Guest: Craig Vanderwagen, Donny Claxton, Joel Osteen, Dave Liebersbach, David Perez
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: We continue MSNBC‘s live coverage of the after math of Hurricane Katrina here on THE SITUATION. We‘ll have the latest live report from New Orleans, examine the potentially deadly discovery of E. Coli in the floodwaters there. We‘ll talk to Pastor Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in America. He held prayer and worship service for thousands of evacuees in Houston tonight.
First up, there was a report New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had called for the forcible removal of those residents who until now, have stayed in their homes in that city.
However, police sources told Rita Cosby tonight that that report was, quote, “false,” and they won‘t try to remove any of the estimated 10,000 people who remain there. This despite, apparently, quotes from the mayor that moved on the wire, saying they had the manpower and they were kicking people out.
Meanwhile, there were signs of progress tonight as the lights came on at the Hilton Hotel and at other scattered buildings in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, the city, which had been 80 percent under water, now just 60 percent flood flooded, with water that officials say contains E. Coli. That‘s dangerous, of course.
With us for NBC News is MSNBC‘s David Shuster, who‘s live in New Orleans, a city that‘s been described as a ghost town. Is it, David? Set the scene for us right now. What is New Orleans like?
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I would say ghost town is appropriate, but I would also say, Tucker, it‘s a giant garbage pit.
I mean, we talk so much about the part of the city, 60 percent that‘s under water. But just the rest, I mean, the 40 percent as you saw, I mean, there is debris everywhere. I mean, there are trees down. There are power lines. There‘s garbage from where people were.
And remember, I mean, there‘s glass everywhere. We‘ve had a number of vehicles and some of the military vehicles have had broken tires because of all the glass in the street and rolling over that.
So it‘s just—I mean, never mind the clean-up of everything that‘s under water. Even a city that‘s dry, it‘s just a massive undertaking as far as trying to clean that up.
And I can‘t even imagine how anybody would encourage somebody to come back to this city until at least they make a dent in some of this clean-up. I mean, it smells. There‘s a smell of gas fumes. You can smell things that are rotting. You can smell the garbage. It‘s just not a very pleasant place to be.
CARLSON: Well, David, I mean, we were there a couple of days ago. They weren‘t even cleaning up the dead bodies in the streets. In fact, they were determined not to clean them up as matter of policy. Is anybody trying to clean the city? At some point, it becomes a health concern, the filth. Is anyone?
SHUSTER: We understand that they‘ve started cleaning up the bodies, at least the ones that are sort of in obvious places. So for example, they‘ve cleaned up parts at the convention center. Some of the bodies that were left essentially downtown are now gone.
But the other problem that they‘re finding is that a lot of the bodies, of course, that are just sort of floating around in parts of the city that are still under water, there‘s still an ongoing effort to try to find people who are still alive.
They‘re finding every day—we hear reports, and we‘ve got our own camera crews that are out there. They‘re finding people who are deciding, “You know what? OK, my food and water after five or six days is running out. I want to leave now.”
And so they get on the boats, and they‘re rescued. And they‘re brought into town, where presumably somebody picks them up and takes them away.
There‘s still such a focus on trying to get people who are alive that it—there‘s still. Yes, they‘re trying to get the dead bodies. They‘re trying to clean them up, but there‘s still this huge emphasis on trying to get the people who are alive to get out of here.
CARLSON: Now, there are a number of reports today, and some of them sounded to me accurate, that there were more murders than we knew about that took place at the Superdome and at the convention center. Have you heard anything about that?
SHUSTER: Well, we have heard from talking to some of the reservists, the people who are walking around with the guns, who are—I went up and asked one. I said, “Look, why do you need this sort of show of strength?”
And he says, “Look, you‘re talking about a city that was total anarchy, and there was violence.” For example, today, the U.S. attorney announced an indictment of somebody they thought had been shooting at one of the rescue helicopters.
So at least the people who are on the streets, the reservists, the Army reservists, they are fearful that there‘s still lots of people with guns. And they all point to what happened last week and say that this was a very violent city. Anarchy ruled the day.
You had cops getting in gun battles with local residents who were either high on crack or methamphetamines or just drunk who just—that was their way of dealing with this whole mess. So it was a city on the edge last week, and for that reason everyone is armed to the teeth this week.
CARLSON: What about these conflicting reports we‘re getting about forcible evacuations in the city? Apparently, the mayor said at one point today, yes, the city was going to forcibly kick people out. And now police sources tell Rita Cosby that‘s not true. What do you know about that?
SHUSTER: I would say it‘s fair to say that they‘re strongly encouraging people that they need to leave. Every police officer, every person with a gun who sees a resident is strongly urging them to leave.
But it‘s not like they‘re physically picking them up and saying, “You must go now or else we‘re going to arrest you.” I think they simply don‘t have the manpower to do that.
But every time they meet somebody, every time they see somebody in a house, or they go to one of the houses with one of these boats and they see people still hanging out inside the house, they‘re saying, you got to get out of here. Now is the time. Get out. We‘re going to get you out of the city.
But I don‘t think anybody is actually sort of organizing teams of police, the military police, to actually forcibly drag people from their homes.
If people really want to stay, I mean, the military people you talk to here say, “Look, we‘ve got better things to do than to try to drag people who are so resistant to staying.” They can strongly encourage them. They can wield their weapons and say it‘s time for you to go now, but they‘re not about to just physically grab people and manhandle them to get them out of the city.
CARLSON: Good. That‘s reassuring. David Shuster on Canal Street, in an almost empty and very wet New Orleans. Thanks for joining us. Talk to you tomorrow.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Tucker.
CARLSON: Well, growing concerns today about just what‘s in that water that has flooded the city of New Orleans. Four people may already have died of waterborne bacterial infections.
There are reports now that E. Coli has been found.
Rear Admiral Craig Vanderwagen is deputy chief medical officer of the Public Health Service. He joins us now by phone.
Admiral, thanks a lot for coming us. What‘s in the water? Do you have any idea?
REAR ADMIRAL CRAIG VANDERWAGEN, PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE: Well, we are actually actively beginning the process of assessment of water quality, as well as other environmental factors, Tucker. We have had teams from the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency begin that process just this week. And we hope to have some answers shortly on what the highest risks might be.
CARLSON: We‘ve seen so many people wandering through that water, wading through the water. In some cases, swimming in the water, falling in the water, clearly ingesting some of that water. What‘s going to happen to those people?
VANDERWAGEN: Well, the concerns, of course, are primarily for infectious disease at this point. And most of the rescue workers, we‘ve tried to assure that those folks have immunizations or hepatitis a; hepatitis b; tetanus, and those are the primary things that we‘d be concerned about, other than sort of transient bacterial infections.
CARLSON: Tetanus and hepatitis b, most people are familiar with the terms. Tell us specifically, what does that—what does it mean to get either one of those? How big of a deal is it?
VANDERWAGEN: Well, hepatitis, of course, is inflammation or infection involving the liver. And that can have significant consequences, particularly if it goes chronic.
It‘s caused by a virus. And it is preventable, as people have the vaccinations to prevent it.
Tetanus is another infectious process, and of course, in the most severe cases, it involves neurological changes.
Fortunately, even people who are relatively unprotected have not shown many deaths in the last decades in this country associated with that disease.
CARLSON: Knowing what you know about what is or what could be in the water, what do you think of how the evacuations have been handled? Have all steps been taken to keep people out of the water?
VANDERWAGEN: I think that all reasonable steps have been taken. Many of these rescues have occurred by extracting people from the roof tops with helicopters. Boat extractions, of course, are a little more—potentially they could be exposed, but generally, there‘s not a super high risk for that.
I think we‘ve had a higher concern for many of the rescue workers. And in fact, in the last week, the last three days, at least, we‘ve focused on providing screening occupational physicals and appropriate testing where necessary for many of the public safety workers, particularly there in the city of New Orleans, with the police and fire departments.
CARLSON: Now, this—the water being pumped out of the city is going into Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Is that going to have consequences in the days, weeks, months to come?
VANDERWAGEN: Well, certainly we don‘t know what the environmental or toxic substances might be as yet.
From the infectious disease perspective, it does a great deal to protect the population, and when you put into those larger bodies of water, the threat of infectious disease declines fairly rapidly, unless you‘re going out and drinking it and swimming in it with lots of cuts and sores on your body.
CARLSON: Speaking of drinking water, I had read today that the water supply in New Orleans, that the pipes themselves beneath New Orleans are contaminated with this stagnant water, and that the water supply will not be clean for some time to come.
Is that accurate, and how long will it be until you can drink the water there?
VANDERWAGEN: Well, as I say, we have just recently begun the assessment process, and the quick study of that are folks, along with the New Orleans authorities believe there may, in fact, be ruptures in some of the water pipes.
It‘s a fairly antique water system. And it may be in some cases two to three months before adequate improvements can be made in certain parishes.
On the other hand, there are parishes now that are actually pumping what appears to be potable water, but we‘re assessing that to assure that there‘s no particular risk in those areas where the water systems appear to be intact.
CARLSON: All right. Admiral Craig Vanderwagen. Thanks for joining us tonight.
VANDERWAGEN: Thank you, sir.
CARLSON: Still to come on THE SITUATION, the blame game continues in Hurricane Katrina‘s wake, mostly in Washington, of course, but is now the time to point partisan fingers, or are politicians making personal gains on an American tragedy? We‘ll ask one.
Plus, what happens to evacuated kids who have to head back to school in towns they‘ve never seen until now? An official from the Dallas schools that opened their arms to the displaced tells that story—Next.
CARLSON: Well, it‘s back to school for the New Orleans children left in Katrina‘s wake. How will they adjust to a new classroom in a new state?
Plus, I‘ll be joined by Pastor Joel Osteen, who performed a service tonight for evacuees in Houston. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anybody that needs help? Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can‘t leave you here. It‘s not safe. We‘re going to take you back with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight rooms that had deceased people in it. There were no victims that were alive.
HARRY CONNICK JR., MUSICIAN: It‘s a tragedy, it really is, but the focus now is just on getting help for the people that survived.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: I‘ve gotten reports from firefighters, when they went to rescue people, they saw bodies in homes. This is going to be awful, and it‘s going to wake the nation up again.
CARLSON: Millions of kids head back to school today, but thousands of students across Katrina‘s storm zone have had to find new schools. NBC News‘ Ron Allen has the story of one Houston school with many new faces.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let you know that we will be welcoming six new students.
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Houston‘s Briar Meadow Elementary raised its flag and rolled out the welcome mat today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Keith.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, Keith?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also a 7th grader.
ALLEN: To take in very young evacuees.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s OK.
ALLEN: A principal, trying to make every parent feel at home.
LYNN BARNES, HOUSTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: To let them feel that they can relax about their children while they go about the business of just getting their lives back in order.
ALLEN: There could be as many as 150,000 children and teenagers across the hurricane zone who need to find new schools.
Today in Dallas, it was registration time, as parents and children were bused from a shelter to school. Other Texas cities are reopening schools that were closed and drawing up lists of Louisiana teachers looking for work.
(on camera) Here in Houston, with the largest community of evacuees, some 10,000 students are expected to enter school when a mass registration process begins in these shelters this week.
(voice-over) Shleatha Gatin and Patrick Harris were the first evacuees to stop by Briar Meadow last week. They enrolled sons Jamil and Anderson on the spot.
SHLEATHA GATIN, MOTHER: They took our kids in and made them feel welcome, made them feel at home, to get their mind off of what‘s going on.
ALLEN: And then the school adopted all of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don‘t be alone.
ALLEN: Briar Meadow families furnished their apartment and gave them clothing, even diapers for two-month-old Patrick Jr.
PATRICK HARRIS, FATHER: I‘m grateful for everything.
ALLEN: Every day, more parents arrive, hoping to put their children in school, while principal Barnes finds more space.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Harris, I‘m going to walk them back to class. OK?
ALLEN: Back to school for at least some evacuees, new teachers, new friends, all learning a new way of life.
Ron Allen, NBC News, Houston.
CARLSON: Well, there are estimates that students displaced by Katrina will end up attending schools in every one of the 50 states, but many will stay in Texas. Dallas is making some special accommodations, including letting parents ride with their kids on school buses.
I‘m joined now by Dallas‘s superintendent of schools, Donny Claxton.
Mr. Claxton, thanks a lot for coming on.
DONNY CLAXTON, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Thanks, Tucker, you gave me a promotion, though. I‘m just a communications director.
CARLSON: Well, we‘d like to see you become the superintendent. We‘re rooting for you.
CLAXTON: Thank you.
CARLSON: And I think you make a great communications director. Hope you get promoted.
But meanwhile, give us parameters here. How many students from the affected areas, areas affected by Katrina, do you think are going to wind up enrolling in Dallas schools?
CLAXTON: Well, that‘s just the big $50 million question. We don‘t know the answer to that.
We have been working in lock step with the city of Dallas. I mean, if you want to see a model of efficiency, look what those folks are doing with the city.
But we have some 25,000 folks who have come to our city. Many of them have brought children with them. We have been working all weekend to try to get them registered and get some kind of an assessment of what their needs are and try to get ready for this morning, where we had buses show up on a 30-minute rotation and pick the parents up and the kids.
So that, one, we could get the children to a school and get them enrolled, but also let the moms and dads go with them, so that they knew where their children were going to be today.
CARLSON: Texas schools, or Dallas schools anyway, I think, have been up and running for almost a month now. It‘s going to be a pretty hard transition; won‘t it be, for kids who haven‘t even been to school since last June?
CLAXTON: Well, we rolled out the red carpet today. We have gotten great support. Last night, we got a phone call that the team players, again, in Dallas, the Texas Ranger baseball team, the Dallas Stars hockey team let us know that they were sending us a $25,000 check, so that we could purchase uniforms.
We have mandatory school uniforms in pre-K through 8 for our students here in Dallas, and also, the high school that we‘re using for these youngsters, Madison High School, also requires uniforms.
So we‘re getting a tremendous amount of support from our community, helping ease the transition. The principals at these schools today were working with their community leaders to provide school supplies for the youngsters.
We are doing everything we possibly can to make them feel at home, make them feel welcome. And then we have counselors available at our schools, so that if they need assistance to begin the healing process, we have folks available to help them through that. Another benefit...
CARLSON: I want to...
CLAXTON: One other good thing about this is these youngsters are going to qualify for free and reduced lunches. So the federal government is helping us provide, you know, a hot meal for breakfast for them and a hot lunch, which is, you know, helping reduce some of the demands that the Red Cross is having at Reunion Arena and the Dallas Convention Center.
CLAXTON: So it‘s just a huge team effort.
CARLSON: Well, it certainly sounds like it. Tell me about the response, though, to this.
Parents are famously touchy about their children, understandably. These new students, no matter where they‘re from, are going to add a burden, just physical burden to the schools, some of which may already be overburdened. Have you had resistance from parents who say, “Well, hold on. This means more kids per teacher, and I‘m not for it.”
CLAXTON: Well, what we have actually done is two things to identify the schools where we went the youngsters to today. There were approximate to the downtown area, and they also had capacity.
We‘re not going to overcrowd any of our schools. We have some 220 campuses within the district. And we have, you know, a margin of room to absorb students, just a few years ago, we were at 165,000 students. We‘re down to about 160,000 now. So we‘ve got just in there some 5,000 seat capacity for youngsters.
CARLSON: All right. Donny Claxton, now the spokesman, possibly someday the superintendent of Dallas schools. Thanks a lot for joining us.
CARLSON: Thanks, Tucker.
Coming up, the grim task of recovering the dead has begun. When we come back, the question of how many were lost to Hurricane Katrina, begins to be answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things that people want us to do here is to play the blame game. We‘ve got to solve problems. We‘re problem solvers. There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right and what went wrong.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The president said he‘s going to lead the investigation into what went wrong. He needs to look only in the mirror for starters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: President Bush indicated today he will seek as much as $40 billion to help rebuild the area that‘s crushed by Katrina. He also announced an investigation into what went wrong and why and the response to that hurricane. Democrats in Congress have been criticizing the administration, as you just saw. One of those Democrats joining us today. He is Jim Moran of Virginia.
Mr. Moran, thanks a lot for joining us.
REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: It‘s good to be with you, Tucker.
CARLSON: Now, they‘re still pulling bodies out of buildings in New Orleans and surrounding parishes, Mississippi, as well. Isn‘t it a bit much for politicians to start making political hay this early?
MORAN: I don‘t know that we‘re making political hay, but these are the very people that are responsible for responding to a terrorist attack, Tucker.
The fact is that the response was totally inadequate, that you can quote the president, that this is not a claim that‘s unfounded.
We can‘t afford to go—to have another disaster like this and have such an inadequate response. We‘ve got to find out what went wrong, who did not act or acted in an inept manner. We‘ve got to fix it, because, you know, we could have another natural disaster. We could certainly have another terrorist attack.
CARLSON: I couldn‘t agree more.
MORAN: These are people whom you need to respond to, and we need to be able to depend on it.
CARLSON: I don‘t think there‘s any question. You‘re absolutely right.
MORAN: I guess what I object to—I saw it with my own eyes, and I was concerned about. Is immediately setting brain and agree with you completely. I guess what I am concerned about is immediately signing blame only to anyone‘s political enemies.
It‘s obvious. It‘s certainly obvious on the ground, in the papers that local and state authorities dropped the ball completely, as much, possibly more than federal authorities. A lot of them are Democrats. I don‘t see you criticizing them.
Well, the—I don‘t know who you want us to criticize. There are the rubber hits the rode at the local level of government.
But at the national level of government, and it was federal government that was responsible for this kind of natural disaster. It‘s—that‘s part of the federal response plan (ph).
MORAN: So we‘re looking at who is responsible, and what did they direct? You know, being in power is a two-edged sword.
No only do you have to do it right, but you‘ve got to accept I think that the mayor of New Orleans has been through some awfully tough times, as has the governor.
CARLSON: And I agree with you that the White House, this entire administration, executive branch speech in of government out to accept the profound blame. It deserves for falling down on the job here.
I‘m merely saying that if the police department of New Orleans, for instance, ran like water cats, failed as completely as the federal government. Five—up to 500 offices didn‘t show up to work, leaving people in the convention center and the Astrodome to be murdered?
And I‘m merely saying, don‘t politicians lose credibility when they point the finger only at their political enemies rather than honestly assessing who is to blame. I don‘t know who to blame.
MORAN: Both sides, Tucker, I don‘t know that there are Democrats, I don‘t think you know they are Democrats either. Three of them committed suicide.
CARLSON: But look, I‘m just saying congressmen, democratically run city. Shouldn‘t you, in the interest of telling the truth, being honest, say, “Look, yes, there are some Democrats in Louisiana who didn‘t step up to the plate.”
And there are a lot of Republicans in Washington who failed, too. Just be honest about it, so as to have credibility and not make it partisan issue.
MORAN: I am sure that the Mayor. I know it‘s a lot tougher at the local levee, where you have to deal with people directly.
But having been there, I know it‘s a lot harder at the Democratic official, where you do—most of what you have to do is have to deal with people directly.
But we‘d get the majority of the money. The government has far more resources than the local level and should have far more experience.
So you know, it‘s an inexperienced Delaware. So and, you know, it‘s an inexperienced governor. I wouldn‘t give them particularly high marks.
But I‘m a federal representative. We provide money to the federal government, to FEMA, to the Department of Homeland Security, to do the job right. And to tell us what resources they need to do the job right.
It‘s not our job to criticize local government. They‘re going to be -
· they‘re going to have to deal with their constituents, but I do think we‘re far more responsible for what the executive branch does.
They‘re carrying out the legislation that we assigned to them, and using the resources that we give them, so there‘s a much more direct responsibility for members of Congress to be dealing with the executive branch of the federal government than the local government.
I don‘t think it‘s a matter of Republicans or Democrats. I have criticized many Democrats in my career, Tucker.
CARLSON: Yes. Well, I think in this case, some of that criticism is warranted, and I hope it doesn‘t become partisan.
MORAN: I agree.
CARLSON: Thanks for joining us tonight.
MORAN: You bet. It‘s good to be with you, Tucker.
CARLSON: Thanks. Coming up, so many of the displaced find themselves in Houston, Texas, tonight. They prayed with one of America‘s most prominent pastors. When we come back, Joel Osteen joins us, fresh from his service for storm victims.
The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina left hundreds of thousands of animals, pets, stranded without homes. Still ahead, we‘ll meet a man whose mission is the happy reunion of evacuees and their dogs and cats.
Don‘t go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m looking for my brother Freddy Maxwell (ph) and I‘m looking for a few of my cousins. My youngest cousin I‘m looking for is (INAUDIBLE). She was—last we heard from her she was with her grandmother. Her grandmother is real sick and real sick and she‘s only six years old and we can‘t find her nowhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Welcome back.
Help and hope are the stock and trade of Pastor Joel Osteen. He‘s the senior pastor of the largest congregation in this country. And, tonight in Houston he led prayers for thousands displaced by the hurricane. Joel Osteen joins me now, pastor thanks a lot for coming on.
JOEL OSTEEN, PASTOR: Hey, my pleasure.
CARLSON: What did you say to survivors tonight in your service?
OSTEEN: Well, Tucker, we just try to give them hope to let them know that there‘s going to be good days up ahead and that they‘ve, you know, they‘ve been through something tough but they need to not run away from God but turn to God and believe that he will restore what‘s, you know, been taken away.
CARLSON: I understand that. I can digest that. I get the hope part. The meaning part is what leaves me confused. When people come up to you and say what does this mean? Why did all these people die? What purpose did it serve? What do you say?
OSTEEN: You know, I don‘t have any good answer, Tucker. You know we just—we don‘t understand it, you know, just a natural disaster I guess but I just try to keep them from focusing on too much of why and, you know, try not to let them get bitter about it all because I think that‘s the worst thing that can happen.
But, you know, it‘s hard. You know human nature is to want to ask why, you know, if you see all the suffering but we just try to turn it around and say, you know what, try not to worry about that. Let‘s just focus on the fact that God‘s in control. He can comfort you and there are going to be good days up ahead.
CARLSON: Well, I mean what are the indications that God‘s in control in a situation like this? I mean, you know, if I‘d lost my family or I‘m living in some shelter in a state that‘s not mine and I have nothing how do I have any idea or sense or evidence that God‘s in control?
OSTEEN: Well, I think it‘s just part of your faith. I mean to me part of faith is trusting God when things don‘t make sense, so I don‘t know. I think they‘ll just have to go back to the core of your being to believe that God is good and that he‘s on your side and that, you know, the scripture says, you know, his ways are not our ways and I can‘t claim to understand it all. I just try to, you know, and my faith tells me that God is in control and that he knows what he‘s doing and he‘s always going to take care of us.
CARLSON: What kind of response did you get from the people you preached to tonight when you said that?
OSTEEN: You know what they‘re so responsive. They clap. They‘re looking for hope. They had so much taken out of them, you know, anything you can pour back into them. I mean they came down afterwards and people in tears just asking me to pray and things like that. So, you know, they need to filled back up again and restored.
CARLSON: Apart from hope and faith what do the people in your town, in Houston, and there are many what do they need?
OSTEEN: Well, what they need is—the mayor has asked the churches to provide the food for the people at the Astrodome and the other shelters and so we‘re in the process of raising about $5 million with the other churches. There are so many volunteers and this city has stepped up in a major way. I know the other day, yesterday when I was at the dome, they were asking people not to bring, you know, food and supplies there, so I think the biggest thing is just money and prayers.
CARLSON: Five million dollars how many churches are kicking in toward that amount and will you reach that?
OSTEEN: We will reach it with no problem. There‘s a bunch. I would say at least 100 and we won‘t have any problem hitting that and I believe we‘ll need more because I think some of them will be here longer than the 30 days they expect. But it‘s been good. It‘s a great effort here. It‘s a great feeling in our city that we could step up and we think it‘s just a great thing that we could house some of these.
CARLSON: Now, you‘ve got according to reports a couple hundred thousand refugees from across the gulf in Houston right now. That‘s hard to believe but apparently it‘s true. What does that look like, 200,000 newcomers to your city without homes? Set the scene for us. What does it look like?
OSTEEN: Well, it‘s rather interesting. I mean in one sense, you know, they‘re in certain areas without transportation, so if you don‘t go by the dome in this George Brown Convention Center where we came from you don‘t see a lot of them but when you get close to those areas you see them walking around.
They‘re going down to the Wal-Marts and the Burger Kings and things like that and it‘s an interesting—it‘s an interesting thing. I don‘t know. You know I‘ve been over in the third world countries a lot and it feels a lot like that. It‘s like, you know what, they don‘t have anywhere to go. There‘s not a lot of—it‘s just a—it‘s kind of a surreal time.
CARLSON: How many of them are poor? You get the sense that people who are capable of leaving shelters would have left by now if they had cars or the means to leave. Do you think most of the people in the shelters are poor?
OSTEEN: That‘s my feeling when I‘m down there. It‘s like you said a lot of them have people coming in to pick them up but these are people that I don‘t think that have the means right now to go anywhere or can‘t find their family members or phone numbers. So, you know, they are poor and they need our help, so it seems like that to me.
CARLSON: Well, some of these people probably a lot of these people are going to stay in Houston for good. They‘re going to become part of your community. Is Houston ready for them?
OSTEEN: I think so. I was just talking with one of our city leaders just not 15 minutes ago about that same thing about what do we do? Where do we go from here and how do we house them once we get past this time?
And so it‘s an interesting question. I mean I don‘t know. We welcome them to our city. We‘d love to have them. It‘s just trying to figure out, you know, how it all fits in. It‘s—I can‘t—I told them I don‘t have a good answer for you right now.
CARLSON: It‘s an awesome task. Finally, I mean do you plan to give on Sunday a sermon based on this disaster and the aftermath and what are you going to say?
OSTEEN: Well, I am going to tie my sermon into it and basically I‘m just going to give them hope and say, you know what, you may not have wanted it but it‘s going to be a new beginning in your life and you got to believe that—let‘s just believe you‘ll come out of this with a better home and a better job.
And, some of you are going to move to different cities but that‘s the way we got to look at it that you can‘t probably see it right now but let‘s just believe in two or three years you‘re going to look back and say, you know what, I may not have chosen it but I believe it worked out for my good and that their, you know, life is good again.
CARLSON: You honestly believe in your heart that this disaster for some people anyway could be used for the good and then wind up being a good thing in the end?
OSTEEN: Well, I believe in a sense. I know it‘s not good now but what I mean is, you know, probably most of them are not going to go to their same old house. It‘s going to be a newer house or it‘s going to be—it‘s going to be a new beginning in a sense, so I don‘t know. It‘s hard to see now but I believe that God can turn it around, bring some kind of good, at least he can bring us out stronger and hopefully with more character and, you know, with a new toughness.
CARLSON: Boy, I hope you‘re right. Pastor Joel Osteen joining us tonight from Texas thanks a lot.
OSTEEN: You bet.
CARLSON: As the water in New Orleans continues to drop and as houses are being searched across the Gulf Coast, attention turns to the small Louisiana town of St. Gabriel. That‘s where teams are starting the sad task of gathering and identifying the dead, NBC News‘ Kerry Sanders reports.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): St. Gabriel, named for the Archangel the Bible says, will one day trumpet the end of the world. Now, some in this small town wonder if the end of the world is coming to them.
In truck after truck, Katrina‘s dead are arriving at St. Gabriel, Louisiana, this cavernous warehouse, now a makeshift morgue, where federal teams are already working to identify the dead. They come from across the country pathologists, coroners, experts in fingerprinting, DNA and dental identification, some with experience from 9/11.
DR. LOUIS CATALDIE: We have a lot of professional folks here. Worse comes to worse, you know, they can process about 130 to 140 individuals per 24-hour period.
SANDERS: In some cases, DNA matches will be impossible because Katrina swept away many victims‘ hairbrushes and toothbrushes, often used to make a DNA match. Families will not be allowed into the morgue but identification teams say each body will be treated with care.
DR. CORINNE STERN: These are all individuals. OK, these are our patients and we treat them all with respect and dignity just like any physician would treat their patients.
SANDERS: But some who live nearby are not happy St. Gabriel was chosen for this task.
SUE BAKER, ST. GABRIEL RESIDENT: I don‘t think it‘s right. It‘s not good for us here. I don‘t know. They should have asked—brought the community to, you know, a meeting or something and then, you know, talk it over.
SANDERS: Others here understand this work has to be done somewhere.
LORRAINE LONGUERRERO, ST. GABRIEL RESIDENT: I‘m glad our community can come together and help these people, you know. It‘s the least that we can do.
SANDERS (on camera): In the early 1900s a leprosy colony was established here and a clinic remains open today. This is not the first time this town has taken on a role other communities would shy away from.
Kerry Sanders NBC News, St. Gabriel, Louisiana.
CARLSON: Still ahead on THE SITUATION, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has absorbed the brunt of criticism about the government‘s very lame hurricane response. Our next guest predicted trouble at FEMA but not for the reasons you might assume, the revealing interview next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is they going to go at? These people here half of them don‘t have no money.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know we were trapped inside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I wanted to stay to protect my property.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an American tragedy. America needs to stand up and ask New Orleanians to help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must fix this and this should never, ever, ever happen again in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: First, we‘ll bring you a breaking update on a story we‘ve been following all day. The AP has reconfirmed what we reported earlier that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has instructed law enforcement and the U.S. military to forcibly remove residents of New Orleans who have stayed behind whether they want to go or not, at gunpoint if need be.
Apparently police sources told MSNBC earlier in the day that wasn‘t so. More evidence of the coordination between various branches of that city‘s government need help.
Well, we are joined now by Dave Leibersbach. He‘s the director of Alaska‘s Homeland Security Division. He warned some time ago the federal government of the absorption of FEMA into the Homeland Security Department could have disastrous consequences.
Mr. Leibersbach, thanks a lot for joining us. For those viewers who aren‘t familiar with Washington speak and the vast federal bureaucracy what exactly does that mean and what were the consequences of it?
DAVE LIEBERSBACH: Well, Tucker, back when they formed the Department of Homeland Security in about 2003, they subsumed several large agencies into it, one of those being FEMA and others like the Coast Guard, the border security and a number of others.
Bringing FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security was not really I believe the problem. The problem occurred after they came in and they began to take apart pieces of FEMA.
FEMA was a very cohesive organization, very similar to the Coast Guard being a very cohesive and well functioning organization before it went into the Department of Homeland Security.
The Coast Guard was left pretty much intact to go do their job and they‘re doing a wonderful job of it4. FEMA began with the beginning of coming into it there was some minor erosions that caused great concern for emergency managers across the nation, particularly at the state level, my counterparts throughout the nation, the emergency management directors who report and work for their governors that we were seeing some of the—particularly the preparedness connectivity beginning to go away as some of the programs were leaving FEMA and going to other parts of the Department of Homeland Security.
LIEBERSBACH: And as they went to the other parts were not being taken care of as well.
CARLSON: Can you give me one specific example of how this bureaucratic reshuffling made the federal government less prepared to respond to tragedies like this one?
LIEBERSBACH: Well, I believe that it disconnected the state from, if you will, their local region of the federal government and of FEMA by putting all the money at the headquarters in Washington, D.C. and therefore a tremendous amount of our communication went directly to the federal government, I mean to the headquarters site in Washington and not to our regions where we expect the response and the recovery to come from.
LIEBERSBACH: And who we would be working with in preparing for that.
CARLSON: It‘s the oldest story in government. Finally, quickly, Mr. Liebersbach, there was legislation sponsored today on Capitol Hill that would pull FEMA out of the Homeland Security Department but it would also require the director of FEMA to be an emergency management professional and not simply a political appointee from a different walk of life. What do you think of that?
LIEBERSBACH: Well, first of all I don‘t know that it‘s necessary to pull FEMA out of the Department of Homeland Security. There‘s a lot of coordination benefits by having it in there. I think more importantly is they need to make FEMA whole to do the job that they are mandated to do under the Stafford Act, which is be prepared for, respond to and recover from disasters, whether they‘re manmade or they‘re natural disasters.
Their job is not to prevent them but to prepare for and respond and recover from them, so I‘m not sure they need to come out of DHS in order to do that. They just need properly reconstituted under that.
LIEBERSBACH: In answer to your second question as to the qualifications for the director of FEMA, while it would be good for them to have a background in it, I don‘t think it‘s absolutely necessary. We‘ve had a number of FEMA directors, successful FEMA directors who didn‘t have that.
LIEBERSBACH: On the other hand, I believe the appointment of that director needs to—they need to pay attention to their ability to deal with disasters, whether they‘ve been in that arena before or not and I have seen a couple directors that weren‘t ready for it. But on the whole, the people we‘ve gotten in were ready for it. They‘ve gotten through it pretty well.
LIEBERSBACH: What‘s most important is that they have the ability to task and to have the right people on the ground for FEMA to work with the states and local government during the response.
LIEBERSBACH: Therefore, like any large organization or corporation they need to be good managers.
CARLSON: Right. That is absolutely right. Thanks, Dave Liebersbach, director of Alaska‘s Homeland Security Division joining us tonight live. Thanks very much.
LIEBERSBACH: You‘re welcome, Tucker. Have a good evening.
CARLSON: Thanks, you too.
Coming up on THE SITUATION, over the last week we‘ve witnessed hundreds of scenes of generosity and heroism. One you didn‘t see was the California businessman personally chartering a 737 to airlift victims out of New Orleans. He joins us next in person. Be right back.
CARLSON: We‘ve spent a lot of time talking about the villains in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but there are even more heroes. One of them joins us now on the phone. His name is David Perez.
DAVID PEREZ, AIRLIFTED SURVIVORS OUT OF NEW ORLEANS (by telephone):
CARLSON: He‘s a San Diego businessman who airlifted 80 hurricane victims from New Orleans to San Diego all in a 737 he chartered himself. He took them all shopping at Wal-Mart. That‘s an amazing story. We‘re honored to have you here Mr. Perez. How did they respond when you said “I‘ll fly you to San Diego?”
PEREZ: I‘m sorry what did you say? I didn‘t hear what you said.
CARLSON: I just want to know about the exchange you had with the victims of Hurricane Katrina when you showed up and said “Let me fly you to San Diego in my private plane,” what did they say?
PEREZ: Oh, they all jumped for joy. They were shocked and they just wanted to get out of hell. These people had been living, you know, in water and in sub par conditions. They‘ve lost all their belongings and some of them were separated from their family. One lady lost her son. It was a sad situation.
They were all happy just to get away and get out, you know. They were living in a shelter with curfews and, you know, everybody—it was one big dorm. They just needed to get their lives—get on with their lives. It was, you know, one week of hell that they went through.
CARLSON: What moved you to do this? At what point did you decide you were going to charter a 737 and bring these people to your hometown?
PEREZ: I woke up Friday morning after a sleepless three and a half nights in a row of watching, you know, this—our government do nothing. I was tormented and I was in agony and I just didn‘t feel right and I felt helpless and I wanted to figure out how to help these people and give them assistance.
So, I just did it, you know, woke up, called an executive jet service out of Carlsbad, California and I said, “Book me a flight. I want to charter a plane and send it to New Orleans.” She said, “OK.”
PERZEZ: She said, “OK” and the next thing you know she called me back. She says, “I need you to wire some money” and I wired the money. Now, she knew I was serious and then once I had the jet secured with a receipt and the money wired, I called up the National Guard and I said, “I‘ve got a jet to transport people. I‘m going to fly it to New Orleans. What do I got to do?”
They said “We don‘t need your jet.” I said, “”Well, I‘m loading food and water and, you know, supplies, medical supplies, everything. I went to Costco‘s, had my people buy the supplies. We bought food and water at Costco‘s and...
CARLSON: All right. I‘m sorry, Mr. Perez we‘re out of time. I‘m embarrassed to say that because yours is one of the most compelling stories we‘ve heard all week, really remarkable and your initiative and your generosity is stunning and I appreciate your coming on.
PEREZ: Thank you.
CARLSON: You‘re in Baton Rouge but right now obviously you‘re doing more good. We appreciate your taking time to talk to us. Thank you.
PEREZ: My pleasure.
CARLSON: Still ahead on THE SITUATION, you‘ve heard all about the efforts to reunited hurricane victims with their families but how can people possibly get back together with others they love, their pets? We‘ll introduce you to a man who has the answer.
Stay with us.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
If you love dogs or cats and own some you know it‘s not a frivolous concern what happens to them not at all. Many were stranded in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. One man is doing something to reunite them with their owners His name is James Loutit. He‘ runs lostandfoudrn.com, James, thanks lot for joining us tonight. Unfortunately we‘re very tight on time, so just me quickly how do people get back together with their dogs or cats who have been left behind?
JAMES LOUTIT: Well, we have a national database online lostandfound.com and whether you‘re a finder or an owner you can post your information there and there‘s a matching service. In order to match in this case pets by either breed or color and category of course. And, through the database and means of the Internet you know, the ubiquity of it all we were able to bring owners and finders together.
CARLSON: Have people sent submissions in looking for their animals?
LOUTIT: Oh, absolutely. From New Orleans I would say we would expect that more in the future as their Internet access is limited right now. But, if you go to the site, we have over 100,000 listings of lost and found animals and we encourage actually anybody, not only in New Orleans but anywhere in the United States to go to our site and check it out (INAUDIBLE).
CARLSON: It‘s one of the great tragedies of this larger tragedy, the people prevented from bringing their dogs out of the city. How are—are the postings emotional some of them?
LOUTIT: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. What‘s really a tragedy I think is I think we‘re going to have a big inventory crisis here because we have the Houston SPCA, which has accepted over 600 animals from New Orleans. We‘ve had animals off to Baton Rouge before the storm and now the Louisiana SPCA has animals in Baton Rouge, Jackson, Mississippi, Houston.
CARLSON: It‘s depressing.
LOUTIT: We encourage these organizations...
LOUTIT: ...to use lostandfound.com to put it all together.
CARLSON: I hope our viewers do, lostandfound.com, James Loutit, you‘re doing great work. Thank you.
LOUTIT: Appreciate it, Tucker, thanks.
CARLSON: That‘s THE SITUATION for tonight. Thank you for watching.
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