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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Unanswered Questions in Oklahoma City Bombing?
Aired April 20, 2005 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Welcome.
Tonight, a story of crime and punishment and frightening, unanswered questions.
ZAHN (voice-over): Her grandchildren died here, victims of terrorism. What she has learned since that day will disturb you. Oklahoma City, was there a larger conspiracy?
KATHY WILBURN SANDERS, GRANDMOTHER OF OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING VICTIMS: There were over 20-some-odd eyewitnesses that saw McVeigh downtown that morning. Not one eyewitness saw him alone.
ZAHN: Her ex-husband was one of the terrorists. Tonight, she delivers an exclusive message from Terry Nichols himself.
LANA PADILLA, EX-WIFE OF TERRY NICHOLS: My heartfelt prayers and thoughts go out to all people who have been affected by the tragedy.
ZAHN: Tonight, two women, one tragedy and a search for answers.
ZAHN: It was 10 years ago this week that 168 people were killed when a truck bomb tore apart the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The anniversary has been overshadowed by the election of a new pope.
But 1,600 people, led by Vice President Cheney and former President Clinton, gathered to remember. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was convicted and executed. His co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, is serving life in prison. Case closed? Not for everyone. In a moment, you'll hear what Terry Nichols has to say about that day, but, first, how the search for truth has created a very unlikely alliance.
ZAHN (voice-over): The images are hard to forget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A third of the building has been blown away.
ZAHN: The bomb went off at 9:02 a.m., destroying the Alfred P. Murrah Building, destroying the lives of so many people. In the midst of the chaos, two red-headed women stood out in their grief, Kathy Wilburn Sanders and her daughter, Edie Smith. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three.
ZAHN: Edie's children, Colton, age 2, and Chase, almost 4, were at the day care center located on the ground floor of the Murrah Building. They were two of the 168 people killed that day.
SANDERS: We used to say that Colton would follow Chase to the end of the Earth. And I guess, in a way, he did. They are buried together now. When I watched their coffin lower into the grave, there was a part of me I left there that day. Those little boys, I can't tell you what they meant to me.
ZAHN: The family was full of despair. And they were very angry, angry at Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols for a despicable act of terror, angry at God for taking their boys, angry because they didn't believe the federal government was telling the whole truth about the bombing.
SANDERS: There were over 20-some-odd eyewitnesses that saw McVeigh downtown that morning. Not one eyewitness saw him alone. Now, if you were prosecuting McVeigh, wouldn't it be necessary that you place the man at the scene of the crime? Never during his trial was one eyewitness called to place him at the scene of the crime.
ZAHN: Kathy Sanders believes that was by design. Those eyewitnesses, she believes, would have implicated others beyond Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Her need for answers led her to research and writing a new book called "After Oklahoma City," in which she questions if the FBI and ATF had advance warning of the bombing and whether it was retaliation for the execution of a white supremacist, Richard Wayne Snell, who was executed in Arkansas on that same day.
(on camera): If it were ever proven than Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were part of a broader conspiracy, in your mind, would that make them any less guilty of what they were accused of doing?
SANDERS: It wouldn't make them any less guilty and it wouldn't make my babies any less dead, but it is the right thing I want my government to do.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will find the people who did this.
SANDERS: What it's supposed to do, what it was supposed to do.
CLINTON: Justice will be swift, certain and severe.
SANDERS: Bill Clinton got on TV. He told us everyone responsible for this bombing was going to be arrested and pay for this crime. And it hasn't happened.
ZAHN: I think what a lot of people would be surprised by are the lengths you have gone to try to get answers.
You befriended Timothy McVeigh's family. Why was that important for you to do? And what were you hoping to find out?
SANDERS: I wanted to know everything I could about Timothy McVeigh.
ZAHN (voice-over): While trying to find out everything she could about McVeigh and Nichols Kathy Sanders learned something about herself and her capacity for compassion.
SANDERS: Our family had the love of a nation. After the bombing, the whole world reached out to love us. And when I saw Mr. McVeigh, who is loving him? Who is reaching out to him? This poor man has been a good father, a good, hard blue-collar worker all his life. He's sitting around waiting for his son to be executed. Can you imagine anything more horrible? Nobody wants that kind of fate for their child.
ZAHN (on camera): Did you ask him point blank, why do you think your son did this?
SANDERS: I asked him if Tim ever told him about the bombing. And he said, no, ma'am, because I don't ever talk to Timmy about the bombing. And I -- I believed him.
ZAHN (voice-over): Even more surprising is that Kathy met with Terry Nichols, visiting him several times while in state prison and talking with him on the phone up to three times a week.
SANDERS: When I first started corresponding and getting to know Terry, I was willing to dance with the devil to get to the truth. But as I got to know Terry Nichols the person, instead of Terry Nichols the bomber, it put a face on this person and it changed. And I can't describe it any better than that. I don't know how to tell you.
ZAHN (on camera): You don't view him as the devil anymore?
SANDERS: No, I don't.
ZAHN (voice-over): Sanders even testified at Nichols' federal trial that he not be sentenced to death.
(on camera): And although he's expressed sadness about the loss of life that day, he has never admitted his involvement in the bombing.
SANDERS: He's going to.
ZAHN (voice-over): Her search for answers hasn't been easy. Kathy's husband, Glenn Wilburn, died from cancer two years after the bombing. She's convinced it was brought on by the stress.
She recently remarried, yet stays focused on learning everything she can about the bombing.
SANDERS: I just don't want to go to my grave without having done everything that I possibly could to solve this crime.
ZAHN: Today, Terry Nichols is in federal prison serving 161 consecutive life sentences. Now Kathy Sanders can only communicate with him through letters. She recently petitioned the prison to allow her to visit him, but that request was denied. She says she'll try again.
(on camera): What gives you hope that he'll ever come clean?
SANDERS: I think that he's had a change of heart and I honestly believe that he's going tell me everything that he knows.
ZAHN: What do you think Terry Nichols wants from you?
ZAHN: And you are willing to grant him that?
SANDERS: I forgave him.
ZAHN: How hard was that for you to do that?
SANDERS: It was just a lot easier than hating him.
ZAHN: And, as amazing as that may seem, Kathy Wilburn Sanders actually became friends with Terry Nichols' ex-wife, Lana Padilla. Coming up, her story and what Nichols still hasn't revealed about the bombing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PADILLA: I do believe that Terry -- Terry is ready to explain to his son why he got involved or why he was captured into this, what was he thinking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: More from my exclusive interview with Terry Nichols' ex- wife and the message he gave her to tell the nation tonight on CNN.
ZAHN: It is still an open question, whether the Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy stretched beyond Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. But the search for answers has brought together two women who were profoundly affected by the crime.
SANDERS: I don't know who he was. He was someone that I think was probably instrumental.
ZAHN: It's a friendship that began under the most unusual circumstances, Kathy Wilburn Sanders, who lost her two grandsons in the Oklahoma City bombing, and Lana Padilla, the ex-wife of Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols. Both women want answers about what happened in Oklahoma City and why Nichols did what he did.
Padilla and Nichols were married eight years, divorcing in 1989, six years before the bombing. They have a son, Joshua, who was 12 years old when his father was charged with that terrible crime.
(on camera): When Kathy reached out to you, were you surprised?
PADILLA: I questioned it. I questioned what the motives may be. And the more I talked with Josh's dad, Terry, I realized that he had trust in her.
ZAHN: What was your fear?
PADILLA: That my son would be subjected to something that could hurt him.
ZAHN (voice-over): Lana Padilla decided to take a chance. She and Josh drove 1,000 miles from their home in Las Vegas to Kathy Sanders' home in Oklahoma City.
SANDERS: They rang the doorbell. I opened the door. And there stood Josh and Lana. And he's a big, tall boy now. And I hugged Josh. And Josh and I hit it off.
SANDERS: We stayed up until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning talking out there in the den.
SANDERS: Talking out there in the den. And he was a very wounded boy.
PADILLA: Very wounded.
SANDERS: Very wounded. And it couldn't help but break your heart when he told me about the kids nicknaming him bomber. And I just wanted to do something to help. I didn't want any child to hurt, not even Terry Nichols' child.
ZAHN: Sanders invited Padilla and Josh to stay in their home, letting them sleep in the room where her grandsons Chase and Colton once slept.
PADILLA: It was spending the nights at her home. Josh wouldn't sleep in Chase and Colton's room. He slept out in the living room.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guys, guess what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's time for night-night.
PADILLA: I did share their bedroom. And it was very painful. I still don't know how anyone can have that much forgiveness.
ZAHN: Forgiveness not only from Kathy Sanders, but from Edie Smith, Chase and Colton's mom. One night, Edie joined them for dinner. SANDERS: Josh was going to get in the car with me. And Edie says, Josh, Josh, come ride with me.
SANDERS: And I looked at Lana and I said, whoa. Can you imagine what the headlines would be like in the morning if anyone knew that that was Edie Smith and Josh Nichols riding off together? Remember that?
PADILLA: And they loved each other. They loved each other.
SANDERS: Yes, they did.
ZAHN: But the most surprising moment was when Josh asked Kathy to take him to see the Oklahoma City Memorial.
SANDERS: I took Josh to Chase and Colton's chairs. And I am thinking, whoa, this is so -- this was odd. It was just weird to know that I was coming back with one of the bomber's sons and giving him the tour. He did.
ZAHN (on camera): Why was that important for him, Lana?
PADILLA: I think to put the reality with it. I mean, he loves his father. And he is committed to his father, but this put the tragedy together.
ZAHN (voice-over): As Lana Padilla and her son Josh were getting ready to leave, Kathy suddenly realized the importance of the visit.
SANDERS: Josh went to get in the car. We were saying goodbyes. He jumped out and he came and hugged me. And then he couldn't stand to leave. He started to get back in the car. And he jumped back out and he hugged me again.
And then he says to me, you are the nicest lady I ever met. And then I started crying. He started crying. You got out of the car and started crying. And she says to me -- she says, thank you for making this such a wonderful experience. The last time we were here, we were booed and heckled and jeered.
ZAHN: Terry Nichols sent Kathy Sanders a note thanking her for her kindness.
SANDERS: I didn't do it so that Terry Nichols would be happy that I did it. It was just the right thing for me to do.
ZAHN: Since then, Joshua Nichols has grown into a young man.
(on camera): Does your son say much about his father at this point, 10 years later?
PADILLA: He says more now than he used to.
ZAHN: Is he mad at his dad? PADILLA: Yes. Yes. He wants to know why. And he doesn't know why. He doesn't understand why it happened.
ZAHN: Well, clearly, this has made your life hell.
ZAHN: You have people yelling at you, accusing you of things that you had nothing to do with.
PADILLA: My house was broken into. My car was started on fire. I was robbed. I got hate mail, lots of hate mail, in the first few years afterwards.
ZAHN (voice-over): Lana Padilla is in regular contact with Terry Nichols. She was a witness at both of his trials and still can't come to grips that her ex-husband could commit such a horrific crime. Lana believes, like Kathy, that others beyond Nichols and Timothy McVeigh were involved in that bombing.
Knowing she was going to appear on this program, Terry Nichols gave Lana a statement to read.
PADILLA: His statement is: "I don't believe it would be appropriate at this time. And, thus, I do not wish to tread on the upcoming memorial anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing with any statement, other than to say that my heartfelt prayers and thoughts go out to all the people who have been affected by the tragedy."
ZAHN (on camera): You know Terry Nichols better than just about anyone. In all of the conversations you've had over the past 10 years, do you have any better understanding of why he was involved with the bombing?
PADILLA: I truly believe that McVeigh had threatened Terry and his family and was capable of hurting them.
ZAHN: Threatened him if he got out?
PADILLA: Yes, if he backed out. Terry would have protected his family. So, if there was any danger, he would be doing it not so much for himself, but for his family.
ZAHN: So, you think he is still worried something might happen to you and your son?
PADILLA: Not so much me. I'm not -- I'm talking about his son and his children. I'm an ex-wife.
ZAHN: And, Kathy, do you pick up that same sense of fear from Terry Nichols?
SANDERS: I think that he has been afraid, but I think he wants to talk now.
ZAHN (voice-over): And that may be the case. Just three weeks ago, the FBI acted on information that explosives were hidden in Terry Nichols' former home.
The tipster, a fellow inmate who says Nichols told him that he wanted the materials found to prevent a second bombing. What is unclear is whether Terry Nichols wanted the FBI to know as well.
(on camera): How hard is it for you to live with all these unanswered questions?
PADILLA: In the early years, I was not a patient person. After the bombing, I wanted answers now. It has taken 10 years. But I do believe that Terry is ready to explain to his son why he got involved or why he was captured into this, what was he thinking.
ZAHN (voice-over): It is uncertain whether Terry Nichols will ever reveal all he knows about the Oklahoma City bombing. In the meantime, Kathy Sanders and Lana Padilla will wait it out together.
ZAHN: And Terry Nichols still communicates with both women. CNN has copies of two letters from him in which he talks about the newly discovered explosives found in a home where he once lived. In both, Nichols strongly denies saying anything about a second bombing.
In one letter to his ex-wife he adds: "God will bring out the truth. I ask that you pray that the full truth be revealed and the cover-up be fully exposed."
And then, in a letter to Kathy Wilburn Sanders, Nichols writes about the tip that led to the discovery of the explosives: "All I can say is, there is some truth, but there is also much fabrication."
Coming up, a heart doctor whose parents swear has performed hundreds of miracles on children.
And a little bit later on, a mother's remarkable progress in reaching a son with a frightening brain disorder.
ZAHN: It is time to vote for the person of the day. Your choices, Jason Kamras, the teacher of the year who was honored by President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for giving two answers in Russian, "Da," then "Nyet" when asked whether she would run for the White House, and slightly overweight people for being proven right. Two studies actually show that they have a lower risk of death than normal weight people.
Cast your vote at CNN.com/Paula, the results a little bit later on this evening.
Still ahead, a heart doctor who specializes in the tiniest of patients once considered hopeless.
And do you know what this is? Well, it is supposed to make you healthier, if you can figure out what happens at the top of that pyramid.
Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS knows the answer.
Don't give it away. I know you have been studying that for 24 hours.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have been. I finally got my pyramid. So, I've been studying it now. But I won't say more than that.
ZAHN: Don't cheat, please.
HILL: I won't, I promise.
ZAHN: What else is going on in the world tonight?
HILL: In Washington, big news. Republicans on the House Ethics Committee say they are ready to open an investigation into allegations of ethical wrongdoing against Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The chairman of the subcommittee will review DeLay's trips and other activities that have come into question. But DeLay has repeatedly said he wants to clear up questions about his actions.
And CNN has learned actor Macaulay Culkin will now take the stand in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial. A source says Culkin will testify on Jackson's behalf and could refute claims by former Jackson employees, who say they saw the singer touch Culkin inappropriately. However, Culkin has said he doesn't plan to testify. His publicist says that hasn't changed.
The president's Leave No Child Behind Act is facing a new legal challenge. The country's largest teachers union and nine school districts and three states filed suit today. They are asking a judge to order that states and schools don't have to spend their own money to pay expenses incurred by the act. The administration has repeatedly said schools have enough money to make the law work.
And that's the latest from HEADLINE NEWS at this hour -- Paula, we'll turn it back over to you.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. See you in about 30 minutes, give or take a minute or two.
Coming up next, a doctor who earns the gratitude of hundreds of patients every single year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We constantly really thank him for what he gave us back, basically our daughter. Without him and the work that he does, she wouldn't be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: The man with the magic hands, a man who saves young lives with surgery no one else dared to perform. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAHN: Can you imagine what it must be like to be told that your newborn baby will not survive because of a damaged heart? I can't. But hundreds of parents each year who do hear those terrible words are turning to one doctor who does what other doctors can't or refuse to do.
His name is Mohan Reddy. And he performs small miracles for desperate parents.
Sharon Collins shows us how in tonight's "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" profile.
SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the moment that Elizabeth and Raoul Villalobos (ph) have been dreading, the moment when they have to let their 4-month-old baby boy Andrew undergo open heart surgery to repair a hole in his heart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to take good care of him.
ELIZABETH VILLALOBOS, MOTHER: He won't feel anything?
COLLINS: It is a moment that is never easy for any parent, filled with emotion and doubt. The man they are trusting with their baby's fate, in the blue scrubs and plaid jacket, that man is Mohan Reddy, or, as many other parents call him, "the miracle man."
COLLINS: When people called you "miracle man," how does that make you feel?
DR. MOHAN REDDY, PEDIATRIC SURGEON: I tell them that, you know, miracles are done by gods.
COLLINS: But, in the surgical theater, Reddy is a god. It is his hands that hold steady over baby Andrew's heart, on a heart that is no bigger than a walnut. It is 8:40 a.m. and Andrew will be under the care of Dr. Reddy and his team for at least five hours. His family waits.
VILLALOBOS: I know he's a strong little boy, that's fighting to be here.
COLLINS: Dr. Reddy is aware of the waiting parents, and he knows how much they have invested in him. He knows he is the only hope for many of them, and that is his motivation.
REDDY: If you look at some of the babies, you know, who have survived this operation and they're, you know -- look like normal kids, then it makes you think that, you know, we should never give up the fight.
COLLINS: Mohan Reddy began his own life 45 years ago in India. That's where he went to medical school, and met and married his wife. They moved to the U.S. in the early 90's and, here, he became interested in pediatrics. And then, one day, he came across a baby everyone else had given up on.
REDDY: My colleagues thought that the baby would not survive the operation. I went in there and I told the parents, you know, look, we have not done this operation on such a small child before. If we don't do anything, the baby's not going to survive. It's definitely going to die. So, then, the mother agreed and I did the surgery and the baby did very well.
COLLINS: And he's been doing them ever since. Dr. Reddy does between 250 to 300 surgeries on infants every year, working on the tiniest of babies, infants that others have given up hope on, babies like Jerrick Dulian (ph).
I'm looking at this tiny baby with little, bitty hands and you operated on his heart. Weren't you scared even a little bit?
REDDY: No, I really -- I was not scared. You always are concerned when you are doing open heart surgery on tiny babies. You know, anything goes wrong, you can lose the baby. The margin of error is very, very small.
COLLINS: And so are the hearts. Baby Jerrick's heart was the size of a grape. He was born at a little more than a pound, four months early, with a life-threatening heart condition.
So, without this surgery, Jerrick would have died?
REDDY: Probably, he would have not made it.
COLLINS: But, Jerrick did, and made headlines across the country as the smallest infant ever to receive this surgery, defying all of odds.
Are there ever cases that you just go, I can't do this?
REDDY: No. I think, at least, sometimes you can say, maybe we shouldn't do it, but you think you are basically in a hopeless situation, but you do go and do the best you can, and the babies just fly.
COLLINS: And, at 10:36 a.m., baby Katelyn Pryor (ph) is ready to fly. She is leaving Lucille Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, California, just eight days after Dr. Reddy performed open-heart surgery to repair a large hole and a valve that was too small.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Such a relief, to know that she is healthy and she is going to live a long, healthy life. If it wasn't for Dr. Reddy, we don't know how long she would've been here without him.
COLLINS: And it's not just his surgical skills. Parents like Stephanie and Kevin Eldridge (ph) talk about his remarkable dedication.
STEPHANIE ELDRIDGE, MOTHER: He did surgery all through the night. She came out at 5:00 in the morning and he sat, in a chair, outside her room with his eyes shut, sitting right there for the first 24 hours afterwards to make sure that she was doing well.
COLLINS: Their daughter Taylor was only hours old when she was rushed into surgery with Dr. Reddy. Taylor still shows her scar, four years after that surgery.
ELDRIDGE: He takes your baby as if it was his own. You can see it in his eyes. He takes that child, and that child is going to be OK because that's his heart and his life on the line, too. You feel it. You can see it.
COLLINS: Here's a man that loves children, saves babies, but doesn't have any children. Why?
REDDY: I have plenty to take care of. Raising children is not an easy task, but I think I have a talent I can help a lot of children with.
COLLINS: And that is what Andrew's parents are hoping for. It is 12:50 p.m. Andrew's parents are still waiting.
COLLINS: What's going through your head right now?
VILLALOBOS: What if Andrew doesn't make it? What if, you know, he can't tolerate the surgery?
COLLINS: Dr. Reddy doesn't like being called a miracle man, but that's just what Andrew's parents are hoping for. as they see him walking down the hall, a miracle.
REDDY: Everything went very well. No problems.
VILLALOBOS: Thank you, very much.
REDDY: The process was (INAUDIBLE).
COLLINS: Tears of relief as Elizabeth gets the words she has waited to hear all day. As they walk into the recovery room, Andrew's parents are overwhelmed.
VILLALOBOS: Hi, papito.
COLLINS: He's so small, so helpless.
How do you feel about Dr. Reddy now?
VILLALOBOS: How do I feel? He's the best. To put my son's life in his hands, at first was very hard.
COLLINS: But now?
VILLALOBOS: To me, it's awesome. It's a miracle.
COLLINS: And, while Elizabeth is reunited with her child, outside Andrew's window, another reunion is happening. Taylor and her friend Gabrielle (ph), also a former Reddy heart patient, are seeing the man that saved their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Reddy!
REDDY: Big smiles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1-2-3-Gabrielle!
REDDY: There you go.
COLLINS: What did Dr. Reddy do for you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fixed my heart.
ZAHN: He may not want to be called a miracle man, but, as you can see, he is one. Sharon Collins reporting.
We should remind you, baby Jerrick, who you met at the beginning of that story is doing very well. He is now 38 weeks old. The hospital says his parents hope to take him home in the next couple of weeks.
Coming up next, some new hope for children with a different kind of disorder, one that affects their minds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERI BOWERS, MOTHER OF TAYLOR CROSS: I want parents to know that you raise the bar. You shoot for the stars. You never, ever let your kids get too comfortable because that's where they live. You need to challenge them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Overcoming autism: yes, it can be done. Please stay with us and see how.
ZAHN: The month of April happens to be National Autism Awareness Month. And it is believed that half a million children in the United States are now living with autism.
It's a mysterious disorder of the mind where children feel frightened, isolated, misunderstood. But for one autistic young man and his mother, the struggle led to an unexpected journey of achieving a beautiful dream.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The challenge for me, it has to be the challenge of life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is like putting a label on somebody and calling them that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been teased.
ZAHN (voice-over): They are the honest, candid emotions of autistic teenagers captured by this 16-year-old documentary film maker.
TAYLOR CROSS: My dream is to be a film maker and this will look good on my resume.
ZAHN: But for Taylor Cross to even consider that dream was a long shot. You see Taylor, too, is autistic.
CROSS: Back then I was in my own little world. When I was younger than that, I was also told that I may never be able to walk and talk and other stuff like that. But I did show them, didn't I?
ZAHN (on camera): What do you want people to know about the hardest thing about being autistic?
T. CROSS: It's that you know you're not like everyone else. And like you're striving to be like everyone else, but you just can't get to that level.
ZAHN: So chasing the dream that is not even realistic basically?
T. CROSS: Yes.
ZAHN (voice-over): Taylor and his mother, Keri Bowers, had been chasing that dream for years. Since the day Taylor was born, life had been a challenge.
Those first years usually filled with excitement and wonder were filled with frustration and heartache. Taylor missed every major milestone. He didn't make sounds, crawl or smile. And he couldn't give his mother the one thing that all new parents yearn for.
BOWERS: My son couldn't hug me and he wasn't speaking and he wasn't crawling -- his head was like a floppy doll and he had no muscle tone, very little muscle tone.
ZAHN (on camera): How devastating was that for you?
BOWERS: I was angry. How dare you not love me.
I just thought that I was somehow a bad mother.
ZAHN (voice-over): A frustrating journey, misdiagnoses and confusion began. Some call it mentally retarded, others called it developmentally delayed. Whatever words they used, the prognosis was grim.
It would take six years and dozens of hospital visits before Taylor was correctly diagnosed: high functioning autism, a mysterious brain disorder that leads to a variety of developmental problems.
BOWERS: I decided that we're in this together. And we'll do -- I'm so surprised I'm this emotional -- we'll do whatever we need to do together, except we'll never ask why God? Why me, again?
I started working with Taylor very, very young. And I did some things that people consider controversial or questionable.
ZAHN: And aggressive.
BOWERS: Very aggressive.
ZAHN: You made him use language when he was inclined not to talk.
BOWERS: He had a few words so I knew he could say a few words. He would point up to the cupboard and say eat, eat. And I would look at him and say if you're hungry, you have got to say two words. Give me two words. I'm hungry. Want eat. Food please. Something. And then I would leave the room. And eventually -- I didn't starve him, don't get me wrong.
ZAHN: He doesn't look like it, mom. At 6'7, I think he's doing just fine.
BOWERS: It was a way for him to begin to reach higher.
ZAHN (voice-over): Taylor never stopped growing -- every day overcoming the challenges that face many autistics like feeling bombarded, and overwhelmed by the fast-paced world.
BOWERS: The world doesn't slow down for the children. And they process on a very different level. When he has very stressful situations socially he'll come home and sleep for hours.
ZAHN (voice-over): Socially, life can be especially difficult for autistic teenagers especially as they navigate the turbulent waters of high school.
(on camera): Have they picked on you because they think you are different?
CROSS: Yes, that's true.
ZAHN: And how do you deal with that?
CROSS: Normally, I'm angry about it. But I don't get too emotional about it. And I'll have problems with telling it to an adult or something.
BOWERS: Taylor has been physically assaulted twice by two different boys in the last six months.
ZAHN: At his school?
BOWERS: At his school. Now he's 6'7. He's a big kid. These kids, I think, they sense a certain sweetness, a certain weakness if you will, a certain naivete. And he was assaulted, hit in the face and didn't tell a soul he had been harassed for months. ZAHN (voice-over): A painful time for any teen. But Taylor is learning to deal with the bullies and others that look at him as different.
How? Well, that brings us back to his documentary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work with students with severe disabilities.
ZAHN: Taylor hopes it will break down the barriers between his autistic community and the outside, quote, "normal" world. The documentary is being shown at film festivals as well as in local schools. Taylor has won awards. And has decided to transform his 10 minute documentary into a feature film so more people will see it.
(on camera): What do you dream about doing some day? Do you think about that?
CROSS: I got it planned out. I want to do this and that and that. Like for now I just want to be a film maker. I'm hoping to go to college here at NYU. There's a bunch of other stuff I want to do, too.
ZAHN: So you are a pretty happy guy, aren't you?
CROSS: I guess you could say so.
ZAHN: What is it that you want other parents to know about what their life might be like once they get a diagnosis of autism?
BOWERS: I want parents to know that you raise the bar, you shoot for the stars, you never, ever let your kids get too comfortable because that's where they live. You need to challenge them. You need to push them.
CROSS: Challenge, entice and educate. That's what she shoots for.
BOWERS: Oh, I like that. Oh, oh, he's so good. Isn't he wonderful?
ZAHN: It sounds like you learned that lesson. Or you're sick of hearing it from mom. One of the two.
BOWERS: A little of both.
CROSS: A little of both.
ZAHN (voice-over): A path this mother and son started down 16 years ago, an unexpected journey this mother has learned to love and to cherish.
BOWERS: He'll just be one of those creative, wonderful individuals who is a little quirky, that's all. So to touch, move and inspire people, I think that's finally, ultimately our goal.
CROSS: Yes. That is.
ZAHN: I think we have a lot to learn from both Taylor and his mother.
Taylor is now working with a producer, Joey Travolta. That name might sound familiar, because that's John Travolta's brother. And they are talking about turning his documentary into a feature film. And they hope to have it done sometime this October.
And Taylor's mother, Keri has started a nonprofit group called Pause for Kids to help children with special needs in their Southern California community. You can find out more about that and about Taylor's film at pauseforkids.com.
We're moving up on 13 minutes before the hour. You might know what that means. I do. Time to check in with Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS.
Did that mother and son blow you away?
HILL: Absolutely, incredible. We can all learn a lot from both of them like you said.
We'll turn now to the news real quick. Get caught up on that.
Less than 24 hours after being elected to the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI conducted his first mass. He celebrated it at the Sistine Chapel with the cardinals who elected him. Benedict will be formally installed on Sunday.
NASA is pushing back the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. It now says May 22 is the earliest possible launch date, one week later than previously planned. NASA says it needs more time to complete testing and engineering work for the first shuttle mission in more than two years.
The only person indicted in the United States in connection with the September 11 attacks will plead guilty to the charges on Friday. A judge ruled today that Zacharias Moussaoui is competent to enter a plea. He is charged with conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and aircraft piracy, conspiracy to destroy aircraft and to murder government employees and destroy property. Four of those counts would make him eligible for the death penalty.
And that is the latest from HEADLINE NEWS. Paula, back to you.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica.
Time to check in with LARRY KING LIVE 12 minutes away from the top of his show. Larry, who do you have for us tonight?
LARRY KING, HOST LARRY KING LIVE: Hi, Paula. It is back to the Jackson story. We have our major panel of Diane Dimond and Nancy Grace and Ted Rowlands and Raymone Bain and Michael Cardonza and Davis Willis. Many of them in the courtroom today up in Santa Maria, California.
So we'll be on top of that story and take calls from viewers, as well. It is all ahead at the top of the hour, Paula, immediately following you, our princess.
ZAHN: A princess? That's so nice of you, Larry.
KING: I'm in a you're pope, king, royalty mood. So, you're our princess.
ZAHN: Believe me, my brothers have never said that about me. So thank you. I really appreciate it. Have a good show. I can just hear those phone lines heating up now.
Please stay with us, because Jeanne Moos has an eyeful of advice about what's supposed to go into your stomachs. Coming up, an attempt to help you eat better if only you can make sense of this pyramid.
ZAHN: Drum roll, please. Time to see who you picked for the "Person of the Day."
The choices where teacher of the year, Jason Kamras, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who gave two answer in Russian, da and nyet, when asked about running for president. And the slightly overweight, new studies find their risk of death is lower than that of normal weight people.
Your choice -- this is the closest the vote has ever been. Thousands of you voted. It came down to four votes and Jason Kamras is our man tonight.
JASON KAMRAS, NATIONAL TEACHER OF THE YEAR: X minus seven over two...
ZAHN (voice-over): Remember how much you hated math in school? You should have had Jason Kamras as your teacher. He doesn't just give you problems.
KAMRAS: And we had to do that to both sides.
ZAHN: He gives you board games.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's fun to just -- to win too, because he give you like an award.
ZAHN: At the White House today Jason Kamras got an award all his own. President Bush and the first lady, a former teacher herself, named him the 2005 Teacher of the Year.
BUSH: We'd like to say in our household teaching is more than a job, it is a calling. ZAHN: It's a calling for Jason Kamras, as well. Not only has he spent the last eight years teaching math and social studies in at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington, D.C., he'll spend the coming year touring the country with an important civics lesson for all of us.
KAMRAS: But there are still so many young people in undeserved communities across the nation, that still do not have access to an excellent education. This social challenge is why I teach.
ZAHN: And his students are happy about that. Jason Kamras gets an, A, too. He's the "Person of the Day."
ZAHN: I'm going to give him an, A plus, plus
Coming up next, Jeanne Moos, tries to figure out some colorful advice about how the heck we're supposed to eat.
ZAHN: If you're like most Americans, you're trying to watch what you eat. And the old food pyramid can be a very slippery slope. So with that in mind, the government has issued a revamped pyramid, or rather pyramids.
Jeanne Moos checked them out.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You can visit the pyramids, you can form a pyramid. But can you remember this pyramid?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vaguely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sort of.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
No thank you.
MOOS (on camera): What is funny about the food pyramid.
(voice-over): The old food pyramid got no respect.
(on camera): Did you ever use the food pyramid for anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeanne, do I look like I ever used a food pyramid?
MOOS: (voice-over): If your belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly, maybe you should check out the new improved food pyramid. The old one went horizontal. The new one goes vertical. They considered other shapes like a plate. But opted to stick with a pyramid. The guy running up the steps symbolizes exercise, which was emphasized at the press conference where the new food pyramid unveiled.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, now, stretch that spine! Your spine is your life line. Keep it healthy. Keep it strong.
MOOS: The old pyramid was good for kiddie games. There were versions ranging from vegetarian to low carb -- but the new pyramid is interactive.
MIKE JOHANNS, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Every single American can find a My Pyramid that is right for them at mypyramid.gov.
MOOS: Want to bet? Dietitian Lisa Drayer typed in her age and sex and amount she exercises. You're supposed to get one of 12 food pyramids, personalized for your type. But we and thousands of others waited and waited for a pyramid that never appeared.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The agency that created the pyramid, the spokesperson can't get on.
MOOS (on camera): Really?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because, they're getting 48 million hits in a day.
LISA DRAYER, DIETITIAN: The concept is good. The science is good. The recommendations are good. (INAUDIBLE) make it worse.
MOOS (voice-over): Cartoonists are already taking aim at the food pyramid's makeover. What's wrong with the one we have now?
Food consultant Clark Wolf (ph) noted the rainbow colors and spandex-clad figure. And told "The San Francisco Chronicle" the pyramid looks as though, all you need to do to be healthy in America is be gay and exercise. Some folks never figured out that the bottom of the old pyramid was supposed to be good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't eat that.
MOOS (on camera): But this is the good stuff down there. That's not the crap. That's the crap.
(voice-over): As for the guy going up the steps on the new pyramid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should be an escalator.
ZAHN: And why not. Jeanne Moos, reporting.
As for me, all you have to do is put some cookie dough ice cream right on top of that pyramid, and I'll run right up to the top without spandex on, of course. Thank so much for joining us.
Tomorrow, is there any cure for sexual predators. Please join us same time, same place tomorrow night. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.
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