Guests: Jerry Stephens, Brent Warr, A.J. Holloway, Ben Morris, Juliet Saussy, Ernie Allen, John Davis, Johnny Felder, Christine Felder, William Caldwell, Kirstie Alley, Gary Cardone
RITA COSBY, HOST: And good evening, everybody. I‘m Rita Cosby, and we continue to come LIVE AND DIRECT tonight from New Orleans, where there is a lot of big news. FEMA director Mike Brown is out. He is being removed from his part in the Katrina efforts. Vice Admiral Thad Allen is going to be taking the new role now. A lot of people blame Mike Brown for the slow response to this disaster. A lot of people here in New Orleans are livid.
NBC‘s Tom Costello has more from the FEMA command center in Baton Rouge—Tom.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: And Rita, good evening to you. Listen, Mike Brown is considered by many people here on the ground as a very nice man. He was respected for his kindness and also just as a good human being. But they felt that when it came to this disaster, clearly, the biggest disaster in U.S. history, he was ill-prepared, and in fact, probably just the wrong man for this particular job, keeping in mind that his prior experience in any sort of emergency management before joining FEMA back in 2001 -- his prior experience consisted of a minor job, we are told, in Edmond, Oklahoma, back in the ‘70s. He spent much of the ‘90s working at an equestrian operation, if you will.
Well, today he was told to pack his bags and move on to Washington. And his boss, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, explained it‘s because they need Mike Brown to prepare for the next hurricane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Mr. Brown is the director of FEMA, as well as an undersecretary at the department. FEMA has responsibility not only to participate in this recovery and—response and recovery effort, it‘s got a lot of other responsibilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Michael Chertoff there making a point that there is, in fact, another hurricane or tropical storm out in the ocean right now. And he said, We always have to keep our eye on the ball as it relates to terrorism.
Nonetheless, this is the biggest natural disaster in U.S. history, 500,000 evacuees out of New Orleans alone. And for the head of FEMA to be taken out of this particular emergency illustrates just how serious the situation was.
His replacement, we should tell you, is the vice admiral of the Coast Guard. That is Thad Allen, a veteran Coast Guard—pardon me, a veteran Coast Guarder, I should say, who has many years experience dealing with emergencies and with hurricane disasters. He spoke to the press a short time ago and said his focus is going to be on the disaster in New Orleans for now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD: I‘ve overflown the area. There are areas that are covered with water where natural gas is bubbling up from breaks in lines. I think we need to be very careful when we talk about how we should reenter these neighborhoods. There are areas where we may have hazardous materials that have been stored there that have been released by the water. This needs to be a very slow—not slow but very deliberate, focused, safe operation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: This is going to take some is time, this operation, as you might expect. They are now suggesting that once they get the water pumped out—and that proposition is weeks or months long—that they will then probably have to begin knocking down as many as 200,000 homes. Who knows how many businesses, McDonald‘s, Burger Kings and the like, will have to be torn down, as well. And then they have to scrape that sludge—which, frankly, EPA officials don‘t like to call toxic, but it is clearly a nasty sludge—scrape that off and figure out some way to either bury it or burn it or dispose of it in some fashion, a major ecological disaster, as well as a humanitarian disaster on the ground in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast.
So Rita, from the emergency operating center tonight, they are feeling a bit better about who‘s in charge here, with both state and FEMA sources saying that, in fact, they had lost confidence in Mr. Brown. Back to you.
COSBY: All right. And Tom, I know you and I heard grumblings about this for a while. Good job there. Thank you very much.
And Tom was just talking about that sludge. I can tell you, it‘s so bad that the Navy SEALs who dive in everything don‘t want to go in it. It is really that bad.
Now, one of the reasons that Mike Brown is out is that so many people were stranded for days in the New Orleans convention center, yet Brown said he didn‘t know they were there. We just got this new video that we actually took inside the convention center a few hours ago. We saw firsthand the horrible conditions that the evacuees were living in. There was human waste. There‘s trash everywhere. You can see it. And the stench is unbearable. Remember, this is the cleaned-up version.
Now, I also went to the Superdome that once housed tens of thousands of evacuees. Today, two more bodies were pulled out of the Superdome. They were pulled out of the parking lot there, which remains very flooded.
The Superdome is also under heavy guard.
Now, there‘s lots of challenges that are facing those people who are doing this task and also that of the rescue workers. And someone who has been following all these folks for the past few days, but particularly today, is MSNBC‘s David Shuster, and he joins me now live. David, what did you see today about just the extraordinary ordeal they‘ve got to go through?
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the stress, especially on the people in New Orleans, is very tough because when you consider that the police, the firefighters, they have to go out with all of the volunteers from out of state who have to go and try to find people, in part because these people from out of state, they don‘t know the neighborhoods, they don‘t know the streets. And so that‘s the first challenge. And so you have a lot of firefighters who are working 20, 22 hours. Their families are away. They may not even have any homes.
There‘s one police officer who said he was lucky simply because he has got a police car because everyone else in, for example, the 7th precinct, their police cars are under water. So it‘s a huge stress on the people from New Orleans.
But the other thing that‘s so interesting is, as you know, one of the main tasks right now is to pump the water out of the city. Well, to get some of these pumps working, the electrical workers, the line workers, have got to get power to some of these pumps. And so the pictures of the utility workers who are going on these flat boats to the telephone pole—to the utility poles, climbing the utility poles and trying to work from the boats is just incredible. And again, these are largely people who have to know the local power grids so they know how to fix it. And they‘re people who say, Look, we don‘t have a home go back to. We‘re staying in somebody else‘s house.
COSBY: Amazing what they have to go through. It really is incredible. And the sense from here is they seem to be feeling like they‘re making some headway. Particularly in the last (INAUDIBLE) about 48 hours, there‘s sort of a message of hope here.
SHUSTER: Yes. I mean, I think people are optimistic. I mean, nobody really likes to talk or speculate about the grim situation, about the number of bodies they expect to find. And again, the locals know which neighborhoods have been searched and which are not and what‘s going to happen to the elderly and disabled. But at the moment, people are really trying to focus on step by step, the power that‘s coming back to a couple of parishes, the areas, in fact, where people believe that they are making some progress.
COSBY: All right, David Shuster. Thank you very much.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome.
COSBY: (INAUDIBLE) communities that were hit very, very hurt hard by Hurricane Katrina, and in fact, we‘re going to be joined now by three mayors of some of those devastated communities. I want to bring in, if I could, Mayor Brent Warr. He is live tonight from Gulfport, Mississippi, which endured tremendous damage. Also with us is A.J. Holloway, live from Biloxi, Mississippi. Also on the phone, we‘ve got Ben Morris of Slidell, Louisiana. And also, you can see him there, we have former FEMA regional director Jerry Stephens, who joins us from Austin, Texas.
Mr. Stephens, let me start with you. First of all, the big headline today, Mike Brown out. This is something we were hearing rumblings of just even over the weekend, when I was in Baton Rouge. What‘s your reaction to the news? The right move?
JERRY STEPHENS, FORMER FEMA REGIONAL DIRECTOR: I think the American public is very relieved tonight. We were stuck on stupid way too long. We have excellent leadership in Admiral Allen and General Honore. And I think the American public knows that these men have the confidence, the knowledge and the authority to put this operation back on track.
COSBY: What do you make of the fact—and in fact, I want to show a comment, Mr. Stephens, from President Bush because about a week ago, he was asked does he still believe in Director Brown. And this is what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Again, I want to thank you all for—and Brownie, you‘re doing a heck of a job. The FEMA director is working 24 hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: Mr. Stephens, what do you think happened? Do you think, suddenly, the light shown on all the disaster here? I mean, I can tell you the people here are just livid. And it‘s astounding to me, even back then, that the president said, I stand by Director Brown.
STEPHENS: I think the president was ill-advised both by the people within DHS and most especially the secretary, who has little more experience than Director Brown has in this regard. And I think someone should ask seriously...
COSBY: And Brent Warr, what is your feeling...
STEPHENS: Someone should ask seriously whether an attorney who is a specialist in counterterrorism and lacks the management skills is the kind of person we need leading the Department of Homeland Security.
COSBY: Yes. Incredible. In fact, before I go to you, Brent Warr, I want to show the resume. This is Mike Brown‘s resume. It is pretty astounding, as Jerry Stephens was just pointing out. His history of what he‘s done doesn‘t really have any EMS experience, if you look at it there, until 2001, when he joined FEMA as general counsel. Had a little bit of a stint in ‘75 and ‘78 in Oklahoma City, city of Edmond.
But Brent Warr, did you get the sense that you were not getting the support that you needed? I can tell you, the folks here in New Orleans absolutely feel that way.
MAYOR BRENT WARR, GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI: Well, you know, the support was available, but we were having to reach out and figure out how to use it. We weren‘t necessarily given the tools that we needed to understand how that support worked. You know, this is a very reactive mode that all of us are in. And I know myself as a mayor—and I won‘t speak for any other mayors, but I could only assume that, you know, it is frustrating when you have a lot of bureaucratic red tape, and we did need somebody to kind of cut across the waves for that force.
And I believe that our president‘s made a strong step today in getting us the help that we need, and I appreciate him being rather quick in his motion. I think he did a good job today.
COSBY: And A.J. Holloway, from your perspective as mayor there of Biloxi, Mississippi, tonight, thousands of people still are homeless. A lot of them are living in tent cities. Were you saying, Where‘s the help, too, all this time?
MAYOR A.J. HOLLOWAY, BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI: Well, you know, I‘m going on my 13th year as mayor here in Biloxi, and this is not the first rodeo we‘ve had, but it‘s the biggest we‘ve ever had. And we know here that we‘re going to have to be self-sufficient for a few days. That‘s why we tell people. when they go to a shelter, to bring enough supplies for three days.
Certainly, I agree with the president that maybe help could have come a little quicker. But you know, we‘re having a lot of help in here now. We‘re working with FEMA. We‘re working with MEMA. We‘re working with other organizations. We‘re having a tremendous outpouring of help from all over the United States, all kinds of agencies. And fund-raisers are being put on for the victims of Katrina. So you know, I—I didn‘t even know the FEMA manager‘s name until just a little while ago.
COSBY: Wow. That‘s not a good sign. And Ben Morris, in your community, as mayor of Slidell, Louisiana, 50 percent of the homes damaged and actually literally destroyed in your community, 80 percent damaged but 50 percent destroyed. What‘s your reaction tonight, glad that this man is no longer in charge of FEMA?
MAYOR BEN MORRIS, SLIDELL, LOUISIANA: Well, my interaction with the director was nonexistent. The problem that I think most of us faced is some of the ridiculous regulations that turned generators away from me when I was in desperate need of them, turned fuel away from me when I was in desperate need of them because it didn‘t meet FEMA-required sites. The generators‘ sites had to be inspected by some FEMA guy that was most probably nonexistent.
The rules and regulations that this organization has is, in my opinion, in an emergency like this, almost criminal. It needs to be—the whole organization needs to be revamped and make it extremely responsive. I don‘t know if the secretary had a chance to review the rules or anything, but I‘ve been faced with it before. Like the other mayor said, this isn‘t my first rodeo.
And I can assure you that it got so bad in the fuel arena, when they turned the trucks around on us because they didn‘t have an approved site, that I was using av (ph) gas in my automobiles that we took from our airport. Now, that‘s most probably going to make my engines sound like musical chimes in a few weeks. But this—it‘s the rules and regulations, the—some of the rank stupidity of the rule writers, not only currently but in the past, that has caused these delays.
COSBY: Absolutely. And mayors and everybody, stick with us, if you could. And everybody at home, we‘re going to continue with them after the break.
But still ahead, Will pulling Mike Brown change anything? Has the damage been done? That‘s the big question tonight. Is it too little, is it too late? Will it alter any of the plans that have been taking place?
Plus, the search and rescue missions continue at this hour, despite Mike Brown. How many people are left to get out of New Orleans?
And a 2-year-old boy who was abandoned at the Superdome is sitting a long way from home in a Houston shelter tonight. He is just one of so many people—so many children separated from their families. The struggle to reunite is coming up next on LIVE AND DIRECT. Stick with us, a lot more.
COSBY: And right now, you can see some of the workers trying to turn the power on in Biloxi, Mississippi, one of the towns hardest hit, of course. Thousands of people are still homeless tonight. And we‘re going to be joined by the mayor of Biloxi and some of the other mayors, and also the former FEMA director in a moment.
But first, I want to bring in Juliet Saussy. She is the director of EMS here in New Orleans tonight. Are you getting what you need, as we look at all these pictures and folks coming in and the gripe about Mike Brown, that where was the help? I haven‘t seen—I can tell—I‘ve not seen one FEMA truck since I‘ve been here.
JULIET SAUSSY, NEW ORLEANS EMS DIRECTOR: We are getting the help we need now. General Honore, the three-star, was actually incredibly helpful. We told him what he needed, and it began to happen. And we are incredibly grateful for that.
COSBY: What about FEMA? Did you get enough help or any help from
SAUSSY: You know, that was something that we—that was lacking.
And you know, I‘m sure the report, the after-action plan or whatever, will
that‘ll elucidate all that. We‘re trying not to focus on that.
Certainly, that—that tends to be a source that everybody‘s focusing on, I think.
COSBY: Are you hoping that the change is going to be a good thing?
SAUSSY: I do. I do. I think any time you have something that doesn‘t work the way you want it to work, that you—you‘ll go back and will do it differently the next time. Unfortunately, for this incident, it was ineffective. And you know, again, to be angry about it, it takes a lot of energy, and I think we need to focus our energy on search and rescue, which is what we‘re doing.
COSBY: Now, how much of that is still going on? Are you still getting folks?
SAUSSY: We are still getting folks. We—they‘re being rescued by boat, by ground, by high-water vehicle. They‘re being taken to the convention center and evacuated, again by ground, and helicopter and mass transit.
COSBY: What‘s some of the worst things you‘ve seen? I mean, I would imagine as days to on—I was out in the air, you know, a couple days ago, and also on the ground. People are exhausted. They‘re wiped. Are you getting that sense?
SAUSSY: Well, I think—yes. You mean the workers?
COSBY: Yes, well, workers and also, you know, folks...
SAUSSY: It‘s very hot here. It‘s very humid here. So certainly, the weather conditions are adding. We‘re seeing a lot of dehydration. Certainly, people who have chronic medical conditions have not taken their medicines appropriately. We‘re seeing exacerbations of their chronic medical conditions, diabetics, people with hypertension. You know, the worst—again, when you had the—we had the mass of people down at the convention center, 20,000 people sitting there with very little food and water in that heat, that was a pretty impressive day.
COSBY: Yes. Amazing. Well, you guys have done a heck of a good job.
I can see your folks all about town.
SAUSSY: Well, yes, 81 of us were able to help, you know, on that day. In about 11 hours, with the general‘s help, we were able to evacuate those 20,000 people. And I think I can speak for all 81 of us in New Orleans EMS that we are very grateful for his help and grateful that we were able to make a difference that day.
COSBY: Well, I can tell you, the folks here in New Orleans have done a great job. Thank you so much.
SAUSSY: Thank you.
COSBY: We appreciate you being with us. Keep up the great work.
SAUSSY: Thank you.
COSBY: Thank you.
I want to bring back in our mayors, if we could, because you know, Mayor Warr—let me start with you. Is it a little too late? I mean, everybody—the word we just heard from Juliet and others, the word “ineffective”—how do you sort of pick up the pieces after you lost all those days where you could have gotten support, where the cavalry could have come in?
COSBY: Let me go to Mayor Warr.
WARR: You‘re going to me?
COSBY: Yes, I‘m going to you, Mayor Warr.
WARR: Yes, ma‘am. I‘m sorry. I could just barely hear you. Rather than wait on the cavalry, all I can tell you is that, you know, we have been busy here in Gulfport. Today, over 90 percent of the roads are cleared in Gulfport. People are able to get back to work. We‘re opening grocery stores and day care centers. The power company plans on turning on power—I think this is very poignant—on 9/11 which is the day after tomorrow, if my watch is still reading right, to every person in the city of Gulfport whose building will accept power. They were originally looking at over four months‘ delay.
We did not wait. We did not sit here and complain about not getting help, we just got to work. And we knew that help would eventually get here, and it has. And the president made a big decision today, and he has helped. MEMA has given their efforts. So we‘re—you know, we‘re doing pretty darn well, as far as what can be considered.
COSBY: Yes, absolutely. And I want to show—let me go to Jerry Stephens. But Jerry, obviously, a lot of the focus is on Mike Brown. I want to show a quote. This is what he gave to a reporter today from the Associated Press who asked about, you know, his situation. And this, I think, sort of reflects on him personally.
Quote, “You know, what are you going do now?” And he said, “I‘m going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife and maybe get some Mexican—get a good Mexican meal and a stiff Margarita and a full night‘s sleep. And then I‘m going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims.”
What do you make of that, sort of the Mexico, go—go for a stiff Margarita? Is that the appropriate comment to say, in light of what‘s happened to these poor people here, Jerry?
STEPHENS: Well, I think we all should be aware there were four “I‘s” at play here—inexperience, inaction, inability, and finally, the Peter principle of rising to one‘s own level incompetence. And I think—if he‘d have been close enough to me, I‘d have been glad wring his neck.
But tonight, I think we should be gratified he‘s out of the way. And actually, he has my deepest sympathy. Can you imagine how he must feel tonight, knowing that perhaps thousands of lives were put on the line and maybe lost because of his own inexperience? That‘s got to be...
COSBY: Yes, no, that‘s a heavy burden...
STEPHENS: ... a heavy load to carry.
COSBY: It sure does. And A.J. Holloway, the mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi, I want to show some of the comments here. Everybody‘s been asking sort of who is to blame. And I think it‘s very telling. They certainly do blame Mike Brown, but they also blame the president. And they blame also the governor of Louisiana. If we can put that screen up? It also says that the mayor here in town is also to blame, and also Secretary Chertoff. But the bulk of it clearly lies on Mike Brown and the president.
Do you think that there‘s going to be a lot of finger-pointing, A.J.
Holloway, to the mayor of Biloxi?
HOLLOWAY: Well, there‘s always a lot of finger-pointing, but I‘m not going to point any fingers or criticize anybody because I don‘t know the circumstances. There‘s always circumstances surrounding different decisions that‘s made.
All I can say is that we‘re very fortunate here in Biloxi. We have electricity on three quarters of the houses in the city of Biloxi. We have the debris cleared out. We‘ve let contracts today. They‘ve started that. We‘re getting supplies from—we just want to thank everybody around the world that‘s been so good to the city of Biloxi in sending supplies. It‘s just overwhelming.
So you know, we‘re doing all right. We‘re making progress. As Mayor Warr said, we didn‘t wait around and wait for help. We went out and got to work and started doing what we needed to do. We know what we have to do here in Biloxi, and we‘re doing it.
COSBY: ... done a fine job.
HOLLOWAY: ... all‘s they have to do is go to our Web site, which is biloxi.ms.us.
COSBY: Well, I‘m going to definitely log on to it. And I‘ve been in your town a number of times. I‘m looking forward to seeing it rebuilt and beautiful again because it certainly is.
HOLLOWAY: Yes, ma‘am. That‘s what we‘re going to do.
COSBY: ... what about the idea of a hurricane czar? What about the idea of a hurricane czar? There have been some people saying that there‘s so many hurricanes in your community of Slidell, Louisiana, and elsewhere that maybe somebody like a Rudy Giuliani a Colin Powell—these are some of the names that have thrown at us sort of potential hurricane czars. Should there be someone strictly focused on hurricane disasters?
MORRIS: Well, I think...
COSBY: Mayor Morris?
MORRIS: ... that‘s most probably a good idea. I think putting FEMA under Homeland Security most probably was a mistake. It‘s very difficult to determine, you know, that the boss here was incorrect. Like I said before, it‘s some of the goofy rules and regulations that are out there that hurt us so severely.
We took care of ourselves. Since—when the storm passed, our infrastructure was in total collapse. We had nothing. People didn‘t even know we still existed. We came out of the ashes ourselves by the hard work of the men and women of the police department in Slidell and our operational people. We cleared 130 miles of street by last Wednesday. We‘ve got our water back up, our sewer back up. The lights are starting to come on. And most of this was done by ourselves, other than the light switch. The Gleeco (ph) power company has just done an outstanding job.
So FEMA‘s in here now. I believe in—and they‘re going to provide us some assistance. But when this thing happens, there ought to be a push. In other words, when a storm hits us, there ought to be trucks lined up somewhere bringing those things in that we need, and it certainly wasn‘t there. I still don‘t hear FEMA reps in our city to answer questions for our citizens, although some are coming in and they‘re being very helpful and I‘m appreciative to that.
COSBY: Absolutely. And let me bring in A.J. Holloway. I want to—
I‘m going to throw this around to everybody. Quick yes or no. Mayor Holloway, should there be a hurricane czar? Yes or no.
COSBY: Yes. How about Mayor Warr?
WARR: Yes. Yes, absolutely. I think that‘s a great idea.
COSBY: Yes, and Jerry...
STEPHENS: Absolutely not. We need the...
COSBY: And Jerry Stephens, what do you think?
STEPHENS: We need to operate more effectively with the resources we have. We didn‘t use the resources we have. We have the right men in place, we don‘t need to create a czar position. It‘s the wrong move.
COSBY: All right, guys. It‘s going to have to be the last word.
Thank you, everybody. Really appreciate you being with us tonight.
And everybody, stick with us. Still ahead, lots of abandoned children separated from their families. Who is watching out for them? How are they going to get back together with their families? How are they going to be reunited?
And an estimated 90 percent of New Orleans is evacuated, but the rescues are still going on. You just heard that from the EMS director.
And the famed 82nd Airborne is in the thick of it. I spent a lot of time with these fine men and women. They‘re going to be coming up. We‘re going to talk to them ahead.
COSBY: Just a heartbreaking story about a little 2-year-old boy. Believe it or not, the babysitter of this boy dropped him off at the Superdome. Somehow he ended up at the Astrodome in Houston, then to a shelter there. And now, everybody is looking for his mother.
So if anyone has any information, please come forward. And also come forward to our next guest. He is Ernie Allen. He‘s with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Ernie, you know, you and I have talked for a number of days now. How many stories like this, unfortunately, are there out there?
ERNIE ALLEN, CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: Rita, we‘re now up to 1,500 reports of children who are separated from their families, either missing or just don‘t know where their parents are.
COSBY: Fifteen hundred reports, that is a massive task. How do you go about doing it, particularly when they‘re young children, who maybe can‘t even speak, can‘t even say anything about who their parents were?
ALLEN: We‘re trying to use every tool we can. We have retired law enforcement specialists, our Team Adam Staff on the ground in the shelters, working with law enforcement, taking photographs of these little guys who may not be able to tell us their names.
The encouraging thing, Rita, is that our recoveries doubled today. We have now recovered and reunited 258 children. And the progress is really significant. So we‘re very hopeful that we‘re going to find many, many more of these children and reunite their families.
COSBY: You‘re also doing some amazing work, too, because you‘ve dealt with missing children who evolve over years. You have technology. I understand you‘re also helping in some of the unidentifiable. Tell us about that.
ALLEN: When the body count is complete, and when the coroners and the medical examiners go through the arduous process of trying to identify who these people are, we know that there are going to be some of them who are not identified, who have spent a number of days under the water, the trauma of death and the disfiguration of the facial characteristics is significant.
So our forensic artists, who work every day on facial reconstruction and identification of the deceased, are going to assist. We‘ve also trained police forensic experts around the country who have also indicated a willingness to assist. So hopefully, we can also identify most of these people and help bring closure to the families.
COSBY: And we‘re looking at some of the Internet sites from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, a number of the states with these faces of these beautiful kids who right now we don‘t know where their parents are.
Ernie, real quickly, we had the pleasure of actually going to one of the shelters where I know some of the kids were displaced. There were, I think, eight—was it eight or seven that were not identified in terms of their parents? That was in Baton Rouge. Any word on that story?
ALLEN: Well, the seven children, the children taken off the I-10 causeway in New Orleans, were identified in that special needs shelter in Baton Rouge. And they‘ve been reunited with their parents who were in the shelter in San Antonio.
And another piece of good news, 13 children, through the work of the San Antonio School District, today were identified who had been enrolled in school. And through that information exchange, we were able to identify their parents and reunite them. So real progress is being made.
COSBY: That‘s terrific, Ernie. Thank you.
And I want to show, again, everybody at home, if you have any information, and, of course, log onto that web site if you know anything. You can see it there. It‘s www.missingkids.com.
Keep up the great work, Ernie. Thank you.
And joining us now is a great story of a reunion. This one comes to us from Phoenix. A family was actually separated during the hurricane and they are now reunited. And they join me now live.
Johnny Davis, also Christine Felder, and also four of their wonderful kids. What a big, happy family, I see there, and including their son, John, who I think can hear me, right?
John, where are you? Raise your hand. Where are you? Raise your hand, John. All right. There you are.
Hey, John, first of all, what was it like going through the hurricane?
JOHN DAVIS, TWELVE YEARS OLD: It was horrible, because I thought I‘d never see my mom again or my dad.
COSBY: I bet it was really scary. And then you guys got separated, right?
COSBY: Let me bring in your mom and dad.
Johnny Davis, the dad, Johnny, tell me how you guys got speculated?
How did you guys get separated?
JOHNNY FELDER, REUNITED WITH CHILDREN: That‘s Johnny Felder.
COSBY: Forgive me, Johnny. Forgive me, Johnny. How did you get separated?
J. FELDER: This is Johnny Davis. Well, we didn‘t really get separated. My wife, Kate, my wife‘s mother came and got the kids before the hurricane came. So they left Saturday.
And me and my wife, we were trying to stick it out to see how it really is, because we heard so much about Betsy. And our mother told us so much about Betsy, so we were trying to experience the feeling of it to tell our grandkids, because we didn‘t want our kids to experiment that. That was too dangerous.
COSBY: And, Christine, we‘re looking at the pictures of the reunion at the airport. How was it to see your kids? And what thoughts went through your mind?
CHRISTINE FELDER, REUNITED WITH CHILDREN: It was wonderful to see my kids again. I just thought I was—it was going to be like months before I really see them again. But it was—they worked very fast at the coliseum helping us out, a lot of people we met, like Mr. Williams. He‘s with the NAACP.
He‘s the one who really found them for us, found the address and the phone number for us so we can contact them. And it was my sister, her name is Lenard Davis (ph), she‘s the one that really came to get my kids, to take them out. It was a wonderful feeling.
COSBY: And, John—I bet. I can just see the expressions. It‘s terrific to watch.
Johnny, how was it for to you see your kids again?
J. FELDER: It was wonderful. I knew they was happy to see me, and I was happy to see them. And now we‘re back together. And it‘s going to stay this way.
COSBY: Johnny, what does your house look like? Have you gotten any word of the damage or what your home looks like now?
J. FELDER: No, I‘ve not gotten any word of the damage yet, but, from when I was—from being there, they had an upstairs apartment above us, and it was like the ceiling just started coming down. And then when the water just started coming in, and my wife just got nervous, and panicking, and asking me, “What are we going to do now, babe?”
Oh, now you want to know what we‘re going to do? It‘s kind of too late to know what we‘re going to do know. So good thing it didn‘t rain hard enough for our ceiling to come down. But the rain was starting to come through the house from the ceiling.
And that sheet rock was starting to peel. And the water was starting to come through the window sill. It was bad. It was bad.
COSBY: Well, I‘m glad all of you got out safe and sound. And it‘s great to see your wonderful smiling faces. Thank you for being with us tonight. We very much appreciate it.
J. FELDER: Thank you.
C. FELDER: Thank you.
COSBY: And stick with us, everybody, because there are a lot of people helping out, in fact, some big-named celebrities. I caught up with Kirstie Alley, famed “Cheers” star. There she is.
She was in action. She was actually bringing stuff into the military. Might have even been helping the guys at the 82nd. I‘m not sure. We‘ll have to find out about that.
And speaking of the 82nd, one of the most famed units of America‘s Armed Forces is stepping up to the challenge here in New Orleans. They are everywhere. These guys and gals are awesome. And the major general is going to be joining me up next. Stick around, everybody.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is truly a war zone. It doesn‘t seem like this type of thing could be real. It‘s very surreal here. And it‘s a very bad situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home.
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COSBY: And some great moments. These guys are clapping for these men and women. This is the Louisiana National Guard coming back from Iraq, duty in Iraq. But, boy, what homecoming is bittersweet, because when you come back, they‘re coming back, many of them had their homes destroyed, many of them have no homes to come back to, but have some warm families and a lot of support in this community.
And someone who is supporting them big time is the 82nd Airborne. And we‘re joined now by the commander of the 82nd Airborne, Major General William Caldwell.
So good to have you with us.
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. ARMY: Glad to be here.
COSBY: I‘ve seen you guys everywhere. I‘ll tell you, when I came to town and saw you guys, I said, “OK, the town is safe.”
When did you arrive here?
CALDWELL: We got here last Saturday.
COSBY: How many of you are here?
CALDWELL: We have 5,000 paratroopers from Fort Bragg that came down with us.
COSBY: Tell us about some of the things you‘ve been doing.
COSBY: You guys have been very much involved in search-and-rescue.
It seems like you guys have been in the thick of it all.
CALDWELL: Well, General Honore, when we came in, told us to do two things, fix the airport, work the evacuation flow, get it under control, help it happen, and then come down here into the city of New Orleans and help down here. And so that‘s where we right came down first.
COSBY: Let‘s first talk about the evacuees. Are you seeing still rescues coming in? Are you getting a sense there‘s a trickle?
CALDWELL: It is. It‘s trickling down a little. We‘re down to about 100 to 150 people a day that we‘re actually rescuing, picking up and bringing back in to our evacuation sites. But we‘re still seeing about 1,000 people a day showing up at the sites. So there are still people that are on dry land that can get there themselves that are coming and realizing, at this point, they just—they want to be evacuated.
COSBY: A thousand a day?
CALDWELL: About 1,000 a day.
COSBY: What do you attribute that, to the fact that maybe the drops aren‘t coming, the water, and the food, and they‘re realizing?
CALDWELL: No, I think they all thought that the water, and the electricity, and the food would just start right back up, you know? It‘s hard...
COSBY: And realizing it‘s not?
CALDWELL: Yes, that‘s exactly right.
COSBY: Are you involved—and I realize this is more New Orleans police department task—but what happens now? The mayor has come out and said, “We‘ve got to basically force those people out, those ones who do not want to come out voluntarily.” What do you do? Is there any role or anything? Are you guys doing the talking, trying to say, “Please, please come”?
CALDWELL: Well, we really do believe that people should go ahead and evacuate. So we do try to coax them out and encourage them to come with us, because we‘ve got a great system. They‘re well taken care of. And we really believe in what we‘ve got set up.
But there are people that just don‘t want to come. We will not have any part whatsoever of any forced evacuation. But the governor has been very clear. She is not prepared to do that yet.
COSBY: Yes, it seems that there‘s been a hold up.
CALDWELL: That‘s right.
COSBY: And the mayor seems to be a step ahead of the governor...
CALDWELL: Right. And she has said, unless there‘s some medical reason, some epidemic that starts occurring, I don‘t think we‘ll see a forced evacuation.
COSBY: Let‘s talk about you guys, because you guys are the best of the best. How difficult and how unusual is this situation?
You‘re on American soil here doing some of these very intricate moves. And just to see it personally, when you see the devastation—I rode up in with the National Guard, see it from the top when you guys are going in. It‘s a tough thing to see.
CALDWELL: It is, but I‘ll tell you, 60 percent of the paratroopers down here are combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. And the fact that we, the all-American division, can come down and help Americans just really made us proud. We feel very privileged to be able to do something back for America.
COSBY: When you see this, how much work lies ahead?
CALDWELL: There‘s a lot of work, there‘s no question. But we‘re seeing progress everyday. And that‘s the important thing, all the agencies pulling together. Everybody working as a team is what‘s doing it. You know, we‘re just a small part of that big team.
COSBY: But seeing your presence is a big sign.
COSBY: How long are you here for?
CALDWELL: Well, that‘s a good question. Do you know?
CALDWELL: I imagine, you know, we‘re prepared to stay up to three months, kind of like they did for Hurricane Andrew. But we‘ll stay as long as it takes to get the mission done.
COSBY: Major General William Caldwell, thank you so much.
CALDWELL: Oh, absolutely.
COSBY: A privilege. I may be going up with you guys tomorrow, or actually...
CALDWELL: We want you to. We want you to come on a boat patrol tomorrow.
COSBY: OK, good. Well, I‘ll do it. Count on it.
CALDWELL: We‘re putting out 100 boats every day.
COSBY: Good. I think that‘s the plan, so good.
CALDWELL: All right.
COSBY: And, everybody, stick with us, because, in fact, I think that is what I‘m doing tomorrow. We‘re going to be in the waters tomorrow and doing a lot of the stuff.
And coming up, everybody, there‘s a lot of people helping out like the major general. A lot of civilians, as well. In fact, famous TV star Kirstie Alley of “Cheers” fame, she came in. She was bringing the military aid today. She was bringing food and water, trying to do her part. I caught up with her. You‘ve got to hear what she has to say. That‘s coming up next. Remember, my boat tour is tomorrow.
COSBY: Lots of big names are chipping in to help here in the rescue and relief efforts, including former “Cheers” TV star Kirstie Alley. Of course, many of us know her well, but today, she was here. I saw her just a few blocks away from here. She was bringing supplies, talking to all the troops, trying to do her part.
Take a look at what she said to me.
COSBY: Why did you think it was important to come here?
KIRSTIE ALLEY, ACTRESS, “FAT ACTRESS”: Because I would want someone to do the same for me and my family. That was it.
COSBY: What are the areas you‘re touring?
ALLEY: We‘re not actually touring. We sort of have a convoy of trucks with supplies and things that we—a bunch of people gave money and we, you know—we were just the ambassadors to go shopping and get all the stuff in Memphis, because around here—it was hard to get things, supplies and things, so we bought everything in Memphis.
And then we drove here. And we‘re driving just through, dumping off stuff that people need along the way. Everybody‘s different in what they need.
COSBY: It‘s just heartbreaking to see some of these animals. I‘ve been out boats.
COSBY: And we‘ve seen some of these animals just barking on the top of a roof.
COSBY: Some of their owners...
ALLEY: Yes, we have rescue people going in to get all of those, of course. And then we were going to do all the people things first and the animal thing second, but we couldn‘t get into New Orleans until today. So I think we‘re going to go maybe to Hattiesburg.
We‘re going to go just places that we‘ve heard that there haven‘t been a lot of people in to help, for whatever reason, because there‘s a lot of reasons, logistics and, you know, there‘s a lot of reasons.
COSBY: When you see pictures on TV and when you‘re actually here, what‘s your reaction, just to see what it looks like so far?
ALLEY: You know, my reaction is mixed, you know? I don‘t see the biggest physical devastation here, but I see the biggest loss of lives here. So it‘s pretty cruel and horrible. I mean, what can you say? It‘s cruel, and it‘s horrible.
The loss of homes, and the loss of things is more outside of here. But, you know, I‘ve met lots of people who have come from New Orleans that were in shelters and things. I think they‘re doing well, which is a tribute to, you know, to human spirit. They‘re seriously doing well.
And you know, my family, my cousins lost their—they don‘t have a house in New Orleans anymore. My aunt doesn‘t have a house anymore. And they‘re really—everybody‘s trying to stay as high-spirited as they possibly can when something like this happens, which I think is a tribute to the human spirit.
COSBY: Are you going to go back and also ask some more of your friends in Hollywood to please help, I mean, everybody?
ALLEY: I am. One of the things we‘re doing right now is finding out
there‘s so many people who want to help. And it‘s sort of like discerning what needs to be done, you know, and that changes, as you know, hourly, because we‘ve gotten from—you know, by the time we drive to one place, they‘ve already gotten all the underwear they needed or something.
So we‘ve had to switch it up and just be willing to go wherever people needed us. And when I go back, I know people that are having concerts. I know people that are having benefits. And I think it‘s important that they know what‘s needed the most. I think that‘s going to be as valuable as the benefit itself.
COSBY: And Kirstie Alley is the member of the Church of Scientology. And there‘s a lot of folks helping out from that organization. And Gary Cardone is one of the volunteers.
Tell us, first of all, how many members? I was surprised—I see this yellow t-shirt around town all over the place.
GARY CARDONE, SCIENTOLOGY VOLUNTEER: Yes, it‘s all over the place. We‘ve got about -- 1,000 people have come through here just to help, on their own dime, just to help all these really—this devastation.
COSBY: From how far away?
CARDONE: Well, this lady that‘s with me is from Israel. So, I mean, we‘ve got people from all over the planet, mostly from the U.S. But we got people from Canada, Israel, Italy, Germany, and from every state.
COSBY: What kinds of things are you doing? I saw earlier today—and we‘re showing this—this is called the Assist. It‘s sort of a relaxing move on all the rescue workers. How many have you treated?
CARDONE: Right. Right. Well, I just ran the stats yesterday. As of yesterday, we‘ve actually treated over 15,000 people.
COSBY: Fifteen thousand?
CARDONE: Yes. And we‘ve only...
COSBY: Most of them cops?
CARDONE: ... got 300 or 400 people on the ground right now. Yes, most of them cops, military, but a lot of evacuees, also, because we‘re in all the shelters.
COSBY: Doing also some spiritual work, which you guys are known for.
CARDONE: Yes, that‘s right. That‘s right.
COSBY: How are you helping them?
CARDONE: Well, we‘re helping people get unstuck from this incident, you know? And we‘re a fine, specific technology that helps people, without drugs, and without using commands. And it‘s really just to free them up from a really, really bad incident so that they can become more causative over their life.
COSBY: And you‘re out in the field?
CARDONE: That‘s right.
COSBY: You just see they desperately need—I mean, you were telling me that you‘ve been out with the sheriffs. You‘ve been on the boats. How tough is this? Your family is from Louisiana. You‘ve got some relatives from there.
CARDONE: Yes, we‘re actually from Lake Charles.
COSBY: Where I stayed on the way here.
CARDONE: Yes, right. You‘re the one that got me here, though, because I was watching you, and watching all the work you‘re doing. And I said, “I really got to become more responsible,” so I came out here, got off my little couch...
COSBY: Thank you. Our show got you involved?
CARDONE: Yes, you. No, not your show, you.
COSBY: Thank you, I didn‘t know that. Thank you.
CARDONE: Yes, I told you that a couple days ago, so...
COSBY: Thank you. Wow.
CARDONE: Yes, but we‘ve been to St. Bernard‘s. We‘re in Mississippi right now. I had a mind-blowing experience three days ago in St. Bernard. I‘ve met heroes here, OK? I mean, this has been a gift for me to come do this.
I mean, like you, I‘ve learned so much about mankind, that people are really good. And we can throw rocks at each other all we want, who‘s to blame, but, man, there‘s a lot of wonderful stories here. It‘s just rich, rich, rich with stories.
COSBY: And you guys are doing a great job.
CARDONE: Thanks a lot.
COSBY: I‘ve seen you out and about. I‘ve seen you guys in action.
Very good work.
CARDONE: Yes, thank you very much.
COSBY: Thank you very much, with the Church of Scientology, and lots of great organizations out here.
And, in fact, you‘re also getting jobs. I want to make sure I put the full screen really quick. What‘s the number?
CARDONE: Yes, we‘ve been getting out comm lines. It‘s 1-800-516...
COSBY: ... 516-7271.
CARDONE: Yes, 100 jobs we‘re going to give to relief victims.
COSBY: Terrific. Good thing to do. And you‘ve got to get them jobs and get them back up on their feet.
CARDONE: Right, that‘s right. We‘ve got them into production.
COSBY: Great. Everybody, call that number, too. Lots of help on the way from good folks like this and others.
And stick with us, everybody. A lot more after the break.
COSBY: Well, human beings were not the only ones who were evacuated from New Orleans. Also, lots of animals.
In fact, there‘s a major, major aquarium right down the street from us here. We want to show you some pictures, some of the animals were rescued. And there are so many amazing rescues.
I don‘t know how much you can see there, but you can see the crates. There they are. They‘re adorable penguins that are waddling back and forth. And a lot of them were actually saved from the aquariums. Dozens, I‘m told, were saved and survived.
Also, a sea otter, and a turtle named Midas—certainly had the Midas touch, because he also certainly survived this ordeal.
Unfortunately, many of the other animals died because the power went out. Lots of fish—apparently 6,000 fish out of 10,000 fish that were located did not survive.
And it‘s important for us, of course, to remember the animals, not just the human beings involved.
Everybody, be sure to stick with us tomorrow night, because, as you just heard from the major general—I‘ve got to obey the orders—I‘m going to be going out with them on the boat tomorrow. We‘re going to be doing some search-and-rescue operations.
These guys are really in the thick of it all, trying to convince some people to come out, and also trying to rescue those who want to voluntarily get out, as well. So we‘ll be following them very, very closely.
And also, tomorrow, we‘re going to be on a special at 10:00 Eastern. Be sure to join us. We‘re going to show you what happens at the 82nd and everybody else.
And now let me turn it over to Joe Scarborough, who is in Pensacola, not too far from where the damage hit in Biloxi.
And, Joe, you‘ve done a heck of a job covering all the stuff in Mississippi.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Hey, thanks so much, Rita, for all your coverage of New Orleans. I know you‘ve really brought people into the scene every single night. You‘ve done a great job.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.