wardell, with those 18 children -

·         when I say he rowed a boat, he rowed a boat.  That's why he went instead of the women.  They needed his strength to guide and push that boat.  There was no room for the mothers of those children.  He's desperately hoping to find them tonight, but he has been among this crowd some of 2,000 people.

And these are people -- - not the people from the Superdome, not the people from the convention center.  These people have been brought directly to this spot.  We're on the 10 freeway, for those of you who've been to New Orleans, the interstate.  They've been brought here by helicopter and in some cases trucks or from boats.  There's a boat launch just a quarter of a mile from here.  These are people rescued today.  They've got no place to go.  Many of these people have been on top of their roofs for three days now, four days since the water rose.

The good news is this is one of the places where it's been working so far.  These folks can expect that sometime tonight, 100 buses will come here and pick them up and take them out.  Now, that sounds like the kind of hollow promises that people have been hearing here, I realize, but it's been happening at this location throughout the day.  They marshal the buses out of the city.  They bring them here.  It's pretty orderly.  They load the people up, and off they go, out of this area.

And that's the key.  You've got to just get out of this area because 50 miles away, there's electricity and water, 80 miles away is Baton Rouge.  There's a Wendy's that's open there.  There's life beyond this area.  But in this area, there is nothing.  And the folks who aren't—you know, they're—it's miserable, no matter what you do.  If you're in this crowd, they got rained on today.  They're in mud and muck and they're frightened and miserable.

But it's worse all out here in the darkness of this city because there's nothing.  There's absolutely nothing, and you can't survive out there.  So it's a desperate situation, and it's been heart-breaking for all of us here, being a part of it for the last four days—Rita.

COSBY:  Don, incredible pictures.

And everybody, you just saw Don showing all those people on the freeway.  I actually just talked to a couple that was on the freeway.  If we can take a live shot now—these are the buses.  They are leaving that location where Don just was, coming 350 miles here to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.  These buses, some of them have people on them.  Most of them are empty because they just dropped off individuals.  And we're going to show you some of the heart-breaking stories, just the amazing stories of survival to get all the points to get to here to leave New Orleans and to get finally to safety here.

More now on the mayhem and also the madness at the convention center in New Orleans.  NBC's Martin Savidge with some of the most disturbing images that we have seen yet—Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you, Rita.  You know, actually, the story began when, early this morning, some homeless people, evacuees I guess we call them now, came to us and said, Do you know what's going on at the convention center?  Have you heard anything?  And really, everything had been focused on the Superdome.  We hadn't thought of the convention center.  And then they began telling us stories of what was happening inside.

And the truth is, I didn't believe it.  We decided to go take a look, and here's what we found.


(voice-over):  People began showing up here on Tuesday, when they heard that there would be food, water and buses to take them away.  But there is no lifeline, and many honestly believe this is where they will die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is my mother.  She needs heart medication, and she needs to get to a hospital immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My mother suffers from congestive heart failure. 

Her eyes are so groggy (ph) now.  I need to get her out of here.

SAVIDGE:  This woman is over 100 years old, sitting in the heat, in the chaos.  There are people here who barely seem alive, even children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Look how hot he is!  He's not waking up very easy.

SAVIDGE:  Some have already died waiting to be saved, with just notes for next of kin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The National Guard, the police won't even stop and talk to nobody!

SAVIDGE:  Looted alcohol, heat and frustration send tempers flaring.  And with no police here, they have to settle disputes themselves.  Finally, when an officer does appear, he only honks his horn to clear a path.

(on camera):  Can you do anything to help these people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have people coming to help them, sir.

SAVIDGE:  Who's coming?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I can't leave my...

SAVIDGE (voice-over):  As far as Cindy Davis (ph) knows, she's the only nurse here, trying to treat a girl in diabetic shock while comforting her frantic family.  She manages to find a way to test her blood, only to find she needs something else.

CINDY DAVIS, NURSE:  Insulin!  Do we have regular insulin?

SAVIDGE:  But amazingly, insulin appears, and a life is saved for now.


SAVIDGE (on camera):  They say it won't be long before this place explodes, and now with the rain, there will be no shelter.  Over here, the crowd has begun breaking into the hotel here.  There's a tremendous fear that with the rain, there's going to be more flooding, and with the flooding, that they will be killed.  What they're trying to do is to get to higher ground.

(voice-over):  Things here are only getting worse.


SAVIDGE:  These are scenes, other-worldly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Please, man, live!

SAVIDGE:  But this is not Iraq.  This is not Somalia.  This is home.


And this evening, we returned, Rita, to that same convention center to try to see if there had been any improvement.  As we were there, there was a Blackhawk helicopter that touched down, and they kicked out a large supply of water, bottles of water.  The throng of people crowded around inside the spinning blades of the rotors there and took what they could.  But literally, it was a drop in the bucket.  There had been also some MREs, but it is nowhere near enough.

There are no buses that have shown up.  The people there have given up any hope.  They are getting nowhere.  Their desperation is now turning into resignation.  They feel abandoned.  They feel left behind by a nation, and they cannot understand why—Rita.

COSBY:  What a sad situation.  Martin, thank you very much.

And one man says his job is becoming so increasingly dangerous taking the sick and injured from the Superdome that he actually suspended his company's operations after shots were reportedly fired.  On the phone with us right now is Richard Zuschlag.  He is the CEO of Acadian Ambulance.  Richard, first of all, how bad is the situation from your folks there on the ground?

RICHARD ZUSCHLAG, ACADIAN AMBULANCE:  Well, I think that the military should be into New Orleans tonight and tomorrow, and things should get better.  The Navy and the Army and the Coast Guard, along with the civilian helicopters, are doing a great job of rescuing people from the eight hospitals, from the rooftops.  That part's going fairly well.

Our problem is this.  These hospitals are begging for security so that we can get by boat and ground to evacuate the approximately 1,200 to 1,500 patients that are still left in these hospitals that have had no power.  The water went up over their generators.  They've had no power or water for four days.  These are the sickest of sick people.

I have all kinds of reports from doctors and hospital administrators telling me how many people are dying inside their hospitals.  We have got to get security straight tomorrow so we can go by boat and by ground to evacuate the rest of those hospitals.

COSBY:  And Richard, as you talk about all these things, are you confident that security can be in place in 24 hours?  Because this is dire!

ZUSCHLAG:  I hope that what we're doing tonight can get the word out that we can finally get some people to listen to us.  I know how hard our governor is working.  I know how hard our federal government is working.  The problem is, all the things that have been dispatched to New Orleans, none of it has gotten there yet.  We have a terrible security problem, and until we regain control of security, we can't get proper entrance into that city.  And that's part of the reason why FEMA has not gotten into New Orleans, because of these security problems.

Now, the problem is the hurricane wiped out all communications.  There's no communications.  And if you can't communicate with each other, you really don't know how bad things are.  That's part of the problem.  But the fact is, for the last three days, everybody has been promising all this aid, and none of it, very little of it, has yet to reach the downtown New Orleans area.

COSBY:  Well, let's pray that some security and some help gets there. 

Richard, thank you very much.

And as we said from here, thousands of refugees from New Orleans are headed here, to Houston's Astrodome at this hour.  And as you can see, some buses are coming in.  Lots of cars are coming in.  In a few moments, you'll see some police cars.  But it is just a very, very busy scene.

And just a few moments ago, I witnessed a remarkable reunion right here in this parking lot.  Two relatives saw each other for the first time after escaping New Orleans.  It was a really touching moment among so much sadness and so much loss.


How does it feel to see her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I mean, (INAUDIBLE) ever going to see them.  You know, (INAUDIBLE) Coast Guard.  I was scared for my baby.  We was running out of food.  Cell phone wasn't no good because you couldn't get, you know, service.  Phones (INAUDIBLE) Water was rising.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All you know is the area they were in, and you watched the news and you just prayed.  And you know when you see them that there is a God!

COSBY:  How worried were you about her and all your other family members?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I haven't slept since the last time I talked to them!  I wanted to do so much, but I took half my family out.  And I went back for the other half, and they were telling me we couldn't go back into the city, so as far as I can go was Baton Rouge.  And I went there to get my brother.  All I did was tried to get in contact.  (INAUDIBLE) so I couldn't bring them no more.  Then finally, we get a phone call saying that they're coming home.

COSBY:  How great does it feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, beautiful!  We've been here since 2:00 o'clock this morning, just sitting and waiting and watching every bus come through.  And all we kept saying is, I can't believe all these buses coming in, we haven't received any word yet.  Then finally...

COSBY:  How great does it feel to see her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It's the greatest thing!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It feels so good to be on the ground.

COSBY:  How worried were you in New Orleans?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was very worried, I mean, especially for my daughter.  And we had some of the state police that were, you know, good to you, and you had some that, you know, had attitudes.  I mean, but we were the ones out, you know, struggling, you know, for life.


COSBY:  Just an incredible, amazing moment, and just heart-breaking, but good news finally in the midst of all of this.

And Judge Robert Eckels is coordinating relief efforts here at the Astrodome.  Judge, thank you.  I appreciate it.  I know it's a very busy night for you.

JUDGE ROBERT ECKELS, COORDINATING ASTRODOME RELIEF EFFORTS:  Rita, it has been a crowd.  You've seen some of the stories.  It's seeing the best and worst of folks in this situation, and here you've seen some of the best.  You're seeing stories like this, this family coming back together.  We see a lot of folks because everyone comes here has a story.  Folks who have come from major flood disasters, they've been picked up off the side of the road in knee-deep water.  And you know, a few hours later, they're sitting here in the Astrodome and they've got a dry spot, a bed, a place for a bath, a meal.

It's a—they're very grateful, and we're seeing some really good stories coming out of the folks coming in here.

COSBY:  It's amazing.  We're looking also at some of the elderly, some of the sick.  These are some of the first pictures that we're getting here from inside.  These are literally the very, very first pictures that have been released.  This was taken by FEMA, I understand, just a little bit ago.

How crowded is it in there inside?  It looks like these are a lot of the folks outside.  But (INAUDIBLE) inside, it looks like wall-to-wall cots.

ECKELS:  Yes.  The inside of the dome, Rita, is wall-to-wall cots, and we're...

COSBY:  This is actually from New Orleans, right?

ECKELS:  This is out...


COSBY:  This is inside, right?

ECKELS:  These are—this is inside the Houston Astrodome.


COSBY:  ... about 4,000, right?

ECKELS:  Well, we're up now, we think, to about 8,000, and we're—it is growing.  And we're trying to learn from the experiences in the Superdome and try to have maybe fewer people (INAUDIBLE)  having fewer folks in the dome maybe than we originally anticipated.  We're not sure that as we get into the logistics of operating this—this is a great place to bring people for a very short period of time, but it is still, you know, 8,000 or 10,000 people.  And you start getting to the problems of management and frustration among the folks after a period of time, when their first basic needs are met.

COSBY:  What is—what are the spirits of the people?  Because we're looking at here just lots of, obviously, materials, as you pointed out, coming in, distributing—the folks that we talked to were so relieved, just so happy, you know, to be alive.  But what are the spirits now?  Because, unfortunately, what's happening, they are supplies, but they don't know where they're going next.

ECKELS:  They don't know where they're going.  They don't know where they've come from.  They know where they were picked up, but they don't know the scope.  They don't have TV.  They don't get to watch your show.  They don't have TV.  They don't have radio.  They don't have the newspapers.  They don't know what has happened across the big region.  They don't know—now they're finding out.  They don't know where their families are.  They're frustrated.  They are scared.  But they are also grateful and relieved.  They've been very gracious here.

We have had a lot of medical—serious medical problems of folks coming in...

COSBY:  Because, what, they're dehydrated, just exhausted?

ECKELS:  Well, they're dehydrated, they're exhausted, but they also haven't had their meds for some period of time, on some mental health issues.  We've had people that haven't had their insulin.  There are other just chronic health problems.  So it's been a big issue on health care, too.

But we're dealing with it.  We're looking at the dome.  We're looking at alternative locations.  And we'll do our part and be good neighbors to our folks in Louisiana.

COSBY:  Well, you've done a heck of a job here, Judge.

ECKELS:  Thanks, Rita.

COSBY:  Thank you very much.  And thank you for having all of us here, too, as we look at this incredible sight.  This is the new home, and a lot of happy faces here.  It's nice to see some good news coming out of all this.

Now we're going to go—we're going to go to Haley Barbour.  He's, of course, the governor of Mississippi, who joins us, I understand, right now on the phone.  Haley, great to talk to you, Governor.  First of all, how is the situation?  How do you assess the situation there in Mississippi?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Rita, the hurricane was devastating.  I mean, I've never seen devastation on this scale, areas that were obliterated, but not, you know, a few square blocks.  On our Gulf Coast, there's a 50-mile stretch where 90 percent of the structures don't exist anymore.  So I mean, it's a terrible tragedy for people who have nothing, lost everything.

But at the same time, it overwhelmed all of our systems.  It overwhelmed our—the electricity's out.  Our telecommunications are out.  Our water systems are out.  Our streets are destroyed.  Our—so it was the most massive destruction I've ever seen.

But having said that, we're coming back little by little.  We turn a corner every day or two.  We got a lot of corners left to turn.  And there are—you know, there are problems.  There are issues.  And we're not perfect, but everybody's trying hard, and everybody's trying to work together.

COSBY:  Now, Governor, what is the sense, too—the one thing that I'm sure just deeply concerns you, the looting, the crime.  We just had someone in charge of an ambulance company saying that they stopped even rescuing the very, very sick, because it is so dangerous.  That's got to scare the heck out of you, to you hear just that shots are being fired at rescue crews.

BARBOUR:  Well, I'm going to tell you what.  It's intolerable.  And we're bringing in more and more military.  We're not going to tolerate it.  And that kind of conduct is going to be dealt with ruthlessly, Rita.  Let me just make that plain.

You know, there are a lot of these people who, in the first day or two, because everything was so isolated, there was no law enforcement.  Well, I'm going to tell you, we're going to put however much military in we have to put in, and it's not going to be tolerated.  I mean, the civil society is being undermined.

You know, I'll tell you, Rita, this is the worst natural disaster in the history of the country.  And to me, it brings out the best in so many people, but it brings out the worst in some people.  And we're not going to tolerate that.

COSBY:  And boy, is it sad, Governor, when you see the worst, too.  I know you've done a great job.  Whatever you need from us, you got it, Governor.  Great to talk to you tonight.  Thank you so much, sir.

And we have seen so many dramatic and also desperate moments in New Orleans.  You just heard about a few of them from the governor.  Tonight, we're seeing some of the first pictures out of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  NBC's Ron Blome joins us now LIVE AND DIRECT, giving us a vantage point from there.  Ron, just incredible devastation behind you there.

RON BLOME, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It is.  And I've seen Biloxi and along the coast, and this is every bit as bad at Biloxi and perhaps more widespread.  This is 60 miles east of New Orleans.  And having seen Don Teague's spot, this is a world apart from what's happening there, but this is also a world apart from the rest of America.

There is no power.  The homes are destroyed for miles on miles on end.  The situation—they're bringing in ice.  They're bringing in water.  But so many people are still lacking basic things.  They don't want to leave their homes because they're afraid there could be some looting, but there's not much of it here.

Just even to look at the death toll along the Mississippi coast—it is officially put at 100.  They're saying that 17 of those are here from Hancock County.  But a “USA Today” reporter told me a short time ago that the funeral home operator here said he had 18 bodies that he turned over to FEMA, that were adding them to a refrigeration trailer that's holding other bodies, as well.  And there are search and rescue, urban rescue team people, who are still going through the houses out here, looking.  We met a woman yesterday whose mother had just been found dead in her crushed bedroom in her collapsed house.  She said her mom last year had fled Ivan, thought it was a waste of time when no storm came.  So this year, she decided to stay.  They couldn't talk her out of leaving.  She was one of the 18 official victims here in Hancock County.

We have seen so much.  And there are other people who did take shelter, and the water came up 30 feet high in the shelters.  Today they're back in their homes.  Let me share the story of one Ralph and Josey (ph) Ramsey.  He's a retired engineer with the NASA installation.  They went back, devastated to see their home yesterday, cleaning it up today.  And he told me this afternoon that he never thought he'd be starting over again.  Let's listen.


RALPH RAMSEY, LOST EVERYTHING IN HURRICANE:  It's kind of strange at 68 years old to not have anything, no clothes, no nothing.  I don't have anything.


RALPH RAMSEY:  Yes.  That we do.


BLOME:  Well, after we did that interview, we put the Ramseys on our satellite cell phone.  They got in touch with their son and daughter, and they are coming from Virginia to pick them up this weekend, so they do have a little help that's reaching out.

But that's the story down here.  Everybody is trying to make contact with people in other states, and it is so frustrating not to make that connection.  Back to you, Rita.

COSBY:  And I'm glad that the Ramseys were able to be reunited and talk to their family.  Ron, thank you.  What a great story.

And let's move on, if we could, to hard-hit Biloxi, Mississippi, where MSNBC's David Shuster is there with us tonight.  David, are you finally seeing some relief coming into your area?

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Rita, we are seeing some relief.  But it's also taking the form not only of people coming in to help search for bodies—and by the way, police officers are now suggesting it will be at least in the hundreds, perhaps maybe even the thousands, the number of people killed here.  But we're seeing relief also as far as dealing with the thousands upon thousands of people who are injured.

With us are some disaster relief volunteers.  We have Misty (ph), Cindy (ph) in the green, Sheila (ph) in the blue and Rick (ph) in the red.  This is a group that for people, for example, who survive on oxygen—and you can imagine what sort of situation they have right now—they're providing some oxygen.

And first of all, what are you seeing as far as also the triage that you set up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mostly, we're seeing a lot of wounds, infected wounds that needs antibiotics, ranging from medicines by mouth to IV medicines to even being admitted to the hospital.

SHUSTER:  And Cindy, you've gone through other hurricanes before.  How does this one rate, as far as the number of injuries and the severity?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is probably the worst.  There's more people in a larger area, and it's probably the worst I've seen.

SHUSTER:  And I understand that, Rick, for example, you guys have no place to sleep tonight.  You're sleeping in the truck, which is an unusual challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Me and one of my employees are sleeping in the box truck, yes.

SHUSTER:  Sheila, I mean, what...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It's just overwhelming to see what you're having to see—the casualties, the trauma to the children, and the families with no place to go and not knowing what to do.

SHUSTER:  Misty, I mean, what's the challenge from here on out?  I mean, are you guys getting enough supplies to be able to treat all the people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They're starting to come in.  The supplies are.  At first, it was kind of scary because we—you know, we didn't have a lot of supplies.  But they are starting to come in.  But the massive amount of antibiotics that were given out and the tetanus, is just—I don't know how we're keep up with the supplies.

SHUSTER:  And that would indicate that—that would indicate everybody's infected with bacteria or...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don't think I've seen one wound today that wasn't infected because these people were, you know, floating in the water for literally a couple of days before they were, you know, rescued.  So lots of infections.

SHUSTER:  You guys, thank you very much.  And to the team from Milton, Florida, these are volunteers, disaster relief volunteers, who have quite a job on their hands not only with their work, Rita, but also their own personal situation.  Remember, no water, no food, no electricity, and as you've heard, they're having to sleep in their cars just to try and help people—Rita.

COSBY:  Great stories of neighbor helping neighbor.  David, thank you very much.

And let's go back now, if we could, to Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans.  Victims there are slowly trying to pick up the pieces, and over the next three days, on an average of 1,400 National Guardsmen—they will be arriving each day.  NBC's Jennifer London is in Slidell, Louisiana, for the latest from there—Jennifer.

JENNIFER LONDON, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Rita.  One medical official I spoke with at a triage unit earlier today said, quote, “You have to think of this like a war zone.”  And when you look at what is left of someone's house just behind me, you really understand what he's talking about.  This is just one example of what it looks like block after block here in the city of Slidell, entire homes and businesses just destroyed.

There is still no running water.  There is no electricity.  Gas leaks are a concern.  So is looting.  I'm told 3 arrests have been made so far.  FEMA and the Red Cross are now here.  Three shelters are open, yet just today, for the first time, the Red Cross has been able to start providing warm meals for some of the evacuees.

A lot of the people I'm talking with here say they really feel as if Slidell has been forgotten.  They're wondering, Where's the help?  Where's the infrastructure?  We did see some utility workers here, trying to restore some of the fallen utility poles, but we are told it could be two months to three months before the power is restored.

Now, we did meet one family who just had an incredible story to tell.  They decided to shelter in place and ride out Hurricane Katrina in their homes.  Keep in mind, this storm was a category four when it blew through here.  These folks took some home video.  They see the wind and the rain, the water rising.  They saw homes all around them being swept away.  Their home survived, sustained only minimal damage.  So many others here not so lucky.

When I arrived here today, I've been talking with people, and they're telling me that they survived with just the clothes on their back.  And they're telling me they have nowhere to go.  And Rita, I did ask the sheriff here for the city of Slidell how long he thinks it will take to rebuild this city, and he looked at me and he shook his head and he had tears in his eyes and he said, Years.

COSBY:  Oh, years!  What a heart-breaking answer.  Jennifer, thank you very much.

And everybody, stick with us.  We've got a lot more ahead tonight. 

Where is the help?  That's the big question you just heard from Jennifer.  You won't believe how difficult it is to get aid to the people whose lives are literally on the line.

And you also will not believe what the photographers who shot this incredible video had to do to bring us the video of Katrina the day she came roaring ashore.  Their story is coming up on LIVE AND DIRECT.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I mean, in Baghdad, they drop—they airdrop water, food to people.  Why can't they do that to their own people in New Orleans? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No kind of help, boats (INAUDIBLE) or nothing. 


COSBY:  Emotions running high.  And again, everybody, we're coming to you LIVE & DIRECT at this hour from Houston where thousands of refugees are flowing into the Astrodome behind me, escaping the chaos of the Superdome in New Orleans. 

Hundreds of people there have not been able to locate their loved ones even at this hour since Katrina hit.  And just moments ago, we learned that one person had been found.  Someone a lot of us know in the rock 'n' roll world, Fats Domino. 

We're joined now by his manager, Al Embry. 

Al, I'm really happy to hear this.  We literally just got the word a few minutes ago.  Fats has been located.  I mean, this man is a legend.  I understand his son spoke to him, correct?

AL EMBRY, FATS DOMINO'S MANAGER:  Yes, I talked to him Sunday at about 9:00, trying to get him to come out of there.  And after I talked with him, I was with Mickey Gilley.  And he talked to him on the cell phone. 

I talked to him again Sunday night.  And he just wasn't going to leave.  And I begged him to leave.  And I told him I'd pray for him.  He said, “Pray for me.” 

And he said, “Please, I love you,” and I'll tell you, you love him anyway.  I've known him for over 40 years.  And I thought it was over for him when I saw the waters Tuesday. 

And I called the governor's office.  I called the rescue people, Lieutenant Calbs (ph).  I talked to her.  And she said she'd walk it right over to them and get it done. 

And I was just—I've been on the phone since 3:00 this morning, and all the e-mails I've sent out.  I thought it was over.  But just recently, I got a hold of his youngest child, and talked to them.  And he has talked to Antoine Fats Domino, and Rosemary, his wife, and his daughters are safe.  They were helicoptered out.  And they're safe. 

I haven't personally talked to Antoine, or Rosemary, or any of the kids, except the one I just talked to earlier.  And he did assure me that he is safe.  They don't want to tell the location at this time, but he is safe.  And everything looks like it's going to work out.  And we've all been on pins and needles for the last four days, wondering what has happened to him. 

COSBY:  Well, Al, what great news.  And, Al, I'm sure that you were just totally thrilled.  We are, too, because we've been enormous fans of his music.  And it's nice to hear some good news in the midst of all of this.  Thank you so much, Al, for sharing that update us tonight.  Thank you. 

EMBRY:  Thank you so much, Rita. 

COSBY:  Thank you.

And tonight, there are thousands across this country working to help.  Among them, New Orleans native and also another musical superstar, Wynton Marsalis, who will be taking part in the NBC benefit concert, which is going to air tomorrow night, also right here on MSNBC.

Wynton, I understand that your family had to be evacuated.  Tell us about that. 

WYNTON MARSALIS, MUSICIAN:  Well, they didn't have to be evacuated, my father and mother.  They left early.  And my brothers went different places and different people from my family, but they're in Baton Rouge.  And they're OK. 

COSBY:  They are?  What did you think?  What went through your mind?  You know, New Orleans is the place you love.  And as we look at these pictures, what went through your mind when you just saw the wall of water, and coming up to the top of a roof? 

MARSALIS:  I mean, for all of us from New Orleans, you know, it hurts us very deeply.  We've very depressed about it.  It's our city.  But we're also, in a way, we're going to show the nation and the world what our spirit really is.  And it's very difficult to—like somebody is doing something to your mother and you can't do anything about it.  I mean, it's painful. 

COSBY:  I bet.  Are you very worried as you look at the pictures?  You know, we just heard from Jennifer London, who is, you know, in another part of the state, and she said that the mayor there was saying it may take years, and that's the sense, even in New Orleans, too.  Are you worried New Orleans is maybe never going to be the same again?

MARSALIS:  No, I feel that New Orleans will rebuild.  What I'm worried about is, what will the response of our government, and what will the response of the American people be to this catastrophe? 

And I think that how we respond to it will be a signal to the world of where we are as a nation.  Are we a modern nation?  And how do we feel about all of our citizens?  A lot of times, we're not as concerned about citizens who don't have as much money, or who are of a different race, or what it is. 

And it's time for us to say to the world, “We're all Americans.”  And even the response we're seeing from the government to the people who are stranded now is far, far, far below.  We hear a lot of words, but we don't see a lot of action. 

COSBY:  And now you are taking some action, Wynton, which I applaud you for.  You and some of the other musicians, some other great superstars, are going to be a part of this concert tomorrow, which is airing on all the NBC channels. 

Why did you want to do this?  Why do you think it's so important? 

MARSALIS:  Well, Harry Connick and I talked the day of the hurricane.  And I spoke with my brother, Branford.  And we're all New Orleanians.  I mean, we want to do whatever we can to help our city.  We're musicians, so we play music. 

We wish we were engineers, and we wish we could do something tangible.  We wish we could be down there, pushing wheelchairs, or working with ambulance crews, or being doctors, but we aren't.  We wish we had food to bring.  So we do what we can do. 

COSBY:  Well, we really applaud your efforts.  And thank you so much. 

And I'm so glad that your family's safe and sound, Wynton. 

MARSALIS:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

COSBY:  Thank you very much.

And, again, everybody, you want to tune in, because you want to see Wynton, Harry Connick, Jr., also Tim McGraw, lots of big hitters, tomorrow night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern time on MSNBC, also NBC and CNBC.  We know that Matt Lauer is going to be hosting it.  We also know Aaron Neville is going to be a part of this amazing concert. 

It will be benefiting, of course, all those poor folks who have just suffered so greatly.  So be sure, everybody, to tune in and do your part, of course. 

And the situation in New Orleans, as we just showed you those pictures, is growing more desperate by the minute.  And it's clear that it's going to take a long time for the city there to recover. 

Take a look at these amazing satellite photos.  You can see just how much of New Orleans is submerged.  This is incredible.  Before and after picture, basically, just a few months apart. 

Now, the whole section of the city is consumed by murky and also contaminated water.  One of the city's great institutions is Tulane University.  It had to evacuate.  Of course, their entire campus, including freshmen, who had just arrived to start the school year. 

And joining me now here is in Houston is Tulane University President Dr. Scott Cowen. 

Dr. Cowen, you've got an incredible story yourself.  You just got here.  What did it take from New Orleans to come here 350 miles? 

DR. SCOTT COWEN, TULANE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT:  Well, I left this morning New Orleans.  I had to take a boat, to get to a golf cart, to get to a dump truck, to get to a helicopter, and then a plane to get to Houston. 

COSBY:  And how long did this whole journey take? 

COWEN:  It took about eight hours today, from the moment I left the Tulane campus, at about 8:00 this morning. 

COSBY:  And what did Tulane campus look like? 

COWEN:  Well, actually, our campus is fairly well, given everything considered.  We have some water.  We have some damages to the building, but, all in all, we believe we can rebuild our campus pretty quickly. 

COSBY:  How long is that going to take? 

COWEN:  Depends on what happens to New Orleans, quite honestly, because we depend on New Orleans for its infrastructure.  As soon as that infrastructure can be approved, then we can be up and running in six or seven weeks. 

COSBY:  What's going to happen to the students in the meantime, the six and seven weeks that you're waiting? 

COWEN:  Today, I promised all students they would have a definitive answer to that question in 48 hours.  And the reason I don't want to answer right now is, we're in discussions with universities all over the country that have offered assistance to Tulane University.

Until I conclude those discussions tomorrow, I'm not going to give a definitive answer about what's going to happen this semester. 

COSBY:  What is your personal thoughts, leaving Tulane and coming here, and just what you went through?  Imagine what these poor souls went through. 

COWEN:  You know, the number-one objective always of Tulane University is the safety and the well-being of our students.  Any decision we make will be in their well-being.  And I can guarantee you:  Tulane University has been around for 171 years.  We're going to be around for another 171 years. 

COSBY:  Dr. Cowen, thank you very much.  It's nice to see a smile on someone's face, sir.  Glad to see that.

COWEN:  Thank you. 

COSBY:  And help from around the nation will soon be pouring into the Gulf states.  Joe Mammana is organizing a huge relief caravan from the Philadelphia area.  And Joe joins us now live. 

Joe, you're from Philly.  I know you've got a big heart.  You and I have talked about just the tremendous help you've done in other cases, a lot of the missing girls, the Natalee Holloway case.  Why did you want to be a part of this effort? 

JOE MAMMANA, PHILANTHROPIST:  Well, first of all, I just felt that, you know, after watching the news, America is there for everybody and for the people around the world.  And we need to be there for ourselves. 

You know, I really don't know what kind of assistance is coming in from other countries that we give assistance to.  I haven't heard anybody reaching out to us as of now.  But, again, it is the greatest country in the world.  It's the only country we have to build a wall around to keep people out.  Everyone else has to build a wall to keep people in. 

And we'll do whatever we possibly can.  The Red Cross has been, to be really honest with you, a disappointing to me.  I was on the phone with them this morning.  I was unable to get through.  After speaking to Laura Hao (ph) and Ken Minger (ph), we were able to get some things together.

In the city of Philadelphia, the police commissioner, Sylvester Johnson, has stepped to the plate.  He's working with me.  City Councilman Juan Ramos, Councilman Mariano, Councilman Kelly, they're all stepping to the plate. 

Juan Ramos, as you remember, it was his niece, LaToyia Figueroa, that was missing up here.  And the city stepped to help him.  He now wants to give back.  So he has been a big plus.

Many of the supermarkets in the area, the Catholic charities, they're stepping in.  We're putting a caravan of things together.  The head of my transportation, Ruben Mendez (ph), is putting people together.  He'll be willing to take trucks down. 

The problem is, from what we understand, is first was a staging area, which we now have in Montgomery, Alabama.  And after that, as we understand, it's just like a civil unrest down there.  You know, we don't want to send trucks down there where they take our drivers out, hurt our drivers, hurt our trucks.  In a sense, it's out of control. 

And what they need to do down in that area is they need to bring control to that.  You know, the police—we hear there's all kinds of things going on in the convention centers, in the streets.  It's a different environment right now.  You need to improvise, adapt and adjust. 

And there's no need to hear that the police cannot hold these people. 

The looters, you know—what's that, Rita? 

COSBY:  Joe, it's so good that you're helping out.  I was going to say it is so good that you're helping out, and I hope, by you being here, the Red Cross and those folks can also get a little more organized to be able to take folks like you in. 

And thank you so much, Joe.  And keep us posted on the efforts, let us know what we can do also.  I hope folks at home are also getting encouraged by all the good work you're doing.  Thanks so much. 

And we also want to let you know how you can help victims of Hurricane Katrina.  You can do things.  Joe is just an independent businessman who wants to help.  Any one of you at home can also make a donation to the Red Cross.  You want to call the number.  It is 1-800-HELP-NOW. 

Also, if you want to volunteer, you can call a different number.  It is 1-225-268-0323.  Let me repeat that.  1-225-268-0323.  And if you are worried, also, about a missing loved one, you can call another number.  It's 1-800-GET-INFO. 

Still ahead, everybody, there is a lot more to talk about.  This is some of the most incredible video yet of Katrina.  The two men who stood in the face of disaster join me LIVE & DIRECT.  What were they thinking when they shot this? 

And at this hour, there are countless people still trapped in New Orleans.  You can see them there at the top of their roofs begging for help.  We're going to talk to one man stuck in a flooded hospital that is literally falling apart.  That's coming up next. 


COSBY:  More incredible video to show you tonight, images that show you the power of Hurricane Katrina as she hits the Mississippi coast. 

Mike Theiss and also Jim Reed are hurricane chasers.  They shot the video while holed up in Gulfport, Mississippi.  And they're LIVE & DIRECT in Atlanta tonight. 

Guys, what was it like?  Mike, let me start with you.  What did it feel like to be in the middle of this? 

MIKE THEISS, HURRICANE CHASER:  Oh, it was—if I had to sum it up in one word, it was intense.  That storm surge coming through the lobby and the power of water was just unreal.  It really gave you a grasp on just how powerful water is. 

COSBY:  Yes, I bet.

And, Jim, what were your reflections?  You guys have been together, what, more than a dozen years.  Was this one of the craziest things you experienced? 

JIM REED, HURRICANE CHASER:  Well, it was certainly one of the most dramatic.  We were expecting an intense storm, but I had never experienced storm surge quite this powerful. 

COSBY:  Yes, I bet.  What did it feel like, Jim, to be in the middle of it?  I mean, what'd it feel like?  What'd it sound like? 

REED:  Well, the first clue I had that it was going to be a very hazardous chase was when I was in the water and the water started pouring into the lobby of the hotel.  And I was concentrating on photographing a car that was actually moving into the lobby, but something underneath the water that I couldn't see actually push into me and almost knocked me off my feet.  And that's when I really appreciated, again, the force that we were dealing with. 

COSBY:  It is really incredible. 

Mike, what kind of precautions did you take?  Because you guys literally were in the thick of it. 

And by the way, we're showing some pictures, Mike.  I want to interrupt you, because we're showing a picture right here.  I think you actually rescued a woman from a hotel.  Tell us about that. 

THEISS:  Well, we saw—we talked to this lady earlier on.  And she wanted to stay in her room.  And this was before the water started to come up. 

And I had told Jim, I said, “We need to keep an eye on this lady,” because we knew the water was going to come up.  And the whole time, in the back of our mind, we knew we were going to go get her. 

And right away, when we saw the water come up, we said, “It's time to go get her.”  And we saved her life.  We did.  She was a—what a nice, great lady she was.  And I feel great to have saved her. 

COSBY:  Yes, what a great feeling, too, to do something.

REED:  She was also very proud. 

COSBY:  She was what?

REED:  She was very proud.  She was very proud, and understandably so.  And I don't think she wanted to come off as being fearful, but she was in a very perilous place.  And by the time we got to her and could get her back to safety, the water had already gone up two more feet. 

COSBY:  And, Jim, speaking of perilous places, we're looking at just these amazing pictures.  What kind of precaution do you guys take when you go right into the heart of the storm? 

REED:  Well, we take life vests.  We have rope.  We have helmets.  We have first-aid kits.  We have communication devices.  Actually, we go down a check list and talk to each other over and over about what might go wrong and, if it does, what can we do?  So it's almost rehearsed. 

COSBY:  Well, this certainly looks like nothing you could ever rehearse for.  And, guys, both of you, thank you so much.  This video is incredible.  And I'm glad you're both back safe and sound. 

REED:  Thank you very much. 

COSBY:  Thanks for sharing these pictures with us.

THEISS:  Thank you.

REED:  Thanks, Rita.

COSBY:  Thank you, guys.  Amazing pictures. 

And still ahead tonight, trapped in the middle of hell.  A hospital worker stuck in a New Orleans hospital says conditions are only getting worse.  You will not believe the things that he has seen.  Stay with us.


COSBY:  And as many as 100,000 people are still inside New Orleans' city limits at this hour.  One of those people is a man that we've been talking to for the past few days here on the show.  John works at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.  He's on the phone with us once again tonight. 

John, what's the situation there now? 

JOHN, STUCK IN NEW ORLEANS HOSPITAL:  Well, you know, as I've been telling you all, the evacuation had gained some momentum, but, you know, apparently, the sniper started shooting at the truck that was taking these patients to Tulane Hospital across the street, and they are being helo-evac'd out. 

And, you know, the doctors, the nurses, everybody here is exhausted.  They've been working nonstop.  You know, the situation—you know, the sanitary conditions here are deplorable.  What can I say? 

You know, other people are not telling it the way it is, because I've been listening to the radio all day.  And, you know, they don't tell you about the four bodies that are being kept outside the building, you know, on the landing, so that they don't stink up the hospital. 

They don't tell you stuff like the morgue is under water.  You know, this place is not safe for anybody anymore, and I don't know why we haven't been taken out of here yet. 

COSBY:  Yes, John, I am amazed, because we've been talking to you all week long, and I am just stunned, because they seem to be aware that the situation in your hospital is bad.  Also, how nervous were you when you heard the sniper fire? 

JOHN:  Well, you know, it's something that I heard from other people.  And that is why the evacuation was stopped.  So, you know, I heard shots the other night.  And you know, I didn't exactly hear the sniper shots, but, you know, this is what I'm told happened. 

COSBY:  Well, John, please be safe there.  And I hope that they come and get you and everybody in there very soon. 

And still ahead tonight, weary refugees are arriving right here at the Astrodome.  They have a new home, but have no idea what's ahead of them.  Their dramatic stories are coming to you LIVE & DIRECT.  And also, a couple that wants to help.


COSBY:  All of those families coming here to Houston.  And now there are some couples in Houston who want to adopt a family, help those in dire need.  And, boy, there are thousands of them. 

Among the folks who want to help, John and Hope Hennessey, join me now live. 

Hope, why do you want to adopt a family, with some of these beautiful people that we've had the pleasure of meeting? 

HOPE HENNESSEY, STARTED ADOPT-A-FAMILY PROGRAM:  Well, the situation is so desperate.  And they're in just such great need, and we're just one family that can help one family and just... 

JOHN HENNESSEY, STARTED ADOPT-A-FAMILY PROGRAM:  Multiply that by 100,000 families, and you've got a lot of people getting taking care of. 

COSBY:  And what are some of the things—that's just one the buses backing up.  It's a lot of the more families coming in.  But why do you want to help?  What are some of the things you want to do? 

J. HENNESSEY:  Well, we'll make a commitment to adopt a family for 30 days, try to find them a place to live, get them some clothes, food, try to get their kids in school, try to help mom or dad find a job. 

COSBY:  That's great. 

J. HENNESSEY:  Things like that.

COSBY:  Well, good for you.  And I hope it encourages other people to do the same thing.  Thank you very much. 

And, everybody, tomorrow night at 9:00, I'm going to be here with good folks like the Hennesseys and others.  I'm going to be LIVE & DIRECT with the latest on Hurricane Katrina.  Right now, let's go to Joe in Biloxi.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  Thank you so much, Rita.  Greatly appreciate it.



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