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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

A Look at Tsunami Disaster; Year in Review

Aired December 31, 2004 - 19:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening from New York. I'm Anderson Cooper. What a way to end 2004, the "Wave of Destruction" now a wave of grief. Tonight we take you to the human heart of the storm. A look back, a look forward, a special two-hour edition. 366 starts now.
For hundreds of thousands, no fireworks, no smiles, only grief and despair. Tonight a year ending in tragedy, a new one met by millions unsure what their futures will be. Tonight, the faces of hope. A 13-year-old girl rescued after two days at sea holding on to a wooden plank. Her parents missing, her hope still strong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHNA RAJSHEKHAR, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I still have hopes that my parents are alive searching for me (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'm all right, papa, mama. Please come back again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Hope and courage. A father and mother searching for their two young daughters swept away by the sea, unsure where they can turn to find their lost loves.

And for some, the fear ends with joy. Tonight meet the American father who flew to Thailand to find his son and meet the son he feared he'd never see. A New Year's reunion that gives hope to us all.

ANNOUNCER: A time of challenge and change, a year in the making. This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 366, as CNN reflects on the extraordinary moments of 2004.

COOPER: Good evening again. You may not realize it, but this is the 366th day of the year. 2004 was a leap year. And it ends in a way none of us could have imagined. On this night you'll no doubt hear a lot of talk about Father Time and Baby New Year. Tradition says old Father Time robs us of opportunities. Baby New Year gives us hope. This week for millions, hope has been a hard thing to hold on to.

So tonight we begin, as we have before, with an image we think you can hold on to, a Baby New Year we met just this week.

At first all we saw was this photo, 20-day-old Supia Tulasi (ph), peacefully asleep in her mother's arms. A miracle because somehow when a torrent of water washed her parents out of their restaurant in Panang, Malaysia, this little girl survived alone, on a mattress, floating in five feet of water.

Today we have a new image to show you, a video we just saw for the first time. Supia Tulasi at home, at peace, swaddled in love and drinking from a bottle of milk her mother is holding. She is not a number tonight. She is not a statistic. This little girl gives us hope, a Baby New Year to hold on to as we look forward as what's to come.

Stay with us as we welcome a new year with hope. Hope that help arrives in time. Hope that the disaster does not worsen. And hope that the lost will and can be found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Seeing the wreckage of India's Cor Nicobar Island, it's hard to imagine that hope exists here at all. But it does, somewhere deep in the broken heart of this girl. 13-year-old Meghna Rajshekhar clings to the hope her parents are still alive, just as she clung to a wooden plank, alone, adrift at sea for two days.

The water was filled with snakes and debris, and the hours passed slowly. Meghna called in vain to rescue helicopters that flew overhead, but no one heard her cries. The tide that took her parents ultimately brought her home. She was found dazed, walking along a muddy shore.

Now with relatives, she waits, hoping against hope her parents are somewhere out there, trying to come home.

RAJSHEKHAR: I still have hopes that my parents are alive, searching for me (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'm all right, papa, mama. Please come back again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: "Please come back again." That's what she said. Nature added insult to injury in Sri Lanka today, a land already soaked by the sea was hit with torrential rains on part of the island. It cut off roads that somehow had remained intact after Sunday's tsunami. One hotel manager, he looked up at the sky, and he simply said, even the gods are crying. Forty-one thousand people are now dead on that island, Sri Lanka, but the human spirit is still very much alive.

Our medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in a place called Dodangoda.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We wondered what would happen here in Sri Lanka on New Year's Eve, and in many ways we were surprised. Typically in many cultures, festivities are stopped, even forbidden, after great tragedies like the tsunami. Sri Lanka, which is 70 percent Buddhist is no different. But at least here in one southern Sri Lankan fishing town, something quite different seems to have happened.

With a quiet resolve, these 3,000 displaced and deprived put on their best clothes and literally rose up, marched, prayed, and lit candles, an optimistic group that celebrated, despite great hardships, the simple fact that they had survived, proof, as the bells ring in the new year, that a wave, no matter how big or strong, can't carry everything away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: And it continues to rain here, Anderson, in the southern part of Sri Lanka. It was a national day of mourning here, December 31st, yesterday. Still despite that, you almost got the sense that some of these people in this particular displacement camp needed a release, needed to actually ring in the new year, as you saw with some of the images there, Anderson.

COOPER: Sanjay, where were you at the stroke of midnight?

GUPTA: Well, at the stroke of midnight, I was working out here. We are actually -- just to give you a little bit of a behind-the- scenes look, we are actually here with our satellite system over here. We have our team put together. We are all working, Chris Kajillan (ph), Rick back there as well, satellite engineer. Scotty McWhinny (ph) is in the camera. We all wanted to wish you a happy New Year from here as well, But this is what we were doing at midnight and have been doing for some time now here, Anderson.

Getting to know the people of this displacement camp, they've really touched our hearts, I'll tell you.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, there's got to be a million moments -- a million things that you'll never forget. As you look back on the week, what strikes you most? What stays in your mind?

GUPTA: I think the thing, as a doctor, I came here to do medical stories, Anderson, and certainly the tsunami and the tragic consequences of the immediacy of the tsunami everyone knows, but it's the aftermath that's so important as well. People who had homes now become refugees. People who could treat illnesses, simple illnesses, now have turned those illnesses into death threats. There's still so much needed here, Anderson, in terms of cheap medications, medications that don't cost that much money but can really save a lot of lives.

I think that's what strikes me most now and I think that is what is going to strike a lot of people the most over the next several weeks and months -- Anderson.

COOPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

"Never has the step into a new year felt heavier." That's what Sweden's prime minister said today. And you could see the heaviness in the eyes of millions around the world. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): The sadness surrounds them. Sorrow in nearly every face. In Phuket, Thailand, this isn't how anyone planned to bring in 2005, a massive candlelight vigil mourning those lost, remembering those still missing. In Indonesia, most government agencies canceled fireworks displays and urged people instead to pray.

Across India, New Year's celebrations were also canceled. As one official said, it doesn't feel right to host parties.

There was a minute of silence before midnight in Sydney, Australia, where authorities said it was too late to cancel the New Year's Eve gathering in Sydney Harbor.

COOPER: TV coverage of the Sydney fireworks turned into a telethon for tsunami victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The giant disco ball there hanging from the Sydney Harbor Bridge, it doesn't get much better than that. Of course, tonight we are here raising money for a very important appeal, the Lord Mayor's Appeal. Tonight we ask you to dig deep and give generously.

COOPER: It may have sounded a little unusual, but they raised about $750,000.

There was a pall over New Year's celebrations in Europe. In Paris, black cloth draped the Champs d'Elysees. In Berlin, flags on government buildings greeted the new year at half staff. At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II prayed for victims of what he called "this huge tragedy." He also urged the world community to rush aid to the survivors.

New Year's festivities in Sweden, in Norway, in Denmark and Finland were canceled as well, mindful of the images we've all been seeing. Officials there called on people to ring in the year 2005 with dignity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We know here on New Year's Eve, of course, everyone always asks the same question, what's your New Year's resolution? Well, in villages and towns and cities and hamlets across Asia today, a different question is being asked, what happened to my family? Where is my child? Why did God let this happen?

From Port Blair, a town on an island in the Indian Ocean, Suhasini Haidar has the story of one family and the question they are waiting to have answered.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUHASINI HAIDAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Kahn (ph) and his wife have no answer when their 5- year-old asks where her sisters are. Their daughters were staying with Kahn's relatives the night the tsunami struck. Kahn rushed his wife and child to safety, and they were evacuated to this camp on the main Andaman Island.

Now there's no news of the girls. "It's so hard to get through each day," cries their mother. I just keep thinking of them. Thousands are missing in the string of islands on the Indian Ocean, even as more and more survivors keep turning up at makeshift (UNINTELLIGIBLE) camps on the main island. Kahn says he can't bear to just sit around, so he spends all his time going from one camp to another, in the desperate hope he'll see his precious children, age 3 and just 1, and any other relatives.

And then he does. As he finds his sister-in-law at a camp, Kahn's tears are unstoppable. She tells him she heard that his daughter could be stuck with other family members in a forest on the far side of their island. "What will they have eaten," he asks? "My girls must be so hungry."

Tomorrow, Kahn says, he will go to beg relief officials to try and look for them.

But he knows it will be hard. So much of his island has been devastated. Roads broken, and jetties have washed away. Even so, Kahn and his wife say they won't give up trying. They've lost every belonging in the world, but it won't mean a thing, says Kahn, if only his beloved daughters are found.

Suhasini Haidar, CNN, Port Blair, Indian Ocean.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Coming up next on 360, people struggling to make a connection. A weary father finds his son halfway around the world. No limits to a father's love.

Also tonight, in a land infested with rebels, war puts a deadly obstacle between victims and survival.

And you'll meet an American tourist who reached out and grabbed a little boy in need -- a moment he and you won't soon forget.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just kept coming. Nothing was going to stop that wave. It was just the biggest wave I've ever seen, and tall and depth. It was just a large volume of water.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: People reaching out for aid, and often, as you see in those pictures, it's the little children who can't reach the aid, who -- you know, food is being handed out, and it's taken away from them by those with longer arms, those adults.

Remote parts of Indonesia today are just beginning to get help from the outside. Relief workers report being swarmed by tsunami survivors when they touch down. Bad weather, there's logjams at airports, impassable roads, and lack of fuel are all slowing down the relief work. In Sri Lanka, a shipment of aid from UNICEF and the World Food Program got through today to Galle, where 55,000 people are now in shelters. Water purification chemicals from Canada and medicine from Poland have also arrived in Sri Lanka.

The nations of the world have now promised more than $1 billion to help people in the tsunami zone. That threshold was crossed when the White House said the U.S. would increase its contribution to $350 million. The announcement came in a statement from the president. Later at the U.N., Secretary of State Colin Powell expanded on it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: This tenfold increase is indicative of American generosity, but it also is indicative of the need, and the need is great. And not just for immediate relief, but for long term reconstruction, rehabilitation, family support, economic support that's going to be needed for these countries to get back up on their feet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the $350 million in aid pledged by the U.S. is certainly a lot of money, but let's put it in perspective for just a moment. $350 million is about how much money cities like Phoenix and Dallas and New York and Washington D.C. are considering spending on new sports stadiums in the next five years.

We've been struck time and again this week by the stories of those people helped by complete strangers, those who in the rush of water were pulled to safety, or who in the aftermath were literally given the clothes off someone else's back. Those stories give us hope as well tonight, even in Sri Lanka, where so many were washed away. Satinder Bindra joins me live now from Dodangoda, in Sri Lanka -- Satinder.

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, hope is the very important word here in Sri Lanka. Survivors need hope, so do the wounded in Sri Lanka. Some 12,000 people are wounded.

Here in the south, all these wounded have been taken to hospitals. I visited two of them recently, and both the hospitals were neat and clean. They had a lot of relief supplies.

But as far as the emotional needs of these people are concerned, it will take a long, long time for them to be fulfilled.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BINDRA (voice-over): 8-year-old Guyan Sandakalam (ph) screams in pain. "I want my dad," he wails. All his mother can do is watch helplessly and cry herself. Last Sunday Guyan was knocked unconscious by the tsunami. Hours later, he was found by strangers who brought him to this hospital. His mother was united with him just a few hours ago.

"I was crying in the village," she says, "when someone told me that my son was alive and is in this hospital. I rushed here and found him alive."

Just a few feet away in another ward of the hospital, silence. But these faces tell a story of loss, of despair and complete helplessness. Ratamagomay Sunil (ph) fractured his leg when he says a 25-foot wave swept him off his perch on a tree.

"This is an unbelievable incident, " he says. "We can deal with property damage but what we cannot deal with is the loss of so many human lives."

Sunil's wife keeps a close watch over him. But it's clear she's consumed by loss. "I could only see my son's face as he was being swept away," she says. "I managed to catch him at first, but I just couldn't hold on."

Little comfort that their house is still intact, but they want to return home soon so they can be reunited with their other son who's just 2 1/2 years old.

(on camera): There are 400 casualties at this hospital. Most are suffering from fractures, lacerations, and emotional trauma. Some patients were admitted here just yesterday, after being injured while running away from what they thought was another tsunami.

(voice-over): That second tsunami never came. But this 11-year- old bears the scars of the wild panic that followed the alarm and led to dozens of road accidents. For now in the room next door, little Guyan has stopped crying. But given all he has experienced, sleepy eludes him. His mother is worried. She says she just can't muster the courage to tell him his elder sister and father are still missing and now presumed dead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BINDRA: Anderson, it's starting to rain now, and this will have a huge impact on relief operations on land and indeed at sea. Several ships are steaming towards Sri Lanka's eastern coast. They are carrying tons of relief supplies, and one of their other big missions is to set up mobile hospitals.

COOPER: You can't help but think about how that little boy that we just met, how his life is just forever changed no matter what happens, no matter when the relief gets there.

Satinder Bindra, thank you very much.

All week, we've been trying to tell you as many stories of people as possible. Every home, every heart has a story, and there's simply not enough time.

We've been following one father's search for his son in Thailand, however. Dr. Ed Aleo. He hadn't heard from Ed Jr. since Christmas. He just arrived in Bangkok last night, when he just got amazing news about his son.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER (voice-over): It was a moment Ed Aleo thought he might never experience. Reunited with his son, missing for days, now alive and well.

ED ALEO: How are you doing, son? Jesus, good to see you. Are you OK?

ED ALEO, JR.: I'm fine, thanks.

COOPER: When we first met Ed Aleo earlier this week, he hadn't heard from his son in Thailand for days. He couldn't just wait by the phone anymore.

ED ALEO: My plans are to find my son, and I'm going to find him.

COOPER: He flew to Thailand with a stack of fliers and fear in his stomach. For more than 24 hours, Ed's ex-wife was unable to reach him. But during one of his layovers, our producer in Bangkok helped us connect the two of them on the phone. She had news about their son.

SUE ALEO: He called me last night about 11:00. They were on the island of Kupanya (ph), and that island was not hit.

COOPER: Ed, this is amazing news.

ED ALEO: This is great news.

COOPER: Where are you now? Are you at Bangkok Airport?

ED ALEO: I was just -- I just got out of line from the airplane. I'm going back in line as soon as I finish to get on the plane to go to Phuket. Now, from Phuket, I should go where? Where is Eddie?

COOPER: Sue, do you know where he is now?

S. ALEO: My son told me that he was making his way to Krabbe (ph).

COOPER (voice-over): And just this morning, Ed Aleo finally reunited with his son Eddie in Thailand.

ED ALEO: This is my son.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joining me now from Phuket, Thailand, father and son reunited. Ed Aleo Jr. and Dr. Ed Aleo. Appreciate both of you being with us.

Ed Jr., let me ask you, couldn't you have called a little sooner?

ED ALEO JR.: Yeah, well, I thought we could have. I thought we should have. That's the age old question now. Basically, I was on the island. Everywhere else was hit. The communication was a problem. But, yeah, next time I'll make sure I call a little sooner and save you guys coming to visit me.

COOPER: Dr. Aleo, when you got that call, when you saw your son, it just must have been fantastic.

ED ALEO: It was fantastic. You know, he -- Eddie tried often to call, but he said the communications were down. The problem on his island was not that great, but he noticed the problem. I was glad to see him. When you look out today and you see that it's serene and nice, everything is calm, it's hard to believe that such carnage has occurred here in Southeast Asia. And once again, it demonstrates how lucky we are as a family when so many other people have not been lucky, and we have a lot to be thankful for.

COOPER: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Dr. Aleo, have you seen -- when you were at the airport, you must have seen others who were arriving who weren't so lucky?

ED ALEO: You know, that probably was one of the most striking moments for me, was coming into the Phuket Airport, meeting your crew, who were very nice, and then seeing other people who just weren't that lucky. It's really sad. So many people have died here.

COOPER: Ed Jr., what is it like in Phuket now? You know, we've seen pictures. Is there -- what is the mood there? What do you see?

ED ALEO JR.: I haven't really seen much, to tell you the truth. I haven't been to any coastal areas of Phuket. I've never been to Phuket before. Basically, the island of Payam (ph) was not hit. From there, I got on a bus and went to Krabbe (ph), and Krabbe (ph) was not hit. And I was planning to go look around, but then I was -- met you guys, your team, and I'm here now. So I haven't actually seen this yet. I haven't even seen TV footage really. I saw maybe three or four minutes worth of some local Thai TV coverage. So, again, it's hard for me to really get a grasp on this, you know, from what I saw.

COOPER: Well, I'm really happy this has all worked out for both of you. It's nice to see you guys together. And Dr. Aleo, especially having met you, I really do appreciate what you've been going through, and I'm glad it ended well.

ED ALEO: Anderson, I have to thank you and your producer, Eric Spinado (ph), for all the help that you've given my family, and the coverage that CNN has done for the people in Southeast Asia. You're great. I appreciate it. Thank you. My son appreciates it.

COOPER: It's the least we could do. We'll see you guys again. Thanks very much.

One place we thought would be decimated actually survived relatively unscathed. Coming up next on this 366 special, we're going to take you to an island of miracles, some are calling it, in a sea of misery, and show you how tradition actually saved villagers from being swallowed by the waves.

Also tonight, an Alabama's man's life and death moment and his fateful decision. You'll hear it in his own words. And moving forward. How the human spirit can and does always surprise us all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a miracle that my children and grandchildren are saved. And one -- two of my grandchildren and my daughter was saved by the neighbors. I should be very grateful to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We've mentioned tonight how difficult it is to get help through to the disaster zone. It's even more complicated in a part of Sri Lanka that's controlled by insurgents who have been waging a civil war now for 20 years.

CNN's Stan Grant is one of the few Western journalists to get through. And he joins us now from northeastern Sri Lanka, and we warn you, some of the pictures he has to share are tough to watch -- Stan.

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Anderson, we spent the last 24 hours with the rebel Tamil Tigers in this region, surveying the damage. Now, in more than two decades of civil war, they've managed to carve out a stronghold in the north and the east of Sri Lanka. They've certainly plumbed the depths of human nature during that time. They're now seeing the worst that Mother Nature can throw as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRANT (voice-over): They lived here together. They died here together. Children, not mere victims, children. Swamped by the power of a tsunami that flattened all around them. Where once was the town of Molativu (ph), there is ruin, the last moments of life captured like still images. The church, where hours before there had been prayer. The child care center, where laughter was silenced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty smashed up.

GRANT: It is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The biggest thing now is to get them shelter and give them clothing back and get basics back to them.

GRANT: Aid workers offering what they can. It is difficult. This is not just a disaster zone. It's also a war zone.

After a 20-year civil war, this area of north and northeast Sri Lanka is a rebel Tamil Tiger stronghold. Aid agencies must work with them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea of a town of Singular (ph) separation seems somewhat less relevant. I saw queues of trucks outside the authorities here donated from the Singalese (ph) people in the south, and I felt very heartened by that.

GRANT: The terrain is tough. Roads here heavily potholed. Everywhere, there are warnings of landmines. All adding to the stress of providing relief. And relief is very much needed.

The Tamil Tigers estimate 14,000 are dead in the north and northeast, another 5,000 missing will take that death toll, say, closer to 20,000. As they find the bodies, they cremate them.

(on camera): Well, you can see these bodies behind me as victims, as just one of the many numbers of thousands who have been killed by the tsunami, or you can see these people as I have, as human beings, as someone who stood here and looked as three little babies, just babies, just babies no more than perhaps 2 or 3 years old, little children who would, last weekend, have been playing here on the beach and moments later have lost their lives.

And now like so many others now being added to the funeral pyres that are littering Northern Sri Lanka.

(voice-over): Then there are those left, crying because they remember too much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRANT: Anderson, the Tamil Tigers have told me that in the 20- plus years of civil war in this region, the North and the East, they've lost about 80,000 people. In the 20 or so minutes that it took for that tsunami to hit, they now fear they've lost 20,000.

But coming out of that is a renewed hope that perhaps the North and South can find some reconciliation and renew their push for peace -- Anderson.

COOPER: Stan, you mentioned the land mines in the area. Did the tsunami have any effect on them?

GRANT: There has been a fear -- aid agencies did talk about this, a fear that perhaps the tsunami and the ensuing floods could have dislodged a few of those mines.

I was speaking to someone who's involved very much in surveying those mines, exactly knowing where they are. And he stressed, no, that has not happened. They have not been dislodged. That is not to say there are not a lot of land mines littering this area.

And there are road signs wherever you go saying, stay on the main roads. Don't venture in ground or go across fields because there are land mines all around. And that's going to be a problem for any aid groups coming in.

COOPER: Stan Grant, thank you.

The tsunami killed about 80,000 people in Indonesia alone, yet one Indonesian island just a few miles away from the undersea quake that started the destruction somehow escaped the worst of it. The story tonight from Atika Shubert.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just 40 kilometers or 25 miles from the epicenter of one of the biggest earthquakes in recent history, the island is Sumulu (ph) amazingly intact. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake picked up and shifted the entire island.

Yet from our plane window, we can see idyllic seaside villages seemingly impervious to the devastation that has swept the region. This plane was the first to arrive since the earthquake, amid rumors the island was underwater.

(on camera): Before this plane arrived, the island of Sumulu had lost all communication with the world. And many had believed the island had been simply wiped off the map.

(voice-over): The local governor is overjoyed. Without any other means of communication, this is his chance to get the word out that the island survived, but still needs help.

"Thanks be to God that we did not lose many lives," he said. "But we did lose our homes, schools, and mosques."

In fact, the island did not escape unscathed. Scores of homes on the northern coast were destroyed and need to be rebuilt. What saved lives was this scene, villagers running for the hills after the initial earthquake. Islanders received a tsunami warning handed down from generation to generation.

The island's harbor manager explained it like this. The story goes, in the 1800s, there was a quake so big it brought the sea onto land. So whenever there's an earthquake, we run for the hills.

A few days later, residents came down and returned to normal life thankful that they minded island folklore. In what is otherwise a sea of despair, this is an island of hope. Atika Schubert, CNN, Sumulu, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER; It's amazing how well that survived. So many expected that one particular island to just be decimated.

So many have reached out to help those in Asia in ways big and small. Here's a quick news note.

Remember Beslan, the southern Russia town where terrorists stormed a school and killed 344 people last September? In that town, that poor place which knows the meaning of pain, they took up a collection for tsunami victims. They raised nearly $36,000.

Our special edition 366 continues. Could you do what this man did? Swept away, struggling to save his own life, he took a chance on saving a young boy. It's an awesome story of a quiet man and the wonderful thing he did.

And a place of death gets back to business for those who make a living by the sea. Well, it seems there's little time for mourning.

And a bit later, how an entire orphanage found itself in a race against the killer tsunami. This man saved all these children when 366 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, still to come on this special edition of 366, a very strange sight. Amid all the devastation at a Thai beach resort, some people are still acting like tourists, sun bathing while corpses lay unclaimed and people need help. We'll take a look at this strange story.

Also, I'll talk to a man who was in this resort city when the big waves hit. He saved himself, but he also saved a little child. A quiet man not prone to boast, but tonight we thought you should know what he did.

First, let's check the top stories in the Reset.

The overall death count stands at just over 135,000. It's going to rise. United Nations aid officials says it may reach 150,000 very shortly.

And we keep getting astounding views of the damage. This satellite photo shows a small island community in Indonesia before the tsunami hit. Now, take a look. You'll see what it looks like now. The very landscape has changed, part of the island is simply gone.

Aid workers are only now getting to some of the most remote areas. Worldwide, contributions to the relief effort now exceed $1 billion. And the tragedy cast a pall over the New Year's holiday around the world. Many scheduled celebrations canceled or turned into memorial services for the victims. In some cases they became fund raisers to help the survivors.

On this night, a lot of people make resolutions that this year that they will make a difference in someone else's life. Well, you're about to meet an American who doesn't need to talk about doing something, he's already done it.

His name is Glenn Watson. He was staying in Kamala Bay, Thailand. The same place where these pictures were taken. Now, he didn't have time to reach for a camera. He was swept into the water into a stairwell in a hotel where, struggling to stand, he noticed a mother and son being swept under the water.

Watson is now home with his own family in Huntsville, Alabama, where he is a city councilman. I talked to him moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GLENN WATSON, SAVED CHILD FROM TSUNAMI: Behind me, everybody else was running. A mother and her son were running. And they got caught, oh they were probably 20 feet behind me. And they got caught in the main part of the water, the four foot high water. So they were totally out of control coming down. They weren't standing -- they were just coming with the water like a bobbin. And I switched over to the other side of the other side of the stairwell and grabbed -- got a good grip, and I reached over and I grabbed him as he was coming by, got a good grip on him and pulled him in.

Meantime, the water just kind of pulled him back around, and he was kind of -- like a kite without any control. And I pulled him in as close as I could, and I remember looking at his mother, and I think she looked back at me. I'll never know. It was like almost surreal, it was a one-second deal.

And then I just held on with all I could do. And the water was just throwing me around this way and that way. And I couldn't move up out of the water. At one point, both of us were under water, and then I got back up and could breathe. And pretty quick a couple of Thai guys come down, and they decided to reach for me. And I was afraid, if they broke my hand loose to help me, they'd pull us both in, that I'd get caught and be gone with the rest of them. And so I said, get the boy. And so they reached over me and got the boy, and I made sure they had a good grip on him before I cut loose of him.

COOPER: Do you know what happened to him? Do you know what happened to his mother?

WATSON: I know that he got on to the hospital, and I know that he was alive upstairs on the second floor that him and all the other people that they had pulled out of the water that were hurt to certain degrees were -- the ones that were hurt bad went to the hospital. He was one of them.

And you never saw his mom again?

WATSON: No. That's the thing I still -- I see her every time I think about it. It will always worry me that I -- there was nothing I could do to help her. And I hope she knew that her son was saved.

COOPER: It's hard, I think, for us, sitting here dry in the West, to sort of understand the pandemonium, what it was like. There were -- you saw an awful lot of bodies. You saw an awful lot of loss.

WATSON: Right. And it was -- there wasn't that many bodies right there going through in that area, but after we got finished, you know, the water went down, and we were able to actually get up and start going out and see what happened, and then we got the realization of how powerful that storm was. There were cars sitting on top of cars. Great big enormous six-wheel trucks over on their side, buses pushed way out into the middle of a field.

The power of that water was just awesome. And that's the thing that it's awful hard to describe, how powerful that water was and how hard it was to hold on when that water is pummeling you. And it's not really water either. It's filthy mud with all kinds of debris, TVs, everything you can think of that could float was in that water. And it was tremendous power is all I can remember.

Glenn, I know, as you said, you're going to see that mother's face for a long time to come. I hope you also see that little boy's face, and you probably saved his life.

WATSON: I just hope that wherever she is, that she knows her son's OK.

COOPER: Well, thanks to you, he probably will be. Glenn Watson, we appreciate you joining us, thank you.

WATSON: Not a problem. Thank you.

COOPER: A very quiet man.

366 next, they are still burying bodies in Phuket. But that hasn't stopped some tourists from sunbathing. At one ravaged resort, the tourists remain in a struggle to make a living -- intensifies. A strange side to this story.

Also tonight, orphans of the storm. So many kids saved by one determined man. You will meet him.

And later, ordinary lives disrupted by extraordinary power. Help on the way from all over the world, from America from Sugarland, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are collecting donations, but also collecting medicine. Whatever we could. Whatever way we could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What you're seeing right now is a Buddhist monk performing a funeral service for tsunami victims. This is happening live right now in Wheaton, Maryland. The ceremony is being attended by Sri Lankans who live in the Washington D.C. area that have families in the tsunami zone. Prayer, of course, just part of the process. Buddhists also emphasize helping the survivors to honor the dead.

With the death toll still rising by the hour and thousands of tourists still missing, it was shocking this week to see this photo. Take a look. It's a beach in Phuket, Thailand complete with sun umbrellas and sun bathers, people whose vacations were planned well in advance who said they didn't want the disaster to affect their holiday. It may strike some of us as inappropriate, but we like to look at stories from all angles on this program and let you make up your own minds. Hotel operators in Thailand point out that tourism is the life blood of Phuket, and returning business to normal will help the local people.

Here's CNN's Aneesh Raman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Phuket Island, the contrast is surreal, almost incredible. What was once a pristine vision must be painstakingly restored from among the debris left here in moments last Sunday.

NINA ZEN, HOTEL OWNER: And that is what remains of my office.

RAMAN: That's the huge task for hotel owners like Nina Zen. But she says that because some resorts were left standing, the island can recover, and it must.

ZEN: We really have to go on, and we owe it to the people around us, the people who have worked very hard to develop this destination, both the agents, the operators, the people, the local people.

Hello. Hi.

RAMAN: Livelihoods are at stake. Thailand's tourism industry brings in $10 billion annually, and Nina's employees rely on three peak months to sustain them for the rest of the year. It is that thought that keeps her going.

ZEN: The negative part of your brain says, I want to put down my papers and just pack my bags and go. But then when you see staff looking at you, what are you going to do?

RAMAN: Phuket is all that remains here. Other tourist areas like Phi Phi Island, to the coastal shores of Kalag (ph) are devastated. Rebuilding them will take months if not years.

Nina realizes she's more fortunate than most and working helps numb the reality.

ZEN: Getting it up and running is part of relieving the trauma, because if you just sit down and do nothing, it creeps in on you, and in the end, you don't do anything. But it's just that initial push to get up, walk.

RAMAN (on camera): It is now a new year on Phuket Island, an utterly inconsequential event given the dire situation that still exists on the ground. But amidst the sorrow, the resilience of the human spirit is already beginning to show.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Phuket, southern Thailand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as the last minutes of the year count down, coming up next on 366, imagine taking all of these lives, these children's lives into your own hands. The man you're going to meet did and his gamble with disaster paid off. You'll see how.

Also tonight, comprehending the power behind this kind of destruction. We're going to take nature's destructive force to the "Nth Degree" as hope and help comes from all over the globe from people of all ages. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to donate money for the people who have no homes, that lost them in the tsunami.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It bears repeating that each night, we've been moved by the stories of people, people who have literally reached out and saved strangers' lives. Daylan Sanders is a U.S. citizen who sold his townhouse near Washington D.C. 10 years ago, and moved back to his native Sri Lanka, to build an orphanage, the Samaritan Children's Home. When the waves came on Sunday, he gathered all 28 children, put them in a boat, and raced the waves to safety.

He joins me now on the phone from Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. Thanks very much for being with us, Daylan.

You know, we talked to a lot of people, and when they first saw the waves, they instantly thought to run to higher ground, but not you. What made you think your best chances were at sea in a boat?

DAYLAN SANDERS, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, SAMARITAN CHILDREN'S HOME: Because there are no words in human speech to describe what we saw. It was a 30-foot wall of sea, just bearing down on us like an angry monster. And it was coming at us at such speed, I knew that there was no place on ground where we could be safe. So I knew -- there was something in me that told me that instantly, that we've got to get on top of this wave if -- to stay safe.

COOPER: So how quickly -- how quickly...

SANDERS: So I came out, I called out for the children. They all came. We rushed. We had just 10 seconds to get into the boat, and that day the outboard motor stayed hooked to the boat. Usually, we take it off every night. And we got into the boat -- you know, it had rushed in. It has -- it just demolished everything that stood in its path. It came with such force. It just hit both of the garages. The garages just splintered in every direction. It lifted up my Toyota pickup vehicle, my Mitsubishi L-300. We had a three-wheeler, a motor bike. Everything -- it just pulverized.

And then when we got into the boat, it was just a few -- I would say about 15 feet away, and we were eyeball to eyeball with the wave. And immediately, a scripture popped into my mind. It said, "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against it."

And I know from there, I got the courage. I just stood up in the small boat, and I lifted both my hands and I said, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ, on the strength of the scriptures, that when the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against him. I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to stand still. And I thought I was imagining at the time that the massive wall of water, it stood. It -- I'm not one given to exaggeration. I saw, as if something holding back, some invisible force or hand. It just stood.

And -- this was confirmed, because later on, when I met some of the villagers who had climbed on top of palmara (ph) trees and coconut trees and had survived this onslaught. They told me -- they called me father. They said, Father, we didn't stand a chance because the sea, when it got down to the beach and it crushed into the village, it came with the same speed and the same furry, and it just wiped us all out.

But when -- ours is a four-acre complex. We have a boys section, the girls' home, the staff section and everything. But when it got on your land, at one point, it stood still. It just slowed down. And that gave you the chance. What made it? Was it the density of the trees or the buildings? I said, there was no power on Earth that could have held it back but the power of God. I said, I called upon God, and I commanded it in the name of Jesus, who 2,000 years ago he commanded the waves, and they obeyed. He commanded the sea, and they obeyed. And this is the very same God did the same to us and gave us those precious few seconds that we needed to stop at the first yank, at the start, the engine just sputtered into life.

COOPER: And Daylan, I know your gamble paid off. You were able to take your boat really directly through the wave and rescue all the children in your orphanage.

SANDERS: By the way, they came up to us, and I told them that, you know, it's going to catch up with us and if it caught up...

COOPER: It's a remarkable, remarkable story, Daylan. Able to save 28 of the children in the orphanage. The orphanage itself, the buildings, the structures destroyed. But it's a remarkable tale. Daylan Sanders, thanks for joining us.

360 next, power and fury. Imagine being at the mercy of such force, a force which has transformed some tourists into humanitarians.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's in weeks like this when our hearts have opened as wide as our eyes. We realize a fundamental truth all too often ignored: We are all the same. Our faces differ, so too our religions and beliefs, but there as here, we work, we study, we laugh, we mourn. Life is life, and when it's lost, we found this week that sometimes words simply aren't enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tsunami!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus Christ, look at that!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in! Get in! Get in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were absolutely certain that we were going to die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That little girl, Supai Tulasi (ph), a baby new year, gives us hope for a place where there is so much hurt tonight. I'll spend later this evening in Times Square, a few hours of revelry, and then tomorrow morning leave for Sri Lanka. I, like so many of you, want to be there.

For the next hour, we won't talk about the tsunami, we'll look back at the year that was, at Iraq and elections, and all that's happened in between. It's hard to believe that just a year ago, we were preparing for the Iowa caucuses. Candidates like Lieberman and Gephardt and Kucinich still thought they had a chance. And an unknown named Howard Dean had yet to rise and yet to fall.

Here's a look back at a campaign like no other. Campaign 2004 in fast forward.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the start of a huge night at U.S. politics.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is all about who gets the most delegates.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: It's up to the voters now.

ANNOUNCER: This is America Votes 2004, coverage of Super Tuesday.

WESLEY CLARK, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to end this phase.

DEAN: I am no longer actively pursuing...

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I've decided to suspend my campaign.

LIEBERMAN: Am I disappointed? Naturally.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: God bless everybody.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Change is coming to America!

I'm reporting for duty!

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Don't be an economic girlie man.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I ask you to stand with me. JIM LEHRER, DEBATE MODERATOR: And as determined by...

BUSH: Saddam Hussein was a grave threat.

KERRY: Now we have this incredible mess in Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: There were plenty of October surprises, making the race too close to call, even on Election Day. Our Candy Crowley and John King were on the campaign trail with both candidates. When America voted, they watched the results trickle in like everyone else, and even as clock struck midnight nationwide, we still didn't know the outcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of America Votes 2004.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Once the polls open, the conventional wisdom in the democratic campaign, and in fact among most journalists was, the larger the turnout, the better it is for John Kerry.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Early in the morning on Election Day, the Bush team felt great. It would change in short order.

BUSH: Thank you. Let me go vote first.

KING: Their mood went from night to day when they saw the first wave of the exit polls. They were thrown into this period of uncertainty. And it was only when the votes, the actual votes started coming in that they started to feel better.

BLITZER: Right now, we can project that George W. Bush, the president of the United States, will carry several states.

KING: Not panic anymore. From when they saw the first wave of the exit polls when they thought that Senator Kerry was going to win in a landslide.

CROWLEY: I am told by people who were with Kerry at the time that he knew pretty early on, once the polls started to close, that things were rolling against him. The biggest first blow was Florida.

Ohio was it. The election came down to Ohio, as 2000 came down to Florida.

BLITZER: Look at this, Ohio. CNN is now projecting is a green state. Too close to call.

BUSH: We're very upbeat. Thank you.

KING: Former President Bush was in the White House. He kept awake and kept staying up, and we're going to go give a speech, we're going to go give a speech, we're going to go give a speech. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at one point went down and found him glued to the TV, watching the results. He said, damn it, dad, go to bed.

CROWLEY: Shortly after 12:00, I am told Senator Kerry went to bed. Meanwhile, there were aides all over the place in Washington and in Boston making as many contacts as they could in Ohio, to try to figure out what was going on there.

BLITZER: It's getting a little bit wider as opposed to what the Democrats hoped for would get narrower.

CROWLEY: When they sat down and figured it out and saw where the gap had gone overnight and had widened for Bush, they knew that the votes were not there.

KING: If Senator Kerry had decided at that point that he was not going to concede the election, the president was prepared to go out that morning and say, I believe I have won the election. But then Senator Kerry did call. The president thanked him for the phone call, and again, by all accounts, Senator Kerry was remarkably gracious in the phone call. These are two men who did not like each other.

CROWLEY: There were two times that I saw John Kerry be emotional through the entire campaign. One was when Christopher Reeve died, and the other was his concession.

KERRY: I wish that I could just wrap you up in my arms and embrace each and every one of you individually, all across this nation. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

CROWLEY: They will spend years discussing what went wrong and who is to blame.

KING: In his morning-after speech, and in every event after that news conference, the president immediately saying, I have political capital and I'm going to spend it. In there was the snapshot of how much he is driven and shaped by his father's experience. Because if you ask this President Bush what his father's biggest mistake was, he will say that his father won the first Gulf War, had a 91 percent approval rating, had enormous political capital, and then didn't spend a dime. And got beat. Because he essentially rested on his laurels. That's why this President Bush thinks his father lost the election.

So his attitude is, if you've got it, spend it. You can't take it with you.

The Iraq equation will in many ways determine what this president's legacy is. We'll have to wait a while.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Coming up next, the war in Iraq. A report from the frontlines, as U.S. forces launch an offensive against the insurgents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what the end of the world sounds like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Also ahead, in the eye of the storm. A hurricane season for the record books.

ANNOUNCER: In March, terrorists attack the commuter rail network in Spain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF: More than 100 dead here in Madrid at the commuter hour, just before 8:00 local time, as commuter trains packed with people coming to work in the capital were struck without warning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: When the smoke cleared and the bodies were collected, nearly 200 people had been killed. More than 1,800 others were wounded.

In September, the Russian school year in Beslan began with three days of terror. Militants took 1,200 adults and children hostage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they told them, if you make any noise, we will kill 15 people each hour.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The hostage-takers had chains of wire tied from one basketball hoop inside the gym to the other, and attached to those wires were explosives that were waiting to go off if anyone moved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: After two days, Russian troops stormed the school. Amid explosions and intense gunfire, more than 300 people were killed. Half of them children.

In October, for the first time in nearly three years, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden appeared on videotape, with a message for the American people.

OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands.

ANNOUNCER: Intel agencies concluded with a high degree of confidence the message from bin Laden was authentic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: News from Iraq, and news about Iraq dominated the headlines this year. Beginning with the number of Americans killed. More than 800 this year alone.

Then there were those jarring disturbing photographs, Iraqi detainees in humiliating poses from the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal. Militants unveiled a vile new terror tactic, kidnapping and beheading hostages.

And the handover of power to Iraq's interim government did little to quell insurgent unrest. Attacks from the Sunni Triangle intensified, so did U.S. efforts to break insurgent stranglehold. Our Jane Arraf was embedded with U.S. forces during the fighting and even when she filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: The battle for Falluja started before it officially started. And I remember thinking, this is what the end of the world sounds like.

Crashing all around us. And it continued for days and days. I never thought that anything could be so loud. I never thought that anything could be so violent and still leave anything standing. It really was almost like the end of the world. And you kind of wondered what would be left in the end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to start at one end of the city...

ARRAF: And the morning that it happened, there was that sort of atmosphere that you have before a battle. It's very, very primal. The joking stops. There's a tension in the air. It's ceremonial, almost. But focusing all their energy. They know that they could be about to die. And then they went in, and it was more intense than many of them had ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire in the hole!

ARRAF: Forces we were with were shooting at insurgents who were hiding in these alleyways. That was the problem. They couldn't exactly tell exactly where that gunfire was coming from. So they responded with immense force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey! Check her for booby traps!

ARRAF: It went a little easier than they expected in terms of the response from insurgents who seemed to have essentially melted away. But that city took a huge pounding.

There was one moment where all the electricity had been cut. It was a city completely dark. The only thing that lit it up were these extraordinary explosions.

But somewhere there was a generator in a mosque, and you could hear very faintly what sounded like the call to prayer. In Baghdad, there has been hardly a day that's gone by without a bomb exploding. A lot of them wonder what's going to come next. Now, that doesn't mean that people are afraid all the time everywhere, but what it does mean is there's a level of uncertainty where mothers are afraid to send their children to school, particularly girls. They worry about going to the supermarket. And it's created a climate where people are worried about the future.

U.S. forces felt that the unfortunate thing about Abu Ghraib was that it took attention from all the good things that they believe they're doing.

And when you get out here and you get out to the cities, and you see American Marines and American soldiers, they're not spending most of their time shooting people, or killing people, they are spending most of their time trying to repair the infrastructure, going to clinics, seeing what they need, seeing if there are hungry families, holding meetings, doing all of those things day after day, hour after hour that most people don't see.

And they felt that when this prison scandal came up, what it did was really take attention away from all of that, and basically focus on what they believe is a very small percentage of the military, with very aberrant behavior that they say will be punished.

And a lot of Iraqis will tell you, oh, it was better under Saddam. But when you pin them down, was it really better under Saddam? What was better was they felt more secure. They knew the rules. They knew basically what would get them into trouble and what wouldn't. And now they don't know what the rules are anymore. They don't know what's going to happen. But they still really want to believe that there is a better future there. But most of them are still holding out the hope, but this isn't over yet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Back in this country, for millions of people in the Southeast, 2004 will be memorable because of how their lives were forever changed. Where homes once stood on manicured lawns, four cataclysmic storms, hurricanes left nothing but debris and memories in their wake. I witnessed the frightening power myself, so did our meteorologist Chad Myers, and correspondent Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The warmer the water is, the stronger the hurricane will be. And when you get one after another after another, the water doesn't warm back up again. But this year it did. Just one storm after another after another. Major hurricane after another after another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just mother nature at her worst.

MYERS: You get a whole new respect for the power. You get a respect for the people that have to live through it, or rebuild from it, that you don't get sitting in a weather office. GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When we're driving in one direction to a hurricane and we see everybody else driving in the other direction, it is kind of ominous. You feel even after covering these hurricanes for many years, what am I getting myself into? But that is part of the job.

Hugo and Andrew come to mind, but never anything that just lasts as long as this.

The feeling of standing in hurricane force winds is unlike anything else we experience in broadcast journalism. We make sure we protect ourselves to the best of our ability, but it is virtually impossible to stand when you have hurricane force winds. You can't see anything because rains are coming down so hard right into your eyes that you can't see.

MYERS: Our job was to get that word out, that this is pretty serious. This is pretty bad. A Cat 4 making landfall is going to do an lot of damage. And then a Category 3 and then another one two weeks later.

TUCHMAN: But I can tell you during Hurricane Ivan, visually, it was something I had never seen before, because the widespread damage was so spread out from the Florida Panhandle into Alabama.

You can look behind me. It almost looks like raging rapids on the streets here in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

The barrier island of Gulf Shores, Alabama, We were there as the hurricane started moving in. Within one hour the water moved up past our knees. The next day, the island looked like part of the Gulf of Mexico. It was completely under water.

MYERS: We were not down there to be cowboys. We were down there to learn, to make people safer, to tell people the story. I didn't have to tell people in Melbourne the story. They were experiencing it. But there are loved ones of those people in Melbourne in California, in Montana, in Toronto, everywhere, and nobody else was going to tell them that story.

TUCHMAN: There are so many stories to tell with this hurricane devastation. Some stranger than others.

And then a man who was going to propose to his wife-to-be. He ran out of gas. And this was his night. He had a diamond ring with him.

You want to propose to the woman you want to marry but you can't get there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't even get there.

TUCHMAN: He called her up, said, can you bring me a can of gas. Because she was 100 miles away where the gas stations were working. She came 100 miles away with the cans of gas, and when she arrived he got down on his knee... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, you're not going to do this right now.

TUCHMAN: ... and proposed to her at the gas station.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

MYERS: These hurricanes, they were affecting whole states. And sometimes, you know, five, six states at a time. This hurricane season was one that a lot of folks, especially folks in Florida, are not going to forget. And I certainly won't forget.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The curse is broken and Kobe Bryant has more success in the courts than on it.

Also ahead, from a wardrobe malfunction, to not one, but two Britney Spears weddings. A look back at the top entertainment stories of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: In October, Mount St. Helens rumbled back to life. The volcano began belching steam, a boisterous prelude to the more spectacular display to come.

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in actually Mount. St. Helens, Washington, just under the Johnson Ridge Observatory. We have all been waiting for this. And almost at noon on the dot, or about seven or so minutes, Mount St. Helens has been blowing a giant plume of smoke and ash.

ANNOUNCER: In January, a pair of mechanized twins landed on the planet. Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, two robotic field geologists, set out to study Martial rocks and soil for any evidence of ancient bodies of water. They were designed to operate for three months, but the rovers defied predictions. NASA recently extended their missions for a second time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A couple of divas reinvent themselves again. That's just some of the entertainment swirling the Current in 2004.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Unless, of course, you're Britney Spears. The pop diva wed childhood sweetheart Jason Alexander in January at a Vegas chapel only to dump him three days later. She had the marriage annulled.

She must have enjoyed her brief nuptials, because months later, oops, she did it again marrying dancer Kevin Federline.

J. Lo walked down the aisle herself for a third time. After her much publicized split with Ben Affleck, Lopez and singer Marc Anthony, exchanged vows.

A wardrobe malfunction shook up the Super Bowl and had Janet Jackson exposing more than her Victoria's Secrets to TV viewers. The uproar that followed left her blushing and apologizing.

JANET JACKSON, SINGER: I am really sorry.

COOPER: For baring her breasts.

After filling the airwaves with some raunchy talk...

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I would love to see you with your top off.

COOPER: Radio shock jock Howard Stern got a jolt of his own. The FCC fined Clear Channel nearly half a million dollars for indecency on his show. Clear Channel pulled Stern from 6 of its stations.

The mic jockey called it a witch hunt and is taking his show to satellite radio.

STERN: It's the beginning.

JUDE LAW, ACTOR: Once again, Ashlee Simpson.

COOPER: A lip-sinking malfunction on "Saturday Night Live" left starlet Ashlee Simpson, well, out of sync when the wrong song was played.

At first she blamed the band, but later changed her tune. And the music played on.

America crowned a new Idol, Fantasia Berrino. The single mom from North Carolina beat out Diana DeGarmo to claim the title and chance at stardom.

JENNIFER ANNISTON, ACTRESS: It was just the perfect way to say good-bye.

COOPER: Other stars were shooting off in different directions. Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Monica slid the dead-bolt on their New York apartment with the finale of "Friends." More than 51 million people tuned in as they said good-bye.

When the paparazzi's flash bulbs revealed a rail-thin Mary-Kate, the brunette, half of the famed Olson twins, entered a posh clinic seeking help for an eating disorder. Her publicist says she's working hard at being well.

The Miss America pageant saw some slim pickings in terms of ratings this year. The sash and swimsuit apparently don't cut it anymore. ABC dropped the famous pageant from its line-up. It's the first time in 50 years Miss America doesn't have a home on network TV.

Doing the news can be hard, especially when you're the top story. Something Bill O'Reilly discovered when a former associate producer accused him of sexual harassment. The dispute was silently settled.

And a steamy opening to ABC's Monday Night Football game pitting the Philadelphia Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys had a couple of viewers calling for a penalty when a "Desperate Housewife" dropped her towel, she raised the ire of the FCC. ABC apologized.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: All right. I admit it, I'm not a big sports fan, but even I know that 2004 provided a plethora of sporting news.

There was a brawl at the Palace, a crackup in Laker Land, doubtful calls at the Olympics, and even a little voodoo that seemed to undo a legendary curse. Our Larry Smith doles out free samples and gives us the play by play, or maybe we should make that the blow by blow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If there were a pair of theme to the 2004 sports year, they were triumph and controversy, and no event encompassed both like the summer Olympics. Heading into the games, instead of stories about the athletes and what they hoped to achieve, much of the focus turned to whether the games would be safe due to terrorist threats. And how the games would be affected by the growing scandal of steroid abuse.

Marion Jones, the biggest track star, battled reports that challenged her reputation as a clean athlete. While she retained her reticence, the controversy seemed to take its toll. Jones qualified in just one event, placing fifth, and failed to medal after winning five medals at the 2000 games.

Paul Hamm became the first male U.S. gymnast to win the all- around gold medal, but not before having to go to court to keep it amidst a scoring controversy.

And the men's basketball team, loaded with NBA players was favored to win gold, but had to defend themselves after coming home with the bronze.

For the U.S., there was some good news, though. Michael Phelps became the first non-gymnast to win eight medals in a single games with 6 gold and 2 bronze in swimming. And the women's softball team steamrolled their way to gold outscoring their opponents 51-1.

Despite the emergence of teenage sensation LeBron James and the break-up of Kobe and Shaq, perhaps the most memorable story in the NBA was the brawl that took place between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons fans. After a spectator hit Ron Artest in the face with a cup, Artest ran into the stands to confront the fan he thought threw it, but retaliated against the wrong man. The scene quickly turned to mayhem when other Pacers went into the stands.

The NBA suspended Artest for the rest of the season and 5 Indiana players and several fans were criminally charged. The baseball world celebrated when Barry Bonds joined Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron as the only players to hit 700 career home runs. But just two months later, Bonds' record and his legacy came into further question. In a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, the paper printed what it said was Bonds' grand jury testimony in which he admitted to using substances which federal prosecutors say are steroids.

(on camera): If the steroid scandal is baseball's lowest moment, the Red Sox were its highest. The team's quest to win its first World Series Championship since 1918 became mythic when they beat the Yankees to win the American league championship series.

(voice-over): It was the first time a major league baseball team won a seven-game series after trailing three games to none. A run for the ages painted with the images of Curt Schilling's bloodstained socks on the mound. Twice during the postseason the veteran pitcher had surgery before a game to reattach a tendon to his ankle. Boston went on to sweep the St. Louis cardinals in the World Series, officially ending the infamous curse of the bambino.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The queen of homemakers goes to jail. Can the king of pop be next? Insights on the year from Jeffrey Toobin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get inside! Come on guys!

ANNOUNCER: As the year drew to a close, a massive earthquake triggered tsunamis across Southern Asia killing tens of thousands of people.

BINDRA: The devastation is complete here in Sri Lanka. Thousands and thousands of homes have been destroyed.

ANNOUNCER: An exact death toll may not be known for months.

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You get a sense of how powerful those waves were. These boats were thrown against this bridge. And you can see over here just how expensive this devastation was.

ANNOUNCER: A third of the dead may be children. Survivors are telling harrowing tales of escape as others frantically search for missing relatives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The water was black, Suriati (ph) tells us. I swallowed so much water as it carried out of the village, turning me over and over. I landed on the roof of the mosque. I reached out and held on to a piece of wood with all my strength. That's what saved me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. and other countries are sending millions in aid to help victims rebuild their lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It was a busy year for headlines around the globe. Saddam Hussein went to court. Yasser Arafat was laid to rest. In October, Afghanistan held its first democratic elections. And just a couple of weeks ago, the Afghan people watched the inauguration of their first elected president, Hamid Karzai.

While there was joy in one part of the world, civil war caused massive suffering in another. Nearly 2 million people fled their homes in Sudan, creating the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour lived up to her title and stayed on the road bringing us compelling stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Saddam Hussein court appearance was one of the biggest things that we covered during 2004.

TRANSLATOR: Saddam Hussein, the president of the republic of Iraq.

AMANPOUR: I was in the courtroom when Saddam Hussein came in for his preliminary hearing, and really was electrifying. I remember that nobody quite knew what to expect, how would he look. Because the last time we saw him was when he was dragged out of that underground hole about six months before that and he looked like a shaggy caveman. He was slightly defiant in some instances, he was downcast, he looked defeated at other times. Most of the pundits after that court hearing, after only seeing it via television, said that there was the old combative Saddam Hussein. But that's not what we saw. We saw a much more submissive, a broken man.

For the better part of 40 years, Yasser Arafat has been a central figure of world politics, whether as a guerrilla fighter, a terrorist, a would-be statesman.

When it came for him to enter his final phase of his life and he became critically ill and had to leave Ramallah for treatment in Paris, I was there, I watched that and I felt a certain historic poignancy. This was the father of Palestinian aspirations. The man who was historically the first and only person intrinsically identified with Palestinian identity. He was Palestine. And you saw him on his final journey. When his body was brought back for burial to Ramallah, that's when the emotion came out. That's when tens of thousands of people gathered on that shattered compound in Ramallah and gave such a tumultuous welcome and farewell to their leader.

We're here at the Riyadh camp outside Al Jenena (ph), the capital of western Darfur.

It was imperative for us as CNN, as journalists to report from Darfur. It took a long time to be able to get the access to get in. But we started in Chad, with the Sudanese refugees from Darfur, and then we went into Darfur itself.

The pitiful fact of what these people have to go through, there simply isn't enough food out here yet.

For me, the saddest time and the most desperate times to bear witness is when you see civilians at the end of the line, the civilians like children who are starving, who can't get enough food or water, just simple, simple things that would allow them to live. The children are at terrible risk of malnutrition.

So I think for me, most definitely, going to the malnutrition camps, seeing ordinary doctors, nurses, trying to save the most vulnerable is always the most moving. And it gives meaning to what we do as journalists. Our duty is to go there and tell those stories and try and try and try to make sure that these things either get put right or hopefully don't happen again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We've certainly followed a lot of trials and tribulations this year. A domestic diva, an NBA star, a fertilizer salesman and a pop star in a child molestation case. Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin reviews the legal docket of 2004.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFFREY TOOBIN, SR. LEGAL ANALYST: The Peterson case had a little bit what the Simpson case had, which was the soap opera aspect, of interesting tidbits coming out gradually. So that you could follow it month by month as the story line developed. You know, Amber Frey appeared. Then in the trial you had the Amber Frey tapes.

AMBER FREY: You know, Scott, when people find out, and they will, no one will think your behavior is innocent.

SCOTT PETERSON: Yeah, I know that. But I had nothing to do with this.

TOOBIN: Laci Peterson came to personify everything good about motherhood. And Scott Peterson came to personify everything bad about the male gender.

The whole key to the Martha Stewart case was her arrogance. She insisted on taking this to the last chapter, and it was just the worst decision of her life. The best thing that Martha Stewart did was going to jail, getting this case over, and moving up the date when she could begin the rest of her life.

MARTHA STEWART: The best word to use for this very harsh and difficult decision is finality and my intense desire and need to put this nightmare behind me, both personally and professionally.

TOOBIN: When she gets out, she's going to have a lot of people rooting for her, because she did wrong, but she did her time and now it's time to let her be Martha again.

It's now clear that the Kobe Bryant case was a case that never should have been brought in the first place because prosecutors simply didn't do their job of investigating the accuser's story well enough to determine whether she could be a competent witness because she couldn't be. Whatever you think of Kobe Bryant, he is not a criminal. And this was in many respects the worst possible result because he had his reputation destroyed, and the woman got no vindication and the system is left with a big black eye.

The most memorable legal moment for me of 2004 was standing outside the courthouse in Santa Barbara County and seeing Michael Jackson get on the roof of that car and start dancing. And I was standing side by side with Mark Geragos and Ben Brafman, his lawyers at the time, and you have never seen two more astonished lawyers, because they were as surprised as anyone else.

The trial of Michael Jackson will be the train wreck to end all train wrecks because the defense in this case is going to be an offense. It's going to be a complete attack on the alleged victim, on the alleged victim's family and on their motives. And the prosecution is also going to be an offense against Michael Jackson. So you're going to have two sides throwing mud at each other for month after month. It's going to be a real struggle for Michael Jackson to sit in court month after month and behave like a defendant's supposed to. Because he's so used to performing, and what he's got to do is sit down and shut up and that's not easy for him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: They were some of the biggest and brightest stars of a generation. On the other side of this break, we pay tribute to some passing legends who left us with a legacy of great expectations.

In September, former President Bill Clinton, a life long fan of fast food experienced chest pain and shortness of breath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're here outside New York Presbyterian Hospital. In just a couple of hours, President Bill Clinton, former president, is scheduled to undergo surgery to bypass diseased vessels in his heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Before his operation, Clinton telephoned Larry King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me just say this, the Republicans aren't the only people who want four more years here.

LARRY KING: Well, the whole world is watching. We appreciate you giving us this time.

COOPER: Senator Hillary Clinton says she was emotional the night before her husband's surgery but he seemed to take it in strike.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) NEW YORK: My husband is doing very well. He's in great humor. He's beating all of us at cards and the rest of the games we're playing. He's going to be fine.

COOPER: Some seven weeks later, a noticeably thinner Clinton hit the campaign trail to support John Kerry's failed bid for the presidency.

CLINTON: If this isn't good for my heart, I don't know what is. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: When you grow up watching somebody on the silver screen or the TV screen, you often feel like you know them. When they die, their passing feels very personal. Tonight we remember some of those who left us in 2004.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB KEESHAN: My name is Kangaroo. Kangaroo, Captain Kangaroo.

JULIA CHILDS: I'm Julia Childs. This is Julia Childs. Bon appetit.

JEFF SMITH: I'm suggesting that you do this at night in place of potatoes or something.

JACK PAAR: There must be a better way of making a living than this.

PETER USTINOV: And because we deal with human beings who suffer --

ALISTAIR COOKE: We open tonight a new television theater.

UNKNOWN: The millions who struggle.

MARLON BRANDO: Stella! You should (ph) make enemies, then he would look at my enemies. You can act like a man!

RODNEY DANGERFIELD: Let me have your autograph and some more butter. It looks good on you, though. Right here, get yourself some.

CHRISTOPHER REEVE: Easy miss. I've got you. A friend.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We bid farewell to one figure this year who seemed larger than most, a man who believed America was just not a place on the map but the destination of hope for the world, President Ronald Reagan. After his private battle with Alzheimer's ended, the public outpouring for the former president was immense. Here now a final tribute to the man who said America was too great for small dreams.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Finally tonight, taking 2004 to "The Nth Degree." It's hard to let go of a year that was so eventful and during which we learned so very much. For instance, for those who have always wanted to know what's on a gator's mind, the answer, at least for Elvis here it was a knife. What the man in Florida who did this to poor Elvis had on his mind, we can't say. Though now in jail, we guess he's got regret on the brain.

We learned what happens if you watch Dr. Doolittle once too often and so have the song, "If I Could Talk to the Animals" going around and round in your head. You end up as this fellow in Taipei did preaching the gospel to the lions at the zoo, trying to convert them to vegetarianism if nothing else.

Here you have a pup named Faith, as upstanding an example of American doghood as you'll ever find. What did we learn from her? It doesn't matter how many people say you can't, you can if you really want to.

Here's an important lesson. If you've got a grilled-cheese sandwich with what sort of kind of looks kind of like the face of the Virgin Mary on it, do not eat it. You can sell it online even 10 years later for $28,000 bucks. So remember, look before you bite. Always examine your lunch carefully for divine signs and potential profit.

2004 was also the year we learned that the queen of England is not amused with guys dressed like Batman climbing the walls of Buckingham Palace, not even if you say you put on the tights and the cape to bring attention to the plight of divorced fathers. Nor does it make any difference if you try the same stunt a few months later dressed as St. Nick. The queen still isn't amused. She seems just not to care for the whole idea of costumed weirdoes making themselves at home at her home. Some people are like that.

And does a bear drink beer in the woods? That old question was finally answered this year at a campground in Washington State, where a local Bruin broke into some coolers and drank down six six-packs of the local brew.

Here's another question that was put to rest in 2004. Sure, Colin Powell is a fine diplomat, but can he sing?

Yes, sir, it was quite a year. Whatever your hopes for the New Year are, may they all come true. And we'll see you back here on Monday 7:00 p.m. Eastern for a new year of Anderson Cooper "360." Thanks for joining us.

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