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Bush, First Lady Expected to Participate in Traditional Wreath Laying Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery at Tomb of the Unknowns

Aired May 31, 2004 - 08:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

HEMMER: President Bush a bit later, in fact 2.5 hours from now, honoring America's fallen service members in a ceremony planned for later today. Talk about more about that in a moment.

Also a live report from Washington in a few moments about all the events happening today on the holiday.

COLLINS: And speaking of Memorial Day, it's time to start thinking about summer safety. America's beaches already providing very dangerous situations. And people are worrying about how they're going to make it through safely. So we are going to explain a little about what's going on there and going to talk to a lifeguard about what you should do in an emergency to stay alive. You might be surprised at some of the things he has to say.

HEMMER: Also, we mentioned this a few moments ago, the boy whose neck was almost broken away from his skull in a terrible accident. A horrifying injury, yet somehow he is on the comeback trail. And that trail continues today. And we'll get to that in a moment.

COLLINS: All right, very brave little boy.

Meanwhile, the nation's mid section is cleaning up this morning after being clobbered by severe storms, including many tornadoes. Some dramatic pictures out of Kansas, where at least 10 tornadoes hit the state, damaging numerous homes south of Wichita. One man was killed in Missouri yesterday. Three others died after a tornado hit the town of Weatherby on Saturday.

Severe thunderstorms stretched across the state. And some of the heaviest damage came in Indiana, where storms killed one person and dozens of homes were also destroyed.

More storms today, too. Chad Myers is at the CNN Center now with the very latest on all of that. Boy, it just keeps coming, huh, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It sure does, Heidi. I mean, the whole system just keeps charging to the east. The good news is right now the storms are actually overcharging or going too fast for the energy that's still back up here in Indiana. The storms should not be this far east. And so as they run out, it's almost like a downhill runner that just doesn't take any water. He leaves all his energy behind. And this whole thing is now finally kind of charging down the mountains here.

D.C. seeing a couple of showers here also down to about Patuxent River. But otherwise, the only warning -- there was only one warning in the whole country now. And that's over Charlotte with a severe thunderstorm warning. Not even a tornado warning. Just that strong cell there over Mecklenburg. And that whole system continues to kind of charge off to the east.

Yes, there's still heavy rain. And yes, we still have watches in effect in this red box right here. Even a tornado watch box. But now things are calming down. And they've been calming down since about 4:00 this morning. No warnings, no tornado warnings since then.

Now in the warmer parts of the day, as the sun comes out, we're going to warm up the atmosphere. We're going to charge these storms back up again. We're even going to make a few of them develop back behind the front.

So even though you think, oh, the storms went by yesterday. In fact, parts of Ohio, Michigan, you can see more storms develop again today in the cool air on the back. And the typical threat with that, not tornadoes. The typical threat there would be hail.

Raleigh, North Carolina, our affiliate WRAL, you're about to see some storms obviously move through the triad about a half an hour ago. And they are moving to the east at about 30 to 35 miles per hour. Right now just hazy, hot and humid. About 80 degrees there already this morning.

Bill, back to you.

HEMMER: Chad, thanks for that.

Thirty-three minutes now past the hour. The president carrying on a time-honored presidential tradition today on this Memorial Day. Live to the front lawn, Frank Buckley is at the White House this morning.

Frank, good morning.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill. President Bush and first lady Laura Bush both expected to participate in the traditional wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery today at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The president also making remarks there. This follows his appearance over the weekend at the dedication of the World War II memorial. The president making remarks there as well, surprising some people by not talking about Iraq at all, simply focusing on the World War II veterans. His formal duty there to accept the memorial on behalf of the American people. And that's what he did -- Bill?

HEMMER: Frank Buckley from the White House this morning. Later today, live coverage here on CNN. The wreath laying ceremony takes place, Tome of the Unknowns, 10:55 a.m. Eastern time. Again, we'll have it there live for you -- Heidi?

COLLINS: As I bet you already know, summer officially arrives next week, but beach safety is already a hot topic. All this week we're going to be giving out some tips for surviving summer. And this morning, we focus on the deadly danger at our nation's beaches known as rip currents.

Just recently I spoke with veteran lifeguard Bill Evans from for Lauderdale, Florida about how swimmers can protect themselves. And I began by asking him exactly what is a rip current.


BILL EVANS, U.S. LIFE SAVING INSTRUCTOR: Rip current is a current of water that's flowing from shore back out to sea and is formed from the breaking waves forcing water over the sand bar into what we call the gully, which is the deeper portion right offshore. People sometimes call them rip tides or undertows. Those are misnomers. It really doesn't matter. That's a matter of semantics. The point is that they're being dragged tout sea and they're in danger of drowning.

COLLINS: What about someone who is trying to save someone else, who might be caught in a rip current, or worse maybe even a child? I know a lot of these cases have been parents who are desperately trying to save a child, who has been caught in a rip current.

EVANS: Right. We highly recommend that you do not enter the water in order to try and save somebody. The best thing to do is try and signal them away from the rip current, you know, point sideways, yell at them, blow a whistle if have you one, anything to get their attention. Tell them to go sideways to try and swim out of the rip current.

Dial 911. You know, get EMS involved. And then if there's something on shore can you throw to the person, a cooler, anything that'll float, you know, a football or a basketball, something to keep their head above water, that'll help as well.

The last thing you want to do is actually enter the water to go in after that person because now you are also in danger of drowning.

COLLINS: Yes, and Bill, when you talk about it that way, it makes me wonder, can you actually see a rip current? I mean, are there signs of one that you can see as you look into the water?

EVANS: Normally what you look for is a more disturbed area of the water and a dirty looking area of the water. If you look out over the ocean and you see that the majority of the water looks nice and clean and clear and green, and then certain areas look muddy or have a lot of debris in them or seaweed, that's generally the rip current, because the rip current will collect all the debris from the water on either side. But again, the most important thing -- and we can't stress this enough -- is to swim at a guarded beach, when the lifeguards are on duty. And go up to the lifeguard and ask him what the conditions are and where are the danger spots. Ocean rescue personnel are more than happy to point out danger areas. We'll usually mark them off.

90 percent of our job is prevention. If we have to make a rescue, it's a last resort. So please, swim at a guarded beach.


COLLINS: Tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING, our summer safety series will look at the itching question of how to avoid getting eaten up by those pesky mosquitoes.

HEMMER: In a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING, Saudi officials look for those behind a series of attacks over the weekend. They were bloody and brutal. The latest on what we're learning today in a moment.

COLLINS: Also ahead, twisters tear through the Midwest and level a whole town along the way. We'll tell you more about that..

HEMMER: Also this morning, say hello to 13-year-old Ricky Barker. Find out why even his doctors say his survival may be nothing short of a miracle. AMERICAN MORNING rolls on in a moment.


HEMMER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is off today, but in this morning's medical segment, a teenager's miracle recovery from paralysis. 13- year-old Ricky Barker was hit by a car while riding his bike in Phoenix, Arizona. Doctors doubted if he would survive, and if he did, permanent paralysis was a near certainty.

Thelma Gutierrez this morning has Ricky's story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was in a coma. They weren't sure of brain activity. So I'm going to lose my son.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a horrific accident that left a 13-year old boy internally decapitated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An internal decapitation is to tear all of the connections that hold the head to the spine.

GUTIERREZ: An injury that is almost always fatal. But not for Ricky Barker.

(on camera): It was a Saturday evening when Ricky was riding his bike home from a friend's house when he was hit by a car traveling 50 miles an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said a prayer that God would raise my son back up.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Ricky could no breathe on his own. He couldn't talk. He was paralyzed from the neck down. A team led by Dr. Kim Manwaring as Phoenix Children's Hospital operated on Ricky. They placed titanium rods and bolts in his neck to attack his skull to his spine. Just 36 hours after surgery, an amazing development.

Ricky began to move his right leg. Eventually, he moved his left. Then he went from blinking to communicate, to writing. And just a few days ago, this.

RICKY BARKER, ACCIDENT SURVIVOR: Get me a couple magazines. I can figure it out. And then I'm like wait a minute, I can talk.

GUTIERREZ: How exciting was that?

R. BARKER: And I started yelling at the nurse. It was pretty exciting.

A dramatic recovery in just six weeks that even his doctors admit they didn't expect.

DR. KIM MANWARING, NEUROSURGEON: If miracle means unusual, unexpected, very rare recovery, this certainly would appropriately called a miracle.

GUTIERREZ: What has this whole experience taught you about?

R. BARKER: That you only have one.


R. BARKER: There is a God.

GUTIERREZ: Ricky had one special request for his doctors.

MANWARING: From the first moment he talked, he said, "Please help me get to my graduation."

GUTIERREZ: His wish was granted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you. How are you doing?

GUTIERREZ: Ricky even met with the paramedics who saved him. They drove him to his eighth grade graduation. It was his moment. In front of all his friends, Ricky graduated with his class.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All that keeps running through my head is hey, the doctors say six weeks ago that my son was going to die. And here we are.

GUTIERREZ: And remarkably in six months, doctors say he may walk again.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.


HEMMER: Way to go, Ricky. Doctors say Ricky Barker's injuries similar to the one Christopher Reeves suffered back in 1995. And the strength of that young boy, inspiring.

COLLINS: It sure is. Sweet boy.

Well If you do the crime, you do the time, but there might be a deal in the works for Martha Stewart to stay out of prison. We're going to look at that when AMERICAN MORNING continues right here.


COLLINS: It's quarter to 9:00 here on the East coast. And here's what's happening in other news now.

Saudi Arabia says its security forces are combing the kingdom for three suspected al Qaeda militants. The men are believed to be responsible for a series of weekend attacks in the city of Khobar. The Saudi government says 22 people were killed, including one American. The Saudi ministry says the leader of the operation is now in custody.

Violent weather that ripped across the nation's mid section this weekend is being blamed for at least three deaths. In Indiana, tornadoes smashed homes and snapped trees. One person was killed in Marango in the southern part of the state. The other two victims were in Missouri and Tennessee.

In Kentucky, officials report downed power lines and flooding but no injuries. There were reports of more than 80 tornado sightings this weekend.

In racing, now a wild finish in the Indianapolis 500. Buddy Rice kept his eyes focused on the track and the weather, finishing first in the race that was shortened due to showers. Rice becoming the first American winner since 1998. His team co-owned by TV talk show host, David Letterman. A happy guy.

And at the box office, "Shrek 2" also a happy guy, seeing even more green. The cartoon sequel took in more than $73 million in movie theaters so far this Memorial Day weekend. Probably a to more people seeing it today, too.

Last week, it raced past the $200 million mark in its 10th day. Only "Spider-Man" did better, taking nine days to reach that milestone in 2002, but I liked "Shrek" better than "Spider-Man" any day.

HEMMER: Really?


HEMMER: "Shrek 1" or "Shrek 2?" Did you like one more than the other?

COLLINS: Yes, I didn't see 'Shrek 1." I only saw "Shrek 2." HEMMER: OK, well, 50 percent review.

Andy Borowitz is working for Jack Cafferty. What's happening?


HEMMER: Are you enjoying this?

BOROWITZ: I am living the Jack...

COLLINS: You're living the dream, baby.

BOROWITZ: It's everyone's deem to be Jack for one day.

Big story. Big story. "Newsweek" reports that Martha Stewart would like to do community service instead of jail time.


BOROWITZ: So we asked you guys what community service should Martha Stewart do. And boy, do we have some good ideas. Peter from Houston, Texas writes, "Community service in prison teaching women inmates sewing and cooking skills, prison guards how to spruce up uniforms, and prison agricultural workers on ground spading and soil enrichment," whatever that is.


BOROWITZ: Dorothy writes, "Martha should work with schools to identify students from impoverished families whose parents need home making and child care training. This would be far superior to paying the tab for incarceration and would also give her insights into the needs of the working poor.

Now that's a helpful suggestion. So I never would have come up with that.

James writes, "Martha Stewart shouldn't be allowed to choose her punishment simply because she was guilty of a white collar crime. She needs to serve the sentence she was given and let qualified Justice Department personnel determine what that is to be. This isn't a multiple choice exam. This is justice delayed."

And finally, Dave from Japan writes, "Dear new guy." I guess that's me. "I didn't drink new Coke, I didn't see the Texas chain saw massacre remake, and I refuse to answer questions posed by anyone other than Jack Cafferty."

Now Dave, this just confirms what I suspected for sometime, which is that Jack Cafferty is big in Japan. We've all known this. As Jean Claude Van Damme, Jack Cafferty. That's...

HEMMER: We're kind of a Japanese theme today so far, don't we?

BOROWITZ: Unfortunately, that seems to be the way it's shaping up. HEMMER: "Newsweek" says she's consulting with some guy named Herb Holter, I'm not sure how you pronounce that.


HEMMER: He has advised Michael Milken and Leona Helmsley on how to get less time behind bars.


HEMMER: What a Rolodex she has. Thank you, Andy. And gets you next hour.


HEMMER: Sounds good. Break here.

In a moment, two different wars, two very different eras. The Vietnam generation meets the Iraq generation. In a moment on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: On Memorial Day, we honor those Americans who have given their lives in service and sacrifice to the country. Also being honored, of course, those veterans who have survived war and who continue to remember their fallen colleagues.

Some veterans from a decorated Army unit recently spanned the decades reuniting for a rather emotional visit. Ed Lavandera was there when it happened.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is something unique about watching two generations of war veterans become friends. War stories recall lighthearted moments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we had the jungle and the heat. And you've got the desert and the heat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a good thing about Iraq, you know, there's no bugs.

LAVANDERA: And something deeper, much more difficult to explain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I could see you. You don't use your eyes and everything else. You're probably just like I was back then because I know damn well I was good. You look like you could take on anything that comes your way. And I'm just so proud of you guys.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truly am. LAVANDERA: At this gathering in southern Oklahoma, Iraq meets Vietnam. Four young soldiers from a unit in the 101st Airborne Division known as the Rockisons (ph) spend a week with soldiers from their same unit that fought in Vietnam 37 years ago.

They're all Rockisons. But deeper than that, they're battle- hardened fighters, veterans of two very different, yet politically controversial political wars.

Calvin Heath knows the scars a bitter homecoming can leave behind.

CALVIN HEATH, VIETNAM VETERAN: They took buckets of blood and threw it on the buses at us. You know, I mean, baby killer, all that kind of stuff. You know, these men ain't getting that.

LAVANDERA: That's why these Vietnam veterans put politics aside at the reunion to honor the soldiers.

JAMES BOND, VIETNAM VETERAN: I would hope that our country has learned something from Vietnam and the way the military personnel were treated when they came back that they wouldn't repeat past history.

LT. COL. JOSEPH BUCHE, U.S. ARMY: I know your homecoming. Your welcome home was nothing like ours.

LAVANDERA: Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Buche led Rockisons units on a year-long mission through Iraq. He says the U.S. has carried a guilty conscience since Vietnam.

BUCHE: Some of my relatives weren't real fond of us going over there and fighting in a strategic sense, a political sense. But I had absolutely their support and love and concern for the whole time.

HEATH: People back here, I think they got it right this time. Instead of taking it out on the soldiers, they're taking it out on the politicians, the people that are making the decisions. And that's the way it should be.

LAVANDERA: The young soldiers perform color guard detail at this reunion with a flag baring the Rockisons combat ribbons dating back to World War II, a tribute to a unit that has never flinched in the face of battle. Like one soldier here said, maybe that's because the Rockisons there's no room for politics in the fox hole.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Ardmore, Oklahoma.


HEMMER: Now five minutes before the hour on this holiday. The holiday off to a rough start too for a lot of people in the Midwest. In a moment, we'll take you live to a town ravaged by storms over the weekend. Tornadoes touching down. We'll also find out whether or not they can expect any kind of break today. There is a huge weather system still out there. We'll talk about it when we continue in a moment on AMERICAN MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


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