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Hurricane Katrina Victims Still in Housing Limbo; January Marks Anniversary of NASA Tragedies

Aired January 27, 2006 - 08:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Half past the hour here in New York.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Can you smell that? Filibuster in the air. Carol Costello with more.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh that's what John Kerry is hoping, good morning everyone. Senate democrats, at least a few of them won't go down without a fight. Debate continues in the senate today on whether to confirm Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

And even though a vote is scheduled for Tuesday, there's a campaign to delay it. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is trying to drum up support though for a filibuster, but the numbers are not on his side. Three democrats say they will cross the aisle and support Alito so the chances of a filibuster working, that's a long shot.

Sago Mine survivor Randy McCloy is now at a rehab center. Doctors say he is out of a coma and he's in fair condition. Still can't talk, though. Family said there might be months of therapy ahead of him. Officials in West Virginia are still probing the January 2nd explosion. Governor Joe Manchin signed off Thursday on a new set of safety measures for miners in the state.

Now from the what were you thinking file, a Northwest Airline flight attendant is under investigation after a grenade was found in her luggage. The flight attendant had been scheduled to work on a Milwaukee to Detroit flight. The woman told authorities she bought the grenade at an army surplus store as a present for her son. The grenade was real but not active.

A creative solution to helping the homeless in Honolulu where housing prices are high. A church is planning to convert old buses to housing. The buses already have bathrooms on board and they will be outfitted with special bunks for sleeping. One additional benefit, the housing goes to where the homeless are. Eventually the churches plan to serve meals on board as well. That's a look at the headlines this morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Carol thank you very much.

Let's get a check of the weather. Bonnie Schneider's at the CNN center, she just got that, good morning.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning Soledad. We are looking at some breezy conditions in South Florida this morning. Right now the temperature in Kendall is 67 degrees, just changed as we were speaking here. But the winds are fairly strong out of the northeast at 20-miles-per-hour with gusts stronger than that, but it's still making for a pretty morning out there.

We can show you we have a live picture of the sky in South Florida to show you courtesy of our affiliate "WFOR" in Miami. And you'll see some clouds out there, but of course that bright Florida sunshine breaking through, eventually high temperatures today there will climb into the low 70s.

Now looking across the country, we also see some clouds on our satellite perspective. And that means some moisture headed in a place that really needs it, into Texas and Oklahoma. We're expecting up to an inch of rain. This will be very beneficial for this area just really unfortunately stricken by drought through much of the season. We're looking at a lot of rain over the next day or so and stretching all the way to the east into Louisiana, Arkansas and even into Tennessee, and as you can see here, climbing up to a little over an inch. Once again in a place that needs the rain is finally getting some rain. Only if we get a little bit further to the west we will be doing okay. We'll work on that. Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: OK, Bonnie thanks.

You've certainly seen pictures of them, lots of people along the Gulf Coast are waiting for one, but do you know how much those FEMA trailers really cost? Let's get right to CNN gulf coast correspondent Susan Roesgen, she's live for us in New Orleans. Susan, good morning.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Soledad. You know these trailers are pretty plain, you're not going to see one of these babies in architectural digest any time soon, that's for sure. So you might be really surprised to find out how much each one of these trailers cost.


ERIKA MALONE, HURRICANE VICTIM: Once you get back here...

ROESGEN (voice-over): Squeeze past the air mattress in the hallway of Erika Malone's rented home in New Orleans, and you'll walk into a bedroom filled with stuff, lots of stuff and more stuff stuffed in the bathroom. The entire worldly possessions of eight people living in one 800-square foot apartment.

MALONE: So how was your day today?


ROESGEN: Erika and her extended family have been waiting six weeks for two FEMA trailers. But FEMA spends about $60,000 for each of these plain white trailers over their estimated life span of 18 months. That works out to $3300 per month and for that much money Erika could get something a lot nicer.

THERESA DEJARNETTE, REALTOR: Its two bedrooms, two and a half baths. And it has all of the classic New Orleans architectural features.

ROESGEN: New Orleans realtor Theresa DeJarnette showed us an elegant apartment.

DEJARNETTE: This is the parlor. Imelda Marcos could live in here.

ROESGEN: The apartment rents for $2600 a month. That's $700 less than the government spends per month on a FEMA trailer.

MALONE: I would rather them give me the funding and I can actually go out and try to find a house to stay in for 18 months versus them putting a trailer on my property.

ROESGEN: FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney told CNN that the price of the trailers is not limited to only the purchase price, but also shipping, maintenance, utilities, and removal... each aspect at a fair price for the area and conditions. And he says, for those who have lost their home in a devastated area, travel trailers or mobile homes can often be the most effective means of meeting that housing need.

FEMA does offer cash for housing assistance, but less than half of what it spends per trailer. And while Erika waits for her trailer, her two children will go to bed tonight as they have for months, sleeping on the air mattress on the floor, while she sleeps on the sofa.

MALONE: Goodnight.

ROESGEN: Dreaming of a place of their own.


ROESGEN: Now Erika Malone and her children used to live in New Orleans east. That's a part of town that got swamped by the storm surge from hurricane Katrina. So Erika really wants one of these FEMA trailers Soledad so that she can park it right in her driveway and start repairing her home.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, same story for a lot of people there. Susan Roesgen for us, strong and clearly. Thank you for that report. Incredible story. Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: This is the mean season for NASA. On this day 39 years ago the crew of "Apollo One" died in a fire during a test on a launch pad. Next Wednesday marks the third anniversary of the loss of "Columbia" and tomorrow will be 20 years to the day since "Challenger" exploded in the sky over Cape Canaveral. NASA administrator Mike Griffin told me what's on his mind this time of year.


MICHAEL GRIFFIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: The crews which have been lost in the history of space flight, both here and on the Russian side gave their lives so that people left behind who are, after all, flawed and fallible human beings could learn those lessons and move on. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MILES O'BRIEN: What is a lesson for some is a terrible personal void for others. Joining me now from Washington is June Scobee Rodgers widow of "Challenger" mission commander, Dick Scobee. June, good to see you again.

JUNE SCOBEE RODGERS, WIDOW OF COMMANDER DICK SCOBEE: Hello Miles, great to see you, thanks.

MILES O'BRIEN: Those words of Mike Griffin, that sense of how they gave their all, the ultimate sacrifice, so that others may learn and the progress might continue. Do you think those are words that Dick Scobee would have uttered?

RODGERS: You know, Dick Scobee believed he was a long line of pioneers like those that crossed the Atlantic in Conestoga wagons going west, he saw himself as an explorer, space explorer. He was willing to take those risks for something he believed in dearly.

MILES O'BRIEN: The event tomorrow, once a year, you are faced with that milestone. Of course, it's not like the loss goes away and it's only there at this time, but these moments when we all collectively think about it, how difficult is that for you and your family?

RODGERS: Miles, every day, we remember Dick Scobee and our family; we have fond memories of him, great joys. I think that a milestone and anniversary is a time to reflect to remember them, and to, at this time, to share with our nation their love for the space program and how the families wanted to continue their mission with these "Challenger Learning Centers" across the nation.

MILES O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the ""Challenger Learning Centers." It's a place I'm a big fan of, as you well know.


MILES O'BRIEN: These places, they are remarkable places, middle school students come to these places and go through simulated missions and are truly, get the bug, they get inspired, they learn about team work and science and space and they learn about "Challenger" as well. It's hard to think of a better legacy of that crew.

RODGERS: That's right. The families came together and said let's continue the mission. And we wanted to inspire youngsters to look to the future with their own space exploration activities. They climb aboard this space station simulator and they fly a mission to moon or mars or beyond and they work together as scientists and engineers and even the flight doctor, solving problems.

And Miles, this is so important to help schools, to motivate youngsters, to study science and math. But it's also important for our nation because it helps our work force development and we're so in need of scientists and engineers. It's not just middle school students anymore. We have kindergarten through fourth grade programs and even some universities work with programs at our "Challenger Learning Centers." We opened up number 53 last week in Kansas.

MILES O'BRIEN: Congratulations on that.

RODGERS: They are really growing.

MILES O'BRIEN: I know you've made a connection with Evelyn Husband, the widow of the commander of "Columbia." What has that been like getting to know her? She's a very strong lady as well. But as you hear that story, in many respects what happened at NASA, it was a repeat of what happened at "Challenger." What has that been like connecting with her?

RODGERS: Well, from the day that I was watching your newscast and saw "Columbia" lost, I made the phone call to help her in any way that I could. We've grown to be fast friends. She -- you know, both of us having lived through this now, we've experienced the loss of our loved one in a very public way. You know, it helps when a nation mourns with you, but it also hurts when you have this gaping wound of grief that's made so public.

She has moved on immensely with writing her book. Her children are growing up. We're delighted to see that. And she has even traveled to Italy with me. We've shared a fondness of friendship and we've shared in this delight of having loved a commander of a space mission. And we each, in our own ways, want to continue the memory and legacy of our loved ones.

MILES O'BRIEN: Alright. Best to you and your family. I know your son and daughter will not be far and all of those grandchildren tomorrow as you spend some time remembering the crew with others. We wish you well. June Scobee Rodgers.

RODGERS: Thank you so much, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: Thanks for being with us.

Sir Isaac Newton once said if I can see further than anyone else it is only because I am standing on the shoulders of giants. Today, we remember these giants. Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee, "Apollo One." Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnick, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Greg Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe, "Challenger." Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Mike Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Ilan Ramon and Laurel Clark. Giants all, their sacrifice not forgotten.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Rock superstar Bono has a new way to raise money for AIDS, Andy Serwer's "Minding Your Business" this morning, good morning.

ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He always has great ideas I think.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And this is another one.

SERWER: Another one. Let's talk about GDP for the fourth quarter, how fast did the economy grow at the end of last year? This is our first read on it and it's not very good. 1.1%, we were expecting 2.8%. That 1.1%, the worst reading in three years, down from 4.1% in the third quarter. Now Soledad, you know --

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Can you back up and tell me what that means exactly.

SERWER: It means the economy is growing at 1.1%, which is similar to say a savings account rate or a bank account rate. It's a very slow rate of return for the economy, only 1.1%.


SERWER: Very slow. You know the world economic forum is going on in Davos, Switzerland. This is the 35th year that big wigs and eggheads get together and talk about the world's problems. I think you can make the argument that they talk a lot but there's not a lot of action. Not a lot happens, not a lot comes out of the forum. Wouldn't you know it, though?

It would take Bono to actually do something. The Irish rocker announcing a new program to help fight AIDS and HIV in Africa. Interesting thing here, Soledad. It's a program called "Red" and what this is, is different products from different companies rolling out red products.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Is he holding something?

SERWER: That's a red American Express card. See, here are the companies involved. American Express, Converse, GAP, Giorgio Armani, all introducing red products, red shoes, that's probably from Converse. Here is the Web site. Part of the proceeds of these products will go to the fight, the global fund to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa. Some of these products are made in Africa. Isn't it nice to see some action rather than words?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Someone who goes to the economic forum with an actual economic policy change?

SERWER: Yes. A plan, a program.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: How about that?

SERWER: Yeah, noble idea.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Bono, as always.

SERWER: As always.


SERWER: You're welcome.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, a small town boy makes it big. This morning though, we introduce you to the real life "Sundance Kid." All he needed to get his film at the Sundance was a dream and a loan from mom and dad, oh yes and help from his entire hometown. We'll tell you his story just ahead this morning. Then later, building bridges with baseball. How one family used sports to bring hope to people who desperately need it. Those stories are ahead as we continue right here on "AMERICAN MORNING".

MILES O'BRIEN: The Sundance Film Festival can turn an independent filmmaker into the next big thing. Kevin Smith went there with his movie "Clerks" and star director Steven Soderbergh was pedaling his pictures there long before he was a household name. Is he really a household name? Maybe.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, I think, kind of.

MILES O'BRIEN: In some households. Any way, but he's a big guy, he's a big director. So who's next? For that we go live to Park City, Utah, and of course she knows who Steven Soderbergh is, our entertainment correspondent, Brooke Anderson who is either, as we say, up early or up late, we don't know which. Having a good time I hope out there in Park City.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: I'm having a great time Miles, thank you. Also Quentin Tarantino got his start here for "Reservoir Dogs." And sure there are many movies here at "The Sundance Film Festival" with budgets of millions of dollars and A-list stars such as Jennifer Aniston, Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone, but there are also movies made for mere thousands. As one filmmaker knows, this is a place where dreams are realized.


ANDERSON(voice-over): Welcome to Stafford Springs, Connecticut, population about 16,000. Life is calm here now. But that was not the case in the summer of 2004. That's when 20-year-old independent filmmaker Roger Ingraham shot his first feature length movie here. A vampire flick called "Moonshine."

ROGER INGRAHAM, FILMMAKER: I wouldn't have made this in Los Angeles, it wouldn't have happened. But by coming home, I found a lot of support.

ANDERSON: A lot of support! The film's entire 22-day production budget, $9,200 came as a loan from Ingraham's aunt and parents. And his sister and mom both star in the film, when they weren't cooking food for the crew. Ingraham also received support from the town.

INGRAHAM: We have three-car accidents in our film and all of the cars were given to me for free by people in our town who just believed in the project. I went to the Stafford Police Department and asked them, would you be willing to, you know, lend me your cop cars and your cops for six hours in the middle of the night and what did they say, yes!

ANDERSON(on camera): Two years later, Ingraham's hometown support and hard work have really paid off. He's celebrating his 22nd birthday here at "Sundance", where his movie is an official selection and he is the youngest filmmaker at this year's festival. ROBERT INGRAHAM, FATHER: You come out of college, you got a bunch of grades in short under your belt, you still haven't done anything. So, this is his graduation night.

ANDERSON(voice-over): Ingraham hopes graduation night leads to a place in Hollywood.

INGRAHAM: They just come up from warm weather into cold weather and watch the film and then if they like it, then it could go to theaters and do the whole gamut.

ANDERSON: From the tiny town of Stafford Springs to Park City, Utah, Ingraham is a real "Sundance Kid" hoping to make a killing in Hollywood.

INGRAHAM: Well I'm still a small town boy, so to speak.


ANDERSON: Today is actually Roger's birthday so we want to wish him a happy birthday. Miles, we just found out a couple of days ago that now he has his very own publicist. So it doesn't take long, does it?

MILES O'BRIEN: I would say he's on the way. Happy birthday --

ANDERSON: He's on the way to Hollywood!

MILES O'BRIEN: Is here... I got you a publicist. Thank you, Brooke Anderson, have fun out there. Coming up, we'll have more on "Sundance." What's getting the most buzz at the festival? A lot of folks are talking about the sexy but mysteriously disappeared from Katie Holmes' new movie. "AM Pop" is straight ahead... "American Morning" continues.


JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pam Salagi was well into her 40s when her first scuba diving trip changed her life.

PAM SALAGI: I was a manufacturer's rep for 25 years with my husband and just say, you know what, I want to do something totally unique, totally different. Work in a scuba shop! I didn't look at it as a career change. I didn't look it at semiretirement. I looked at it as an objective I wanted to reach.

WESTHOVEN: Hooked from her first dive, Salagi went home to Sarasota, Florida trading in her day job to become a scuba instructor.

SALAGI: I love it, because I can take somebody who, at any age, whether they're 12 years old, or whether my oldest student being 80 years old, and offer them something they've never seen before in their entire life, a totally new experience.

WESTHOVEN: Salagi remembers the first time she breathed under water.

SALAGI: Terrifying. When I took my lessons right at this very pool and I had to put my face in the water and breathe, I thought that was the end of the world.

WESTHOVEN: But her confidence grew and Salagi says her early fears help her calm students when she takes them under water for the first time. Now, 58, Salagi wants to share her passion.

SALAGI: I have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old grandson. I hope I get the privilege of teaching them how to scuba-dive. That first and then maybe doing adventures with them. Now, even though we're older, there's a whole world out there for us.

WESTHOVEN: Jennifer Westhoven, CNN.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, kids from New Jersey played baseball in the Dominican Republic. They lost every single game, but you know what? They came home winners. We'll tell you how that happened ahead on "American Morning," we're back in a moment.


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