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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

America Remembers 9/11

Aired September 11, 2003 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper in New York.
A city which paused in remembrance today of lives lost two years ago. We're going to show you now a live shot of Ground Zero where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

Tonight we have a number of reports about how this day was marked in places across the country. But first, there are a number of developing stories we want to tell you about.

The State Department today issued a worldwide caution, warning Americans there are signs that al Qaeda may be getting ready for another attack.

Andrea Koppel reports from the State Department.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: May the souls of the fallen rest in God's grace. May God bless you and your families, and may God bless America.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Secretary of State Powell and others marked the 9/11 anniversary with a moment of silence, the State Department warned that terrorists are still targeting Americans around the world. An updated worldwide caution said there were increasing indications that al Qaeda is preparing to strike U.S. interests abroad.

While the State Department officials say the latest bin Laden video did not factor into their decision, officials concede that the sheer volume of fresh, albeit unspecific, intelligence coinciding with the 9/11 anniversary tipped the scales.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The assessment of all that information, as well as past behavior, leads us to conclude or to believe that it's possible that they would be looking at Europe and Eurasia.

KOPPEL: Already terrorists linked to al Qaeda have attacked Belgian, Spanish and Jewish targets in Morocco, western housing complexes in Saudi Arabia, a nightclub and J.W. Marriott hotel in Indonesia and a hotel in Kenya and tried, but failed to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet taking off from Mombasa, Kenya.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Andrea Koppel joins us now from the State Department.

Andrea, you referred to possible attacks overseas. But let's be very clear about this. So far no indication of an imminent attack here in the U.S.?

KOPPEL: Well, Anderson, the State Department also said in this warning that they can't rule out the possibility that al Qaeda might attempt what they call a second catastrophic attack somewhere in the U.S.

But no matter where they would strike, either here in the U.S. or overseas, the U.S. also believes that al Qaeda is seeking to strike in a way that would be even more devastating than 9/11, possibly using chemical and biological weapons, Anderson.

COOPER: An ominous warning. Andrea Koppel, thanks very much for the report today.

We go to Israel. A developing story, fast moving events there.

That nation's security cabinet says Palestinian authority President Yasser Arafat is an obstacle to peace and wants to expel him. In Ramallah, Arafat says he is not going anywhere, and at this moment a huge crowd of Arafat supporters is gathered around his compound.

Matthew Chance is in Ramallah.

Matthew, what's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thank you.

Angry and very passionate, it seems here in Ramallah, as hundreds, if not thousands of his supporters descended on the battered compound, where he has been confined for several years now in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian president.

Israel and the U.S. may not like it, but it's clear from the numbers who came out today that many, many people regard President Arafat as a potent national symbol and these threats from Israel of action against him have produced absolute fury here. And as you might expect from a man who has led the PLO for the last 40 years, absolute defiance from Yasser Arafat.

Here's what he had to say earlier today.

COOPER: We just lost our report from Matthew Chance. He was talking to us via satellite telephone from Ramallah. Try to get back in touch with him a little bit later on.

Today President Bush reacted to those newly released audio and videotapes. You know, the ones showing Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant. Mr. Bush says the bin Laden tapes serve to remind people that the war on terror continues and the U.S. is working to bring terrorists to justice. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His rhetoric is trying to intimidate, and create fear. And he's not going to intimidate America. We are at war because of what he and his fellow killers decided to do two years ago today. And we will stay at war until we have achieved our objective, the dismantlement of terrorist organizations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We'll be bringing you up to date on a number of other stories throughout the hour.

We turn, however, now to 9/11. A difficult day for many Americans, for many around the world, for that matter, who lost loved ones two years ago.

David Mattingly reports on how many of us paused today to remember.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At New York's Ground Zero, the devastating toll of 9/11 is remembered in the voices of children. The second anniversary of the terrorist attacks, deliberately more low key than last year, but no less emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my stepfather, Salvatore P. Lafreta (ph), I miss you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my Daddy, Gerard Rod Capalla (ph). Your light still shines on.

MATTINGLY: The president and the first lady choosing, this time, to remain in Washington and attend a church service remembering those who were lost.

BUSH: We pray for strength and wisdom. We thank God for the many blessings of this nation.

MATTINGLY: Then, a moment of silence on the White House lawn, not far from the Pentagon, where a crashing jet killed 184 people.

And at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a bell tolled for each of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93.

But at all three Ground Zeroes, the crowds are just a fraction of all those nationwide who paused and remembered. September 11, 2003, a day filled with memories that are just as painful as they are enduring.

David Mattingly, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Americans on duty in Iraq also paused to remember 9/11. U.S. troops stopped for a moment of silence, held candles and reflected on the loss suffered two years ago.

Another memorial was held in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. There, soldiers were urged not to forget the victims of September 11 or the service men and women who have died in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq.

Even with the warnings, a massive new federal bureaucracy. Security restrictions everywhere, from airports to baseball parks, many people are still uneasy. A look now at the hard facts of homeland security. How safe can we make things? Jeanne Meserve has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The most amazing thing to many people is that terrorists haven't ripped at America's gut again with another attack.

STEVE FLYNN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: We are just living on borrowed time. Every day that we don't have an event, I count that we just simply have been lucky.

MESERVE: Lucky, says Flynn, because the country is still unprepared.

FLYNN: We're not acting like the United States on the -- during the -- after Pearl Harbor, mobilizing a nation to respond to a new threat environment.

MESERVE: The secretary of homeland security disagrees.

TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I think our level of protection, our level of security is significantly higher.

MESERVE: both men may be right. Security has improved, but in almost every area, there is more to be done.

Before 9/11, checked airline baggage was not screened. Now it all is, but air cargo is not.

Before 9/11, less than 2 percent of shipping containers are screened. Now customs inspectors check U.S.-bound cargo at some foreign ports, but the vulnerability of most U.S. ports haven't even been assessed, much less corrected.

Before 9/11 there were only small repositories of smallpox vaccine. Now there's enough for every American. But hospitals are unprepared for the flood of patients a bio-terror attack would create.

Even the head of homeland security says the nation cannot gird itself for every possibility.

RIDGE: We'll never get to a position where we can guarantee absolutely that we are safe against all eventualities for all time, forever.

MESERVE (on camera): Some experts argue more can and should be done. But as 9/11 has faded, the push for homeland security has lost focus and momentum.

Jean Meserve, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We'll have some more hard facts about 9/11 and terrorism coming up later on in the program.

Right now, let's check the uplink for news around the world.

Fallujah, Iraq, a firefight today. At least three U.S. Army vehicles were seen burning. Witnesses say the incident started with an attack on the U.S. convoy and that some soldiers were killed. The U.S. military says it cannot confirm details about the incident or reports of possible casualties.

Stockholm, Sweden, shock and grief over the death of a country's foreign minister. Anna Lindh died this morning. She was stabbed several times while shopping in Stockholm yesterday. Her attacker remains at large, motivation unknown.

When 360 returns in a moment, protection from another attack. We'll look at what's being done to avoid another 9/11.

Also families of some 9/11 victims are looking to the courts for answers. Will justice be served for them? A look at the cases ahead.

And the man charged with designing a tribute, a workspace and a renewal for New York's skyline. We will talk with him at Ground Zero.

All ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You are looking at a live picture there from Brooklyn, lower Manhattan. We are expecting those two beams of light to be shining tonight. We'll bring them to you as soon as you can see them, as soon as it gets dark enough.

On this second anniversary of 9/11, Britain is focusing on Iraq.

A parliamentary committee today issued a damning report on the government's case for war. It says intelligence officials warned Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, that invading Iraq would only increase the risk of militants obtaining chemical or biological weapons. The report also says the government failed to acknowledge that the Iraqi regime posed no immediate threat to Britain.

And across the English Channel, France has given the green light to a U.N. resolution that would lift sanctions against Libya. It comes after families of victims of the terror bombing of a French airliner in 1989 signed another compensation deal with Libya. As U.S. Government warns of the threat of another more devastating al Qaeda attack, we look now at the hard facts of U.S. intelligence and whether it can actually stop such an attack.

National security correspondent David Ensor has the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The nation's intelligence chief, George Tenet declared war on al Qaeda five years ago. But it took 9/11 for U.S. intelligence to stop playing mostly defense.

CIA officers soon organized and paid Afghan allies to help the U.S. military overthrow the Taliban. On the streets of Pakistan and around the world, many top al Qaeda leaders were seized or killed.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, DIRECTOR, NSA: After 9/11, when America went on the offense and we began to take away their sanctuaries, it created circumstances that didn't exist before for us, for us to collect intelligence.

ENSOR: General Michael Hayden, director of the massive National Security Agency, the nation's eavesdroppers, hired 1,100 more people last year alone to deal with what's called signals intelligence.

Post-9/11, Congress has given U.S. intelligence billion more are the war on terror. The exact amount remains classified.

(on camera) Do you think that U.S. intelligence can stop the next big 9/11 plot?

HAYDEN: We're better now than we ever have been. But there are no guarantees. I can't say that.

ENSOR (voice-over): A congressional inquiry pointed to multiple intelligence weaknesses contributing to 9/11. For starters, it said the FBI was living in another era, using antiquated computers, focusing on crime rather than terrorism. No longer says director Mueller.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: The number one priority is the prevention of an additional terrorist attack.

ENSOR: Another problem: communication. Before 9/11, the CIA had information that two of the future hijackers had attended a terrorist summit and were planning to enter the U.S., information that never got to FBI field agents.

ELEANOR HILL, CONGRESSIONAL 9/11 COMMITTEE: You can have the world's best intelligence. And if it doesn't get to the people who need it to act on it in time, it's worthless.

ENSOR (on camera): So in practical terms, how are things different? HAYDEN: A lot tighter link with the FBI. A lot more facility in exchanging information between the foreign intelligence world, and the law enforcement world.

ENSOR: Why can't we catch Osama bin Laden, and is signaled intelligence useless in that search?

HAYDEN: Clearly, signals intelligence can only detect that which an adversary decides to put in the electromagnetic spectrum.

ENSOR (voice-over): The 9/11 congressional report identified another problem: lack of clear leadership. Right now CIA director Tenet sets the priorities, but agencies like the NSA get their money from the Pentagon. Some of their marching orders, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: NSA is a huge player, and it can't be out on its own answering to two masters.

ENSOR: Don't look for change on that, though. Officials say Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is not interested in giving up control.

On the faces of the nation's intelligence chiefs, the pressure is obvious. They don't want to miss any clue that could prevent another 9/11.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: David, on those newly released al Qaeda tapes, bin Laden's chief deputy says the real battle has not yet started. Has the intelligence community determined whether the voice is real and has there been any uptick the level of chatter?

ENSOR: Anderson, yes to both questions. Yes, they believe that is the voice of Ayman al Zawahiri making those threats. They're not sure about the voice of Osama bin Laden. There's some doubt about that. They're not sure.

As to chatter, there is more of it in recent days. Not a lot, but somewhat more. There is growing concern that someone in al Qaeda might be planning something, and that is, of course, one of the reasons you saw the worldwide caution issued by the State Department today.

COOPER: All right. David Ensor in Washington, thanks very much, David.

We're looking at other news right now cross-country.

In California, a three-judge panel is hearing arguments in a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU wants to keep punch cards from being used in the upcoming recall election. The group says the card could lead to the same kind of mess that happened in Florida during the last presidential election.

Washington, D.C., the Justice Department wants to stop people from getting low-cost prescription drugs from Canada. Justice wants a judge to stop RX Depot from buying medicines in Canada and selling them at cut rates to U.S. customers. Now, the complaint is that there's a health risk for drugs from north of the border.

And in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, dozens of oil rig workers were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico today after a drilling rig collapsed. No immediate reports of injuries. The Coast Guard told a local TV station that boats pulled 38 workers out of the water.

And out to sea, Hurricane Isabel is pushing towards the Leeward Islands. Isabel has been upgraded to a category five storm with winds hitting near 160 miles per hour. It is too early to know whether that storm could threaten other islands or the U.S. mainland.

Well, the impact and the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks have been far-reaching and long lasting. When 360 returns, they seared the hearts and souls of a nation, the fires that burned at Ground Zero.

Also the fire, the rubble and fumes; we were sickened at the sight of what happened. Why do some people think they are still sick?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The question, who was responsible for September 11? Not just the killers, but those who, perhaps, could have stopped them.

In the last two years, lawsuits have been filed against United and American airlines, alleging lax security, against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the World Trade Center lease holder, faulty construction and evacuation plans, even against Boeing, blaming its designed cockpit doors. All the defendants reject these claims, but the suits are going forward. So we have with us Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom to walk us through them.

Lisa, thanks for being with us on this difficult day.

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson.

COOPER: Do these suits have a chance? Can these companies actually be held liable?

BLOOM: Well, a federal judge just said that they can go forward with these claims. Absolutely. These are traditional negligence claims.

COOPER: Doesn't mean the claims have merit, though.

BLOOM: Well, no necessarily. They could be proved at trial, like any other claims. But really, they're traditional negligence claims. The owner of a building has a responsibility to people in the building to keep them safe, even in the event of a fire, even in the event of a criminal attack. And that's a long-standing American law. The fact was these were criminal attacks, but the building have to be safe, the planes have to be safe.

COOPER: And lawyers for these companies had argued in front of this judge that basically these events were so extraordinary, so beyond the pale, they could not have been reasonably predicted.

BLOOM: And the judge rejected that. After all, 1993, there was an attack on the World Trade Center. There have been many hijackings in the past. There have been many plane crashes in the past. The judge said it's up to these plaintiffs to prove that there were inadequate evacuation procedures, for example, at the World Trade Center, inadequate fire-proofing. If that's true, they can win their case.

COOPER: Families have to decide whether they actually want to be part of these lawsuits or the compensation fund. Because if they do sign on for that compensation fund, they basically sign away their right to sue these companies.

BLOOM: That's right, and it's a very tough choice. It's really a matter of assessing the risk. Do you want a smaller amount of money but have a sure thing? That would be the fund. Or do you want to roll the dice and maybe get a larger amount of money but have years of litigation and appeals?

COOPER: And a huge roll of the dice. I mean, there's no guarantees and it could go on for years and years and you have to pay the attorneys.

BLOOM: It could, but the September 11 litigation is a huge class of victims, people who were injured, family members of people who died, property owners. There's an enormous number of people who are pursuing litigation.

COOPER: There are also people pursuing litigation, not against these companies but against foreign governments, even against Osama bin Laden's family. And you might sort of on the face of it say, well, look, they don't have a chance. But there is actually recent precedence. I mean, Libya is now making a settlement.

BLOOM: Libya has just agreed to put $2.7 billion and put that money aside into an escrow account.

COOPER: For the Latrabie (ph) bombing.

BLOOM: That's right. And you just reported that France reached a settlement with Libya, as well, so there absolutely is precedent against foreign governments. American law allows it. Insurance companies are saying Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran should also contribute to these settlements.

COOPER: Insurance companies have filed a major suit against Saudi Arabia, against Sudan, against other countries as well.

BLOOM: Right. And they can go forward under American law. As you said, there is precedence. I wouldn't be surprised if those cases go forward, as well.

COOPER: All right. Lisa Bloom, thanks very much.

All right. Well, 2000 years ago it's believed a lightning bolt struck southeastern Australia. That caused a fire in a buried deposit of coal. That fire has never gone out.

On September 11, 2003 -- 2001, two planes struck two steel towers. That caused a fire in a buried deposit of fuel, rubble and memory.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Firefighters battle the underground blaze by pouring water on it, up to 800 gallons a minute.

The only other thing they could do was dig, dig into the compressed pile of 100 stories, knowing somewhere at the heart of it, day and night, something smoldered, glowing, hot steel, pools of spilled fuel, crushed computers with their lost memories.

Silently, visible only to machines that see heat, the city's funeral pyre burned on. In November they called it the longest commercial fire in history. It would last into January.

And weeks after the sky's dark stain disappeared, a shift of the wind could pull you back with the smell of benzene, styrene, ash and mourning.

In the end, the firefighters did what they always do. They won. But, of course, some fires never go out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's hard to put September 11 in any kind of perspective, but if it's possible we may sometimes underestimate what happened here in New York. After all, we saw it against the backdrop of America's biggest city.

Look how the numbers stack up against other cities. At peak hours, the World Trade Center itself used 90 megawatts of power, just like Albany, New York. Three hundred thousand phone lines were lost. That's Cincinnati, Ohio. Three hundred and forty-three firefighters died. That is more than the entire fire department of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Still to come this evening, it is different but still dangerous. Stay with us and learn about the new al Qaeda.

And later: listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was right there where that new patch of asphalt was. That's where I was crouching out in a fetal position with four under people under a car.

COOPER: Right there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Icons and images that stay with us, no matter what, when 360 returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Let's reset today's headlines.

In the Middle East, thousands of enraged Palestinians are out on the streets, chanting slogans and rallying in support of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Israel's cabinet has voted to expel Arafat, saying he is, quote, "an obstacle to peace."

Another terror warning. U.S. Intelligence officials say the chatter level is up, indicating al Qaeda may seek to mark this anniversary by pulling off another attack.

In New York, grief and pride filled the air as relatives of 9/11 victims took part in a solemn ceremony at the site now known as Ground Zero. The 2,792 people lost were remembered, their names read one after the other.

In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, church bells tolled as people remembered those lost there. And in Washington, 20,000 Pentagon workers stood in silence in ceremonies held to remember this difficult day.

President Bush says the tape said to be from Osama bin Laden is a reminder that the war on terror must go on. Mr. Bush said, America will not be intimidated and will continue fighting until all objectives are achieved.

In the last two years, al Qaeda has transformed itself. Then it was able to launch spectacular simultaneous attacks like 9/11. Now it launches waves of attacks with the help of sympathetic groups, like the ones this past may in Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Al Qaeda has evolved in a surprising direction. Mike Boettcher investigates al Qaeda and the Internet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An Internet cafe in Beirut. A new frontline in al Qaeda's war against the west. Al Qaeda has been taking its war to the Web, hoping to lure new supporters, sometimes succeeding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, I got a cousin that became one. He was -- he used to dress like me, but he became religious and got into that.

BOETTCHER: Al Qaeda is Arabic for "the base" and until 9/11, Afghanistan was al Qaeda's base, where tens of thousands got military and religious instruction and Osama bin Laden's's version of jihad. That changed when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban regime that was playing host to Osama bin Laden. Many of the al Qaeda terrorists who weren't captured or killed, fled to countries all over the world and the group's nature changed.

PETER BERGEN, TERRORISM ANALYST: Since 9/11, I think an interesting question is, al Qaeda the organization has involved into al Qaeda the ideology.

BOETTCHER: The al Qaeda the ideology has been on display with bin Laden's video and audiotapes, like the one released this week. And al Qaeda has also made use of the Internet, setting up its own Web site where it posted communiques and incited its supporters.

PAUL EEDLE, MONITOR'S AL QAEDA ON WEB: I think al Qaeda simply recognizes how information and power works in the 21st Century.

BOETTCHER: Paul Eedle has been monitoring al Qaeda on the Web for 2 years.

EEDLE: The reason electronic jihad which goes well beyond the physical violence of al Qaeda. A war of ideas on the Internet.

BOETTCHER: But it is not just the war of ideas. It's a tool for its operations. One of the men the Saudis say was behind the recent suicide bombings in Riyadh was also one of al Qaeda's voices on the Internet.

Although he has since been killed, al Qaeda's electronic jihad continues. One al Qaeda Web site reported 60,000 visitors last month before it was taken off line. Mike Boettcher, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Some more hard facts now. These deal with the air quality in the area around the former World Trade Center. Just, yesterday a study said the burning pile of rubble put off a dangerous mix of chemicals. Today New York's Junior U.S. Senator angrily complained that people in the area were misled by the government about whether the air was safe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: It wasn't only the outdoor air and the continuing burning of the debris, a mixture that frankly the world had never seen of stuff that was pulverized, but it was also indoor air. I'm equally concerned about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Our medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks now at the air around ground zero then and now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The devastation was seen on the ground and in the air.

KATHRYN FREED, GROUND ZERO RESIDENT: Everybody was sick. Everybody had a cold. Everybody had a cough. Some people had rashes. Everybody had the heart burn. And, you know, I think it gradually occurred to people that it just wasn't safe being here.

GUPTA: Even before September 11, New York City had the highest level of pollution and asthma in the country. Then, after 9/11, it got much worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was mystifying to see the pictures. It's air that you can see. Can't be good to breathe.

GUPTA: Buildings were pulverized.

HUGH KAUFMAN, EPA SENIOR ENGINEER: We're talking about large amounts of asbestos, lead, mercury, other hazardous heavy metals. We're talking about volatile organic compounds that are hazard us, benzine, PCBs, et cetera.

GUPTA: First responders were the closest and hardest hit. Now, there are several lasting health effects, including respiratory problems and lower birth weights.

Two years later now, when you look at your case files of all the patients you and your group have seen, does it fit in with what you expected after 9/11?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately it fits in, although it's a little worse than what we expected. What we found over these two years that we have a substantial number of patients who have developed either upper respiratory, ear, nose and throat problems or lung problems. Many of whom are permanently and totally disabled.

GUPTA: The Environmental Protection Agency maintains there is no major threat to public health.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over the long-term we have found no significant health effects posed by exposure to air in lower Manhattan.

GUPTA: But it' clear that along with the emotional scars, many survivors and workers in New York carry lasting physical ailments. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That is certainly true. As you can see from Sanjay's report, the incredibly thick dust and debris around the World Trade Center turned the skies dark, choked the people trying to run for cover. Since then, some people are sure the breathing problems they have now are a result of what happened then.

I want to introduce you to 2 people, Kathryn Freed and Jo Polett. Both residents of downtown New York. Both dealing with respiratory problems. Both convinced those problems caused by the toxins in the air after the attacks. Appreciate you both joining us. Any doubt in your mind, that what you are suffering now is from what happened then?

KATHRYN FREED, DOWNTOWN NYC RESIDENT: Absolutely not. I wasn't ill. I never had respiratory problems. Never had asthma, never had anything. Now I have chronic bronchitis, constant breathing problems. I'm on medication that I take every day.

COOPER: Both of you had your homes independently, professionally, not cleaned, but tested. What did you find and how does it compare to what the EPA and government was telling you?

JO POLETT, DOWNTOWN NYC RESIDENT: In December of 2001, we had our ventilation system tested. It's a very tall building. The ventilation system ran all day until we lost power. There was an asbestos level 50 times expected background. There was -- I later tested in my apartment, I found asbestos contamination.

COOPER: And you found the same thing?

FREED: Right. Well, I had my terrace tested a year and a half later after EPA and DEP refused to test it. On a scale where 5,000 is considered safe, I had almost 1 million structures of asbestos.

COOPER: It's interesting, because what you here from government officials often is an, I mean -- what the White House was saying at the time, what the EPA was saying at the time is that the air is safe. Mayor Bloomberg even just made a statement, had this to say today. Let's play what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR, NEW YORK: For a big city, the air was reasonably safe, clean, the way it is in any big city on a normal business day, when you have traffic and that we really did not mislead the public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Contrast that to what the EPA and their own inspector general reports said -- we have the full screen of that, we are going to put it on the screen just for people who have not read the inspector general report. This is from the EPA inspector general, "The EPA staff reacted quickly to ensure public safety. Air quality data was collected under very tough conditions" -- actually this is the wrong graphic, this is where they -- basically this is a letter they wrote to Hillary Clinton -- this is from the inspector general report, "The public did not receive sufficient air quality information and wanted more information on health risk".

Later on they went on to say that we said the air was safe, but we didn't have that information.

FREED: You know, its just so wrong. They knew, they knew they were lying to us and they certainly knew it a week or 2 later. And yet, here we are 2 years later, they're still denying it. They are still not telling us what was in there.

COOPER: You still want answers. You still want...

POLETT: The mayor was talking about the outside air. What got into our buildings that day stays there.

COOPER: You say, clean up still needs to happen.

POLETT: Definitely. FREED: Only 20 percent of the residents off of Canal Street ever got cleaned up. None of the commercial spaces. None of the areas like Brooklyn or the lower east side. There was no wall on Canal Street. That bloom went everywhere, for 24 hours a day for like 3 months we breath that stuff.

But everything we brought into our homes, stayed there. And that hasn't gone anywhere.

POLETT: And the problem is with the stuff that came in through the ventilation systems, you can't see it. It's on the walls. It's on the ceiling. It's on the floors. You can't see it. I had a lead wipe on my floor right in May, right before the EPA cleaned. It was 5 times the EPA based standard.

COOPER: We appreciate you both coming in. Kathryn Freed and Jo Polett, appreciate it. Thank you very much. All right a lot of questions still need to be answered.

Next on 360, the people whose loved ones literally vanished on September 11. Loss and grief, but as yet, no grave. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: During the two years since 2000, 792 people were killed in lower Manhattan and the city's newspapers have run a new feature. It doesn't run every day anymore, and it's small like a classified ad, so you might not even notice it. It's a notice that the remains of yet another victim have been identified.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): In all, almost 20,000 separate human remains came into the New York medical examiner's office. About 13,000 bones or pieces of bone. Fewer than 300 people were found intact. Some tissue meshed with that of other victims, where people clung together to the end.

While remains of more than 1,500 people have been identified, that leaves almost 1,300 of whom there is still no known trace.

Their loved ones have offered combs and toothbrushes bearing genetic codes that might some day match the remains. Much of the DNA may never be readable. The damage extending even into cells, erasing identities.

But the I.D. process is intrinsically an exercise of hope, pushing technology forward, preserving anonymous remains so that the future might some day give them back their names.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: My next guest, Christine Huhn-Graifman lost her husband David in the World Trade Center attacks. His remains like so many others have not yet been identified. She joins me now. Christine, thanks for being with us today. Does it -- it makes it more difficult not having remains, obviously. Is it something you -- I mean, do you wait for that phone call?

CHRISTINE HUHN-GRAIFMAN, LOST HUSBAND IN 9/11 ATTACKS: During the first year we had more hope that we would get that phone call. Especially from talking to other victims' families, you know, who found remains. And there was a little bit of jealousy, I think, just that they had that little piece.

COOPER: They have found remains and you still haven't.

HUHN-GRAIFMAN: Right. But at this point, I've kind of lost hope that we would find remains. I mean, it could happen, maybe five years from now we might find a little bit of David. But at this point I really don't expect the call to come.

COOPER: And does it -- I mean, I suppose it makes the mourning process, if you can call it that, more difficult, more of a challenge, I suppose.

HUHN-GRAIFMAN: Over time you just learn to accept it. I mean, day by day. You know, you go through the grieving process, and, of course, it would have been nice if a little piece of David was returned to us, but right now it's just -- we've just come to accept that it's probably not going to happen.

COOPER: Do you watch, you know, there's so much coverage, less this year than there was last year, certainly. Do you watch it? Does it make it more difficult?

HUHN-GRAIFMAN: The images of the destruction of the World Trade Center are kind of disturbing. I don't like to watch that.

But, you know, I do follow the coverage in the newspapers because it's good to keep informed about what's going on, you know, at ground zero and all the other issues related to 9/11.

COOPER: You haven't gone down to ground zero?

HUHN-GRAIFMAN: No, I haven't gone down there. I've seen it from a building nearby, but I haven't set foot there.

COOPER: And do you plan to ever?

HUHN-GRAIFMAN: Perhaps when the memorial is in place. But at this point, no.

COOPER: Christine, I know it's difficult to come in and talk about this. I appreciate you doing that. Thank you very much.

Well, coming up next on "360," we'll talk to the architect who dreams of turning ground zero into something else. And coming up next, live from St. Paul's Chapel at ground zero, a special edition of "PAULA ZAHN NOW," a town hall meeting. Among her guests, the governor of New York and families of the 9/11 victims. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You are looking at a live picture of lower Manhattan, where you can see the two beams of light, the tribute in light, as it's called to those who died on 9/11 and to the workers who helped clean up ground zero. The lights will burn until dawn tomorrow morning.

Want to take a look now at the future of ground zero. The plan is for a combination of tall buildings and sunken memorials. The vision of a man named Daniel Libeskind. Earlier today, I spoke with the Polish-American architect and asked him just how hard it is to tackle a project that's generated so much passion and so much controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANIEL LIBESKIND, WTC ARCHITECT: It's not easy. Why should it be easy? It's a tough thing. This is a tough event. And it's unprecedented in history. And yet the process has been transparent. And I think everyone in New York, everyone in America, everyone really in the free world is looking for this to be an answer to these tragedies. Something positive to come out of it.

COOPER: Former Mayor Giuliani was concerned that upon first coming to it that the memorial is not what would hit you first. Do you think it will? Do you think the memorial will (UNINTELLIGIBLE) everything?

LIBESKIND: Absolutely. I thing the whole site is part of the memorial. As you enter to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Station, which is on the wedge (ph) of light, which is defined by those two fickle and fateful moments, 8:46 a.m. when the first tower was struck, 10:28 when that second tower collapsed, and then the light moves up and shines all the way up to freedom tower. All the way up 1,776 feet in height. The entire site has been shaped by that event. And I think it's important that one take that site, the memory of the heroes of that day and also link it to life, to the fact that even the office buildings are part of the spiraling motion which the Statue of Liberty and the flame and torch of freedom represent.

COOPER: Some family members had said the memorial should go down to bedrock It should be 70 feet. There's now some sort of a compromise, if it's going to go to 30 feet. Why the compromise and do you think it's a mistake? Do you think it should it go all the way down?

LIBESKIND: Well, a significant portion will go down, all the way to bedrock. Absolutely (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But of course, there are -- there are issues. Issues of stability of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And one of the major efforts of my design is to reveal the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because that was the trace of the attacks. It's also the trace of what withstood the attack.

(CROSSTALK) LIBESKIND: Is the Western Wall is right, which is defining the site. It's the foundation which is being exposed. Usually foundations that you see in Rome are dead. But this is a living foundation. It freezes in the winter. There's moisture on it. And I think we have to protect it, of course. But I think it's a very moving element. It's an emotional element which shows both the tragedy and resilience of the tragedy in -- down toward the bedrock.

COOPER: Show me where the freedom tower, as you call it.

LIBESKIND: The Freedom Tower, as it designed, is really anchoring the northwestern part. It's right here, right in this corner, rising up to an unprecedented height.

COOPER: Still the tallest -- going to be the tallest structure in the world?

LIBESKIND: It is. I designed it at 776 (sic). It's not an arbitrary number. It's a number that's about to be surpassed by a tower in Shanghai or somewhere else because it stands for the date of independence, and it will have gardens up above. It will have restaurants, platforms, where people can see New York, see the whole metropolitan region and be inspired by looking at the site.

COOPER: How tough has the process been? I mean, I've read accounts of, you know, some very tough meetings you've had with the other architect, David Childs, who's involved in the redesigning of the freedom tower. How tough is it?

I mean, I know New York's a tough town but...

LIBESKIND: It is tough because, you know, there are so many (UNINTELLIGIBLE), so many interests, so many people. This is not just one or two or three people. The smallest meeting that we have is, you know, 50 people. Of course we have to be willing and able to listen to people. You have to be willing to absorb the best ideas and you have to negotiate through the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of competing interests, and at the same stay true, ethically, architecturally, urbanistically, socially, spiritually. That's what the project is all about.

COOPER: Who is your client on this? I mean, I know who's paying your bills. But -- but really who do you think is your client?

LIBESKIND: To me, every New Yorker. Every American. Every person of the free world is my client because this is a site now belongs to the hearts and souls of everyone. And I think that's what it's about. It's not about this institution or that institution. It's about people and everyone has a stake in this site.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Architect Daniel Libeskind.

Coming up next on 360, we'll return to the New York streets and the buildings that became icons around the World Trade Center two years ago today. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's tempting to think that the images of September 11 were seared upon our memories forever. But that is not how memory works. What we remember is colored by who we are and September 11 changed fundamentally who we are.

So I want to revisited some of those images to see them anew and to see them today and to see them through the eyes of those who were there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That day I just watched my neighborhood become a massive destruction. The streets covered with dust, the feeling of death.

COOPER (voice-over): Kevin Segala (ph), an amateur photographer, watched the first tower collapse through his own lens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was really like this wall of sound that just sort of propelled me and everybody else on the street. It was, you know, just sheer terror. You know, you look at this area now and it's pretty peaceful. The City Hall Park has been redone, and it feels nice.

Right down here, after 9/11, it was really just sort of a sea of carnage. Just -- it was a war zone.

Now you can see that the No. 7 building is being built there and it's really signifies kind of a rebirth, which this whole neighborhood is undergoing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time I walk by this armory, I have flashbacks back to standing in line, looking at these flyers, seeing these walls covered. So every time I come by, I think of that day that I was here.

COOPER: Bill Nelson's (ph) wife, Ginger (ph), was on the 93rd floor of the North Tower when the first plane struck. Desperate for word of her fate, he went to New York's Armory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was that place of support, a place where we could be with other family members. So to me it's a lot different from just the military installation. When I look at this, things look a lot different obviously because it isn't covered with flyers and posters. But I still see that flyer, not only of my wife but of many, many others.

COOPER: Ginger Risko (ph) died on 9/11.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was right there where that new patch of asphalt is. That's where I was crouching out in a fetal position with four other people right underneath a car.

COOPER (on camera): Right there? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there. Just caddy corner to that cone. Right there.

The question is, do I choose to stay crouched in a fetal position under a car or do I choose to live in this wonderful place we call New York?

The church...

COOPER (voice-over): Reverend Milton Williams (ph) ministers at St. Paul's chapel, across the street from Ground Zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I forget what I saw then? Impossible. Can I not remember what I saw then? Impossible. But when I -- what I saw then, even then I believe on the inside I was waiting to see green grass again. I was waiting to see flowers again. I was waiting to see things as I knew they were, could be and would be.

Our world is forever changed. I believe what we saw on September 11 is just a sign of what will happen more in our world. But we'll go on. We will.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That determination to go on got us thinking tonight about how we go on. What is America's best defense? And that's the topic of tonight's "Nth Degree."

The murderers of September 11 got past America's border patrols, alluded intelligence agencies, walked through airport security. Of all the weapons in our country's arsenal that day, only one thing proved capable of defending America -- Americans. Not missiles, not soldiers, but a corps of passengers, average Americans drafted by chance, armed only with willpower: a gay public relations executive, Mark Bingham; an account executive for Oracle, Todd Beamer; a 31-year-old former judo champion, Jeremy Glick; and others by their side. More than anything, it is their actions that stand between us and another September 11.

Because what we and al Qaeda both learned that day was that these were not great Americans. They weren't even cops or firefighters who risked their lives every day. They were average Americans and they won because they showed that while their foe was willing to die in order to kill, average Americans are willing to die that others might live.

And we leave it there tonight.

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