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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Defining Moments: 25 Stories That Touched Our Lives

Aired June 1, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED TURNER, CNN FOUNDER: I dedicate the news channel for America, a cable news network.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready camera three. One center up.

DAVID WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm David Walker.

LOIS HART, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Lois Hart. Now here's the news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Challenger now heading downrange.

ANNOUNCER: Bringing you man's ambitious endeavors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go with throttle up.

ANNOUNCER: And fatal flights, revealing real-life drama, live, showing you moments of courage against oppression, apartheid, communism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wall represented the divide between east and west.

ANNOUNCER: And, in times of war, CNN took you inside the battles.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Clearly, I've never been here, but this feels like we're in the center of hell.

ANNOUNCER: CNN bridged the distance, making the miles disappear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a rocket-propelled grenade go right over the top of the CNN van we're riding in.

ANNOUNCER: With CNN, you are inside the courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above entitled action...

DENISE BROWN, SISTER OF NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON: I believe he murdered my sister and I will always think that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just started to screaming and crying and telling them not to shoot me.

ANNOUNCER: And when brutal events unfolded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the time that I was shot to the time that I climbed out the window, it was about a three-hour period.

ANNOUNCER: Or tragedy struck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We received word from the hospital that, in fact, Princess Diana had died.

ANNOUNCER: We shared the world's grief amid political showdowns and sex scandals.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'll never forget the chill that I had.

ANNOUNCER: CNN took you to the heart of the stories then and now.

LINDA TRIPP: Yes, I probably would do it again.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We have learned that there has been a large explosion at the federal courthouse building in Oklahoma City.

ANNOUNCER: In the moments that mattered, CNN was there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was, like, looking up toward the sky. And I started running downtown toward the building.

ANNOUNCER: Celebrating CNN's 25th anniversary. Join Paula Zahn, Anderson Cooper, Larry King and Aaron Brown with "Defining Moments: 25 Stories That Touched Our Lives."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to this CNN 25th anniversary special. I'm Aaron Brown.

Over the last quarter century, CNN has helped lead a revolution in how you get your news, news that is now moving faster than ever before, moving farther. And this super-immediacy has made the news, among other things, an important weapon of modern warfare.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good-bye, Saddam.

BROWN (voice-over): When U.S.-led forces drove Saddam Hussein from power two years ago, Iraq tried to use coverage of humanitarian suffering to salvage a political victory from a battlefield defeat.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They will try and box you in and your job is to push the envelope.

ROBERTSON: What we heard here in Baghdad were the air raid sirens going off.

BROWN: The Information Ministry assigned minders to shadow reporters.

ROBERTSON: Just before the war, they gave us another minder, and this minder was armed.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Imagine for a moment a giant wave of steel.

BROWN: On the other side, the Pentagon's strategy was to put the press in the battle.

RODGERS: They anticipated Saddam Hussein would put out propaganda that the Americans were butchering innocent Iraqi villagers.

BROWN: Reporters embedded with U.S. forces not only saw what soldiers do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... an Iraqi position...

BROWN: They also shared at times the danger.

RODGERS: Winston Churchill once said there is nothing so exhilarating as being shot at and missed.

Goodbye. We have got to dive for vehicles, we think. See you. Bye.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Twelve years before embedded CNN reporters raced toward Baghdad and brought you the fall of Saddam Hussein, CNN made history with the coverage of the first Gulf War. With but a skeleton crew in Iraq, the network became a household name across the United States and around the world.

And three CNN reporters, working from a makeshift news bureau in a hotel, became known as the boys of Baghdad, Peter Arnett, John Holliman, and anchor Bernard Shaw.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: CNN's original plan was for me to interview President Saddam Hussein and to depart. The routine for interviewing Saddam Hussein is very scripted.

You check into the Al-Rashid Hotel and you become a prisoner in your own hotel room, because it is there that you wait for the phone call. The first day, no call. Into the night, no call. The second, third, fourth day, still no call. As we sat in Baghdad, we were aware of the forces being brought to bear into the theater.

TOM JOHNSON, FORMER CHAIRMAN, CNN NEWS GROUP: My own personal view was that we should pull them out. I was convinced that, if we left our people in, that they would be killed.

MARK BIELLO, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: A lot of major networks were ordering their people out for their safety, because no one could guarantee the safety of Western journalists.

SHAW: You're on the threshold of the biggest story in the world. You're in the capital of the -- quote -- "enemy" -- end quote. What do you do?

JOHNSON: I was called by three of the highest ranking officials in the government. The call that really sealed it for me was President Bush. I don't remember the exact words, but, to the best of my memory, he said, Tom, your staff in Baghdad is in grave jeopardy. You should pull them out.

SHAW: Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, said, those who want to stay can stay.

JOHNSON: I'll never forget what Ted said to me. That is the decision and you will not overturn me, pal.

SHAW: My plan was to leave the next morning.

JOHNSON: As it happened, the bombs started falling that night.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, the battle has been joined.

SHAW: Once the war broke out, I was trapped.

SHAW: Something is happening outside. The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated. We're seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky.

SHAW: My attitude always has been, the hotter the story, the cooler I become. I save my emotions for later.

SADDAM HUSSEIN, IRAQI PRESIDENT (through translator): Bush, the Satan, has perpetrated this crime. And the great battle has been initiated, the mother of all battles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) radar contact.

JOHNSON: When the bombs came down, the first equipment to go in Iraq was communications equipment. We had a backup way to get out audio.

SHAW: Let's describe to our viewers what we're seeing.

PETER ARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you're still with us, you hear the bombs now. They're hitting the center of the city.

SHAW: Whoa. Holy cow.

BIELLO: We were routed to an underground telephone system, because whoever decided, they did not want to tie up two fiberoptic lines 24 hours, seven days a week for us.

ARNETT: Now, the sirens are sounding for first time. The Iraqis have informed us... BOB FURNAD, FORMER CNN EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: And, all of a sudden, there was silence. We lost all audio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just cut the line.

JOHNSON: And, of course, our biggest fright was that the bomb had hit the hotel where they were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The line is dead.

FURNAD: There was a hush in the control room.

JOHN HOLLIMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Atlanta. Atlanta, this is Holliman.

FURNAD: You could feel the relief in that room. You could feel the physical strain coming out of people's bodies.

HOLLIMAN: I don't know if you're able to hear me now or not, but I'm going to continue to talk you to as long as I can.

FURNAD: And everybody loved those three guys who were over there risking their lives for this coverage.

HOLLIMAN: Put a microphone out the window. I think you'll be able to hear the sound.

SHAW: I didn't care about video. In effect, we were doing radio on television.

Clearly, I've never been there, but this feels like we're in the center of hell.

What we did in Iraq from that hotel constituted the first time a war had been covered live as it was happening.

FURNAD: I looked up at the other monitors, and on the ABC affiliate monitor was CNN. On the CBS affiliate monitor, it was CNN. On the NBC affiliate monitor, it was CNN. The fact was that everybody stole it and put it on the air.

JOHNSON: Some analysts said that he thought that night that CNN was reaching at least a billion viewers around the world.

I still consider it something of a miracle that those who were in that hotel survived.

SHAW: It has been a long night for us. It has been a night none of us will ever forget.

And that's the latest.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: John Holliman's friendly drawl and down-home descriptions were a memorable part of that first night in Baghdad. A true free spirit, John represented the very best of CNN, a fiercely competitive reporter who covered all of the big stories, but did so with compassion and humanity and without a single ounce of pretension. John's life ended far too soon. He was the victim of an automobile accident near his home in the fall of 1998.

Coming up:

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty of murder...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BROWN (voice-over): The trial that gripped the nation.

DENISE BROWN: I believe he murdered my sister.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: One was marked by a blue dot, the other by a white Bronco. Both featured high-profile defendants in a pair of trials that captivated the nation, as viewers followed the live day-to-day drama playing out right on their very own TVs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM KENNEDY SMITH, DEFENDANT: The version of the events in that report are an outrageous lie.

SHAW: William Kennedy Smith was formally charged today in the alleged rape of a woman at the Kennedy family estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

FURNAD: The William Kennedy Smith trial was a natural for us because of the name recognition, the name Kennedy, huge name. So, we knew it was going to be of high interest.

It presented its unique set of challenges for us. For one thing, the judge said that the face of the alleged victim could never be seen on the air. Court TV, which was then just a little-bitty network, they had put a hard-edged gray dot over the alleged victim's face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He raped me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She moved in and out of the frame and they were -- my fear, is they were behind her, that we would get a glimpse of a side and a glimpse in. And it bothered me. While we were on the air, I told the T.D. to make a bigger dot and make it blue and cover their dot with our own that covered more. I was not going to take chances that she was going to be seen on camera and that we were going to violate the court's orders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As to count one, we find the defendant not guilty.

FURNAD: I think what it did is, it proved the popularity of people watching an event happening in a courtroom and unrolling itself. It clearly set the stage for the O.J. Simpson trial some years later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do have a man with a gun in that car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very peculiar, to see all these people on the highway. You can see them down there now.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I'm going to have to interrupt this call. I understand we're going to go to a live picture in Los Angeles. This is Interstate 5. Police believe that -- that O.J. Simpson is in that car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simpson's car, after an almost two-hour chase, pulled into his estate, providing even more drama. For several minutes, the car sat motionless. Simpson emerged holding a photo of his family, instead of a gun. He was taken into custody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to enter a plea at this time?

O.J. SIMPSON, DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you plead to counts one and two?

SIMPSON: Absolutely, 100 percent not guilty.

DENISE BROWN: I believe he murdered my sister. And I will always think that.

Picked her up, threw her against the wall.

There is one phrase that I heard over and over again. They say, it gets easier. Honestly, it doesn't get easier. The only thing that happens is that you don't cry as often.

MARSHA CLARK, PROSECUTOR: Were you lovers?

KATO KAELIN, TENANT OF O.J. SIMPSON: No.

KAELIN: It was an experience that I would not wish upon anybody. It was -- that's about it.

CLARK: Can you describe for us the noise you heard, Mr. Kaelin?

KAELIN: I wanted people to understand, I'd never been in a courtroom for anything. I didn't even have a parking ticket. I think it really is sort of the trial of century. You had ways of reaching people 24/7.

TRACI TAMURA, CNN FIELD PRODUCER: As a film producer, you know, we set up the whole camp O.J. And it was a very elaborate deal. You had your mobile homes sitting there. You had the trailers and all the satellite city of all the trucks lined up. And you had these big scaffolding, which each of us had a position.

He says we have lost jurors at a rate of two a month.

I would be the producer out on the curbside when the attorneys and the participants would arrive. And it was almost like the Oscars.

Are you optimistic you'll be able to get through the trial?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to move along as quickly as possible.

TAMURA: Every morning, for the next year and a half or so, O.J. Simpson's trial took over my life.

JOHNNIE COCHRAN, ATTORNEY FOR O.J. SIMPSON: It is no disguise. It is no disguise. It makes no sense. It doesn't fit. If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.

KAELIN: I think Johnnie Cochran knew how to talk to the jury and -- with his little rhymes. And that, it obviously worked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder.

DENISE BROWN: I was numb. All I heard was Kim Goldman scream. I couldn't cry. I just couldn't do anything, because I -- I thought it was going to be a hung jury. I did not think that they were going to convict him. But I did not think that they were going to let him off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty of murder.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JUDGE LANCE ITO: Would you please poll the jurors?

TAMURA: There will never be another trial like this.

KAELIN: People come up to me and said, hey, Kato, you are the first reality star. I kind of go, what? Because they saw me as a character.

DENISE BROWN: I am working to eradicate domestic violence.

KAELIN: I have a show called "Eye For an Eye." It's coming out all over the nation in September. It is sort of like "Judge Judy" meets "Fear Factor."

DENISE BROWN: Four women die every day from the hands of someone they love and someone they're supposed to be able to count on and trust. And that's awful. I think that's what drives me. And I know Nicole is with me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Next, from Waco to Oklahoma City.

TERRI SHAW, OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING SURVIVOR: It is hard to believe that a fellow American could do something like that to -- to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: CNN, congratulation on your 25th.

KELLY PRESTON, ACTRESS: Happy birthday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh, Waco and Oklahoma City, two men and two events indelibly linked in fire, in death, and in hate, one begetting the other, both powerful and disturbing moments that, at times, were too enormous for words.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shoot-out occurred this morning between ATF agents and members of this religious sect at a compound.

TONY CLARK, FORMER CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There were four ATF agents who were killed in the assault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple of people were shot on the roof, fell off the roof.

CLARK: The call from Atlanta was to get down to Waco as quickly as we could. And I remember thinking at the time, this is going to be over by the time we get there. And 51 days later is when it ended.

People would come there with binoculars, telescopes, to see if they could see it. In fact, even Timothy McVeigh at one point drove his car down and sold bumper stickers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's taking the roof off of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears as if they're starting a full- scale wrecking operation almost. CLARK: The building itself was just made of essentially plywood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As you can see on your screen, there is a great deal of smoke coming out of the building.

CLARK: When we saw the smoke, our worst fears, I think, started to come out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a roaring fire here.

ESSIE SLAUGHTER, CNN DIRECTOR: We stayed with the live shot because we wanted to tell the stories. The anchors at that point were not important.

MIKE CAPPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are a mile and a half away from this fire, almost two miles, really, with an .800-millimeter lens.

CLARK: When the facility caught fire, the only way that we could give a description...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This fire is really rolling now.

CLARK: ... was by looking at the monitor of those cameras.

SLAUGHTER: Everyone thought that this was just going to be a standoff, they were going give up and they were going to come out. And that never happened.

CLARK: I think we all knew that there probably were people inside dying. I don't think that was an area that we wanted to talk about on the air. The fire kept getting bigger and bigger. And, in relatively short time, it was all gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's virtually very little of the building left.

CLARK: Timothy McVeigh was captivated, angered, frustrated, incensed by what he saw at Waco.

The morning of the Oklahoma City bombing, I was in Waco. It was an anniversary of the fire.

CALVIN MOSER, OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING SURVIVOR: And I'll never forget that particular flash of light, very brilliant, bright, white.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had an explosion. We need help.

TERRI SHAW: It was so fast. You didn't hear anything. It was like kind of a whoosh, like you were just like sucked down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It might be a federal building. I'm not sure.

SLAUGHTER: Someone walked into the room and said, we got a live shot. There has been an explosion in Oklahoma. HARRIS: We have learned that there has been a large explosion at the federal courthouse building in Oklahoma City.

SLAUGHTER: We didn't have anybody live there. A lot of our video at the initial stage came from the stations that were there in Oklahoma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy cow.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We got there. And, at this point, the street where Timothy McVeigh parked the Ryder truck was still open to emergency traffic. People were yelling. People were still screaming. They knew people were trapped inside the building. It really felt like a real-life nightmare.

CLARK: I grew up in Oklahoma City. I knew the federal building. I knew exactly where it was.

Pictures tell a story. But when you actually see with your own eyes the floors that had been sheered off, the pieces of metal and concrete and office equipment that were dangling over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what is left of the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.

CLARK: This was in my hometown. And to see this in my hometown was incredible.

SHAW: It is hard to believe that a fellow American could do something like that to -- to you.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I met Timothy McVeigh at a prison where he was being held. He was tall. He was unassuming. He was polite. He didn't want to talk about Oklahoma City. But when you changed the subject to Waco, there was a transformation. His eyes became like fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took just seconds this morning to bring down the remains of the Murrah Federal Building and remove a symbol of terror and death from Oklahoma City.

TERRI SHAW: I had worked in that building for so long. All these people, it was like a small town, all these people that you knew. And all of a sudden, it was gone. It was just -- just gone.

BROWN (voice-over): Still to come, taking down communism, one country at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three hundred thousand people calling for democracy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't let anyone tell you that America's best days are behind her, that the American spirit has been vanquished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before coming to Geneva, President Reagan said he wanted to reduce the paranoia and suspicion between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. That may be happening.

REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

George, just one personal request, go out there and win one for the Gipper.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, Breaking News.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The nation's 40th president, Ronald Reagan, has lost his battle with Alzheimer's Disease.

BROWN: When president Ronald Reagan called on the Russian leader Mikail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall in 1987, few believed it would fall so quickly. But in 1989, the wall did come down. And it took down communism as well.

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The wall represented the divide between East and West. For the people on the Eastern side, it was evil, because it was the limits of their prison.

ALEC MIRAN, CNN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: We got word that a section of the wall was about to be pulled down. And that we were to go there and cover it. Quickly word got out and there were maybe 3,000 to 4,000 to 5,000 people on the West German side dancing, singing, drinking champagne. It was like no party you have ever been to.

And from the East German side of the wall, this arm of a crane came and appeared over the wall. And the crowd burst into the loudest cheering I've ever heard. And suddenly, the wall cracked open.

And looking into the communist side of the wall, you could see there was a group of East German workers dressed in their very plain sort of worker uniforms. For them, this was first time they had seen the West. And it was like they arrived in the land of Oz. I'll never forget the look on their face.

MARK BIELLO, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: As a CNN photographer there, we were being pushed around by the massive crowds. We were cold. We were tired. None of us had any sleep for days. But at the same time, you knew how important this was.

MIRAN: It was almost like physically the wall unleashed a torrent that allowed the people in Czechoslovakia and Hungary and elsewhere to try to throw off the shackles.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I went to Prague from West Berlin. And people were wondering well, could it happen here? The people offered flowers to show that they meant no harm. Under cover police, thugs came over to my cameraman and I and started kicking us. And they stole our CNN camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Students brought an end to the government. 300,000 people calling for democracy. The police nowhere to be seen, intimidated by the sheer power that had been building with the collapse of communism all across the Soviet satellite states. And the Czechoslovak government resigned. And the people celebrated the victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Romania, unfortunately, there were many, many killed. Quite a few journalists were killed. It was very hairy experience, because when we had to feed from the TV station, we had to run down five blocks with sniper fire to get to the TV station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here was a country that the dictator had celebrated Christmas with his family, but it was outlawed for everybody else. You drive along the road and everybody would wave, of course.

As they waved at you, you would look behind them and they were dragging Christmas trees back to their homes. The first time they could celebrate Christmas in their lifetime for many of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media outlets in Moscow, in Russia, were suddenly reporting that Gorbachev had the flu, or was sick or something. And was unavailable, which was the old heavy handed way of saying that he had been deposed. People really wanted to hear Mikhail Gorbachev.

We got word that CNN was going to be granted the first interview. And oh, my gosh, it was exciting. It was hectic. We were racing over to the Kremlin. And it was this fortress in the middle of Moscow, very tight security. And we said how do we get in? They said don't worry, for you, we'll let you in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The threat of the Soviet Union, this cloud of nuclear war hanging over our lives, it was a part of our lives I don't think anyone thought would ever go away. The fear dissolved when people saw what other people were doing. When they saw that other people were standing up and demanding their freedom. And that's the difference that CNN made.

BROWN: Coming up, the 1989 California quake. A disaster on live TV. And the rescue that is still being talked about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't think at the time that it was anything special. And it turned out to be obviously the biggest event of my life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: On July 16th, 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr.'s small, single engine plane disappeared in the waters off Massachusetts. The resulting crash killed the young Kennedy, killed his wife and her sister. And became yet another grim chapter for a family that was all too familiar with grief.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has learned that the body of John f. Kennedy Jr. has been found off the point of Martha's Vineyard.

BROWN (voice-over): It came as a sudden shock. John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Caroline and her sister Lauren killed in a small plane crash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very difficult for me to share this information with them.

BROWN: The nation was stunned and transfixed. The Kennedy family, so familiar with tragedy, was left to grieve again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today's service will be held at the church of St. Thomas Moore in Upper Manhattan.

BROWN: The prince of Camelot, American royalty, gone.

(on camera): Even more stunning to the world than the unexpected loss of JFK Jr, was the sudden death of Princess Diana in 1997. The people's princess, as she was known, was killed in a fatal car accident in Paris. A tragic and untimely end to what began as a fairy tale.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The accident happened at about 12:25 on August 31. The news desk in Atlanta called about 10 minutes later saying that they had heard that there was an accident in Paris involving Dodi Fayad, and at the beginning we didn't know that Princess Diana was in the car. So, I immediately headed for the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are just learning now, just into CNN, apparently Princess Diana has been in a serious road accident in Paris.

BITTERMAN: By the time that I got there, in fact, there were an awful lot of people who had gotten the word that Princess Diana was involved. There was probably several hundred people around the mouth of the tunnel. Police sealed off both ends of the tunnel. There was the crime scene tape and that sort of thing put up across the road. In the tunnel, about halfway through the tunnel, we could see the black Mercedes.

The facts were a little bit slow coming out. We knew that Princess Diana was in the car by that time, but the extent of her injuries wasn't clear. Some reports were that she was in pretty good shape. But of course that proved to be very, very wrong. She was in very bad shape.

By the time that I got to the scene, heard from our desk in Atlanta that several eyewitnesses had turned up and that they were on their way to our bureau in Paris.

Jane, we have got with us a couple of our -- five of the eyewitnesses to the crash. They were on the scene right after it took place.

Finally, at about 4:00 in the morning, we received word from the hospital that in fact Princess Diana had died.

The way that people came out to mourn the loss of Diana was amazing to me. They brought flowers. They left messages. The long, sad procession through the streets of London, very striking events, that funeral. That was one of the home memorable funerals that I have ever witnessed. Such a somber occasion. The two brave young sons marching along behind their mother's casket.

ELTON JOHN (SINGING): And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind...

BITTERMAN: Seven years later, I still drive through the tunnel and I can't help but take a look at that pillar where the Mercedes ended up.

Diana lived her life in front of people, and she died in front of people, and I think that left a truly lasting mark.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: The 1989 earthquake that struck the bay area in San Francisco served as a chilling reminder of the awesome and destructive nature of seismic shifts. The San Francisco quake killed more than 60 people and it caused more than $6 billion in damage.

But this catastrophe was also a significant moment in the history of TV news. Every network, including CNN had satellite trucks in San Francisco at the time. There was a World Series going on, so even though the quake knocked out the electricity, the trucks, fueled by gasoline, were able to beam the pictures out live of the disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the memorable images was from a surveillance camera at the time that the shaking began. Everyone's reaction was, uh oh, something is happening. I gotta get out of here.

We made our way through San Francisco. It was dark. It was spooky. When we got to the bureau, it was dark also because there's no power in the city, except the building had an emergency generator which provided lights for the exit signs. And our bureau chief, Ken Chamberlain, had ingeniously found a way to tap into the power from the exit sign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ken, what can you tell us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The power is out in our building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that's how we managed to send pictures and reports out of the San Francisco bureau during the power failure.

The three areas hardest hit by the quake were the Bay Bridge, where a 50 foot section collapsed. There was also a mile-long section of double-decker freeway pancaked on top of itself. And then, of course, the marina district in San Francisco where a whole city block went up in flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For god's sakes, go and help yourselves out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The footage of the fire in the marina district with the collapsed building in front of it -- it was propped up by beams, and fire was threatening it -- that was one of the images that we've seen over and over again, and it also produced one of the more dramatic rescue stories out of the earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The walls started caving in toward me and then the ceiling fell on me, literally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A woman named Shara Cox (ph) was trapped in the rubble when her building collapsed around her, and a firefighter by the name of Gerry Shannon crawled through the rubble, in an attempt to rescue her and that story was one of the more powerful stories that we told during the '89 earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard a voice asking if anyone was in the building, and I tried to shout but I could tell they couldn't quite hear me. So, I found this iron pole and started banging on the door.

GERRY SHANNON, FIREFIGHTER: After the first chainsaw went dull, they said, you know, don't go back. It looks like this building is on fire. And it just wasn't recommended. But I had already made contact with her and promised her that I wouldn't leave her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew he would be back. I never doubted for a moment that he wouldn't get me out.

SHANNON: When the earthquake happened, I was sitting right there.

I didn't think at the time that it was anything special, and it's turned out to be obviously the biggest event of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I think about what happened, I mostly feel today that I'm -- was very fortunate. Whatever injuries I had, they were all taken care of right away. I lost only possessions, nothing of my friends'. And I didn't realize how many friends I really had until that happened.

One little boy wrote me a darling note about all these things and at the very end he said, I'd send you money, but I don't know you.

SHANNON: I was amazed at her attitude. You know, here's woman that lost everything in 10 seconds. I mean, her -- everything she had on the face of the earth was wiped out. I think during the quake I had a moment of clarity, you know, that possessions, again from Shara, mean nothing. My best friend Rick always goes, that earthquake screwed you up. You know, you're not the same guy. And I'm not the same guy, because my value system changed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you doing, dear? I know we're very, very good friends, and always will be. You don't want that sort of thing to happen, but it does prove that good things do happen, out of really terrible situations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Next, the day that forever changed our lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA, (D) ILLINOIS: CNN, thank you for the outstanding work over the last 25 years.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (voice-over): As night falls, we move to a four-wheel-drive vehicle that makes its way up a rough mountain path, past checkpoints manned by heavily-armed men. We are allowed about an hour-and-a-half with bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (on camera): You have declared a jihad against the United States. Can you tell us why?

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): The arrogance of the United States regime has reached the point that they occupied Arabia, the holiest place of the Muslims. For this, and other acts of aggression and injustice, we have declared jihad against the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are your future plans?

BIN LADEN: You'll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: If there is one defining moment over the last 25 years, one seminal event that shook America to its very core, that defined who we are, it was the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. I was here in New York. I was here in New York, anchoring that day for CNN, reporting as the towers fell.

ANNOUNCER: This just in, you are looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I got outside, I saw everybody was like looking up towards the sky, and I started running downtown toward the building. I got within a few blocks of the World Trade Center when suddenly there was a second sort of roar that came out of the sky and everyone just looked right up and another plane came and just barreled into the other tower.

At first I thought I'm dreaming. I'm going wake up. This can't be. This isn't happening.

I looked up and the first thing I thought was, my God, that plane is flying so low. In a big city with these tall buildings, what's it doing so low? There was a schoolyard across the street. and I remember there were kids that were being evacuated from the schoolyard. And one of the girls looked up into the sky and she said to her father, "Daddy, look, they're doing it on purpose."

BRIAN KIEDERLING, FORMER CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: We just started wandering around the city streets, till we wound up behind 7 World Trade Center, getting some shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not safe here. You want to head uptown, you can get a shot uptown. But it's not safe here.

KIEDERLING: Panning the building, showing the smoke, showing the people leaving.

BROWN: There has just been a huge explosion. We can see a cascade of sparks and fire and now this -- it looks almost like a mushroom cloud explosion. And I can't -- I'll tell you that I can't see that second tower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole tower just came down.

KIEDERLING: There was this wall of smoke that just came up over the top of the buildings, good 20, 30 stories tall, like a tidal wave.

Grabbed a camera, the tripod. And all I could think of at this point in time is, the building just collapsed. There is a wall of smoke and debris coming at us. Is there going to be another explosion? Is there going to be gas, is there chemical in it? And we ran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole building came down.

KIEDERLING: I was over the edge at that point in time. And I'm saying to myself, there's so many things that in my life that aren't completed, so many open ends. I'm not ready to sacrifice my life or have my life sacrificed because someone wants to make a statement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're okay. We're okay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire at the Pentagon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amy is about to go on air.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: There was a voice in the hallway full of running people yelling, "Get out, get out, get out. We've been hit." A firetruck came and started pouring water on the fire. But it was having no effect. I mean, this was an extremely hot, extremely intense fire.

Secretary Rumsfeld was in his suite of offices on the other side of the building from the impact zone. He felt it. And he immediately was on the attack site within moments, much to the displeasure of his security people. But he did it. And there are pictures of the secretary helping other men carry stretchers of the injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reports that another plane is heading toward the Pentagon. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in my life. The twin towers are underground level. The destruction is enormous. Enormous. God save our country -- and what was done to it today.

BROWN: From September 11th and Oklahoma City to the fall of Communism and the Gulf wars, CNN has been there with you every step of the way -- 25 years of bringing you the moments that have defined our lives. That's it for this CNN 25th Anniversary Special. I'm Aaron Brown. Thanks for joining us.

END

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