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President Bush Visits Bridge Collapse Site; Divers Working to Recover Potential Victims

Aired August 4, 2007 - 11:00   ET


VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Very good morning to you. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. The news is unfolding live on this Saturday, the fourth day of August. I'm Veronica De La Cruz.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm T.J. Holmes. Fighting the elements and using their sense of touch, divers resume their search under the Mississippi.

DE LA CRUZ: Plus, Ford makes a huge recall. Could your vehicle be on that list?

HOLMES: Also, is he inexperienced or is he fresh and new? Obama's fellow candidates pile on. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

DE LA CRUZ: A pledge of help for the Twin Cities. President Bush arrived in Minneapolis today for a first-hand look at the wreckage of the I-35W Bridge. He says the people of Minnesota will get through these painful hours and America will stand with them as they rebuild and recover. The death toll from Wednesday's bridge collapse stands at five. The search continues in the murky waters of the Mississippi River for at least eight people who are still missing.

Investigators trying to determine why the catastrophe took place may have a clue. They say the south end of the bridge shifted 50 feet, but the rest of the bridge seems to have collapsed in place.

HOLMES: CNN's Susan Roesgen has been keeping an eye on all the latest developments, the search efforts and she joins us now live from Minneapolis. Also keeping an eye on the president's visit.

Hello to you, Susan.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, T.J. We just saw the president's Marine One, the helicopter, circle several times, giving the president a bird's eye view of the big picture of the bridge. He is now on the ground. He's walking around. He is able to see the Mississippi River for himself. He'll see that it's quite low. There has been a big drought here in Minnesota, so the river is low but it is muddy, murky, difficult for the divers to see anything under there.

He will be talking to some of those divers. He also wandered over to the school bus, the bus that we have seen right from the beginning of this story. The bus with some 60 children and adults on board. If that bus had gone over, then of course the death toll and the number of injured could have been much, much higher. He talked to -- the president talked to one of the people there who helped bring the children and adults out off the school bus. So he's really getting a good up-close look now. He will also be speaking to some of the family members, families of the victims and families of the -- what we believe the eight people who are still missing.

The president is expected to talk. We'll carry his speech live here in Minneapolis. Probably there on the banks of the Mississippi right by the bridge collapse in about 45 minutes -- T.J.

HOLMES: And, Susan, we are keeping an eye on these live pictures of the president here. You can see he's down there with members, certainly, of the NTSB, local officials, looks like some sheriff's officials, also and a diver. The president is down there right on the banks having a discussion with them, getting a briefing.

What is it that the people there really need right now? Of course they need money. Of course they need to rebuild. Do they also really need to know that the president and government are behind them? Are you hearing that from folks, it's a big deal and it means a lot to them that the president is coming?

ROESGEN: Well, they do feel that the president was very quick to respond to this. Certainly he has had criticism even after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans that he wasn't on the spot of the tragedy soon enough.

But as you know, yesterday the first lady was here. She talked to rescuers and recovery workers. Today he's here, again, getting a very thorough look at what's going on. And I can tell you, T.J., that in Washington, Congress is trying to put the fast track on $250 million to get a new bridge here, in addition to the $5 million that has already been allocated just to clean up the debris from all of this.

In the meantime we have the National Transportation Safety Board going full steam ahead with this investigation. And we have that animation that they have released, the computer animation that shows what they are actually looking for. They have been able to do this mock up and this animation and get a sense of what it was like when that bridge fell, and where the fault may lie.

Now, something interesting about that bridge, as veronica mentioned. They have said they know already that one end of it shifted a full 50 feet as it fell, while the rest of the bridge fell in place. And you have to remember, T.J., that this bridge is not like a normal bridge over a span of water that has piers as you would normally see -- piers that support it. It just fell straight.

And the reason there were no piers in between is because it was to smooth the flow of river traffic, the boats that went through. So there was nothing when it collapsed to keep it from going all of the way down to the bottom and bringing all those cars with it.

So certainly the folks in Minnesota here want to know a couple of things. They want to know that the president and Congress care about them. I think they are getting that sense today. They want to know what caused that bridge to collapse and what other bridges could be in danger.

And they want to finally know how many more bodies might still be underwater. They have not heard anything but a sort of unofficial eight people unaccounted for. They want to know whether they are actually still victims in the water. Something that the divers will be looking for in the days ahead -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Susan Roesgen there for us there in Minneapolis. We still are keeping an eye on movements of the president who was there. We just were looking at those live pictures of the president. So if we can take those now, see him again in that live picture there with Senator Coleman there from Minnesota as well.

Just getting a look at what's going on. Certainly there talking to some of the family members of those who have died, also just lending a hand to that community. Many of them who certainly may not be directly -- have someone impacted by this tragedy.

Still it is -- as a whole, that community certainly hurting right now and need to see that support and want to see that support from the president, their government, and their local officials.

So the president got an aerial tour also there on the banks of the Mississippi. Getting a tour, going to be getting a briefing. We expect to hear from the president at about 11:45 -- to hear remarks from him. When we do see that come up we certainly will bring you the president's remarks live.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, all five of the bodies recovered so far have been identified. All of the victims are from Minnesota. They are 51- year-old Paul Eickstadt of Mounds View, 32-year-old Julia Blackhawk of Savage, 60-year-old Sherry Engebretsen of Shoreview, 36-year-old Patrick Holmes of Mounds View, and 29-year-old Artemio Trinidad-Mena of Minneapolis.

HOLMES: And as we've been hearing, as we've been telling you, the search certainly for those victims has been painstaking, been difficult, been slow. CNN's Brian Todd reports on what divers are dealing with beneath the surface of the Mississippi River.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An inch at a time, under swirling murky water, looking, grasping for submerged cars. Dive team leaders now tell us they've identified a few more vehicles but no victims inside them.

Working in teams of three, they can only safely send one diver in the water at once, tethered to the other two. One dive team leader told me there is virtually no visibility. They've got sonar, but they also have to use what they call the Braille method.

CAPT. KEN SCHILLING, DIVE TEAM COMMANDER: If we're able to obtain a license plate, I'll read that, relay that back to the surface, to the investigators for identification purposes. And then they will go around and they will try to breach or gain access to the passenger compartment so that they can search and survey by feel, primarily, you know, the whole interior of the passenger compartment.

TODD (on camera): Dive teams are launching over here and moving just downstream to get to what they call their targets, dozens of submerged vehicles. To get to them they're fighting tough currents, huge pieces of concrete and metal in the water, even falling debris from pieces of the collapsed bridge above them.

CAPT. BILL CHANDLER, HENNEPIN CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT.: We're keeping the divers out of the heavy debris. So we're bringing them up, up to the deck of the highway, but we are not penetrating or going underneath any open areas.

TODD: After battling obstacles and currents, finding a car doesn't always mean success.

SHERIFF RICHARD STANEK, HENNEPIN CO., MINNESOTA: One of the vehicles is below another vehicle, meaning one on top of the other. That vehicle is crushed and sitting on the bottom. We are not able to clear that vehicle. We will have to do it later using heavy equipment.

TODD: Divers are repeatedly encountering obstacles like that. And with dozens of vehicles still in the water, they say this will be a very slow process, also limited by the amount of daylight.

Brian Todd, CNN, Minneapolis.


DE LA CRUZ: You know, there is already talk about rebuilding the collapsed bridge. The House is expected to take a final vote today that would earmark $250 million for the project. Legislation actually appropriating the money would have to come in future legislation.

And tonight at 8:00 Eastern, Soledad O'Brien and the "CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT" present "Road to Ruin: Are We Safe?". That's tonight and tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern.

HOLMES: An early morning launch from Florida to show, you'll find out where this mission is headed and why.

DE LA CRUZ: And dangerous dogs in the news again. This time there's a link to a well-known Hollywood actor. We'll explain, coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one, zero, and liftoff of the Delta 2 rocket.


HOLMES: And that is liftoff. That is going to begin 422 million-mile journey. The unmanned Phoenix Mars Lander blasted off about six hours ago over in Cape Canaveral. If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will land on Mars in on time arrival of May of next year, at which point it's going to scoop up and analyze soil and ice samples from Mars.

DE LA CRUZ: Ten months from now.


DE LA CRUZ: Well, the crew of the Shuttle Endeavour waiting an extra day before blasting off into space. NASA rescheduled their launch from Tuesday to Wednesday, giving workers more time to replace a leaky valve in the spacecraft's crew cabin. Launch countdown is now set to begin tomorrow. The shuttle will carry new equipment and cargo to the International Space Station.

You know, something I've always wanted to see is a launch. Have you seen one?

HOLMES: I have never seen a launch live, no.


HOLMES: All right. We're going to turn to actor Ving Rhames, talk about his dogs. They are under quarantine right now, suspected of mauling to death a caretaker at the celebrity's California home. The coroner's officials say it's unclear if the dogs killed the man or if he suffered a fatal heart attack.

We get more now from CNN's Sibila Vargas.


SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a gruesome discovery.

LT. RAY LOMBARDO, LOS ANGELES POLICE: LAPD received a 911 call from the residents that there was a dead body out on the front lawn.

VARGAS: The victim, 40 years old, badly bitten.

LOMBARDO: Our preliminary investigation indicates that the victim suffered multiple dog bites during a dog attack. The victim is 40-year-old male, black. He lives on the property.

VARGAS: In fact, police say the man had worked at the Rhames' home for two years as a caretaker and dog keeper. The actor was not home when the attack happened.

LOMBARDO: It appears to be just a tragic, tragic accident, somebody who cared for these dogs on a daily basis.

VARGAS: The Rhames family told police their dogs, three bull mastiffs, weigh more than 100 pounds each, and a fourth dog, had never attacked anybody and were friendly. The sign on the gate suggests otherwise. An autopsy is expected this weekend. The dogs were taken away, quarantined during the police investigation.

LOMBARDO: They're being held as evidence. We want to examine them and see if there's any evidence on them that might put more of the story or the incident together.

VARGAS: Ving Rhames, seen here with one of his dogs in 1999, is a fan of the mastiff breed. He's currently out of the country shooting a film in Bulgaria. Police say he knows about the attack but he hasn't made any public comments.

Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.


DE LA CRUZ: Well, members of a Black Muslim splinter group in California accused of carrying out horrendous crimes in the Oakland area, including kidnapping, torture and murder. Police arrested seven suspects during raids yesterday on three homes and a bakery linked to the crimes.

Police say the suspect's most recent homicide, the killing of a local newspaper editor. Chauncey Bailey was shot and killed by a masked gunmen in front of horrified bystanders in the middle of downtown Oakland Thursday. Colleagues say Bailey had been working on a story about the bakery before he was killed.

HOLMES: Well, families in fear in a place some call hell, but it is home to hundreds. A dangerous public housing project.

DE LA CRUZ: And find out why investigators say your I-Reports could help them find out why the Minneapolis bridge collapsed. That is straight ahead.


DE LA CRUZ: Another recall to tell you about, involving Ford cruise control switches. Ford will make repairs to more than 3 million cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans built between 1992 and 2004. Ford's cruise control switches have been involved in several previous recalls linked to reports of fires. Ford says this recall is not linked to any fires and is simply designed to reassure Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln owners.

HOLMES: Of course, in the post 9/11 environment, just about anything unusual can be cause for concern. And this certainly looked unusual. It was kind of a strange egg-shaped thing, as Ali Velshi described it the other day, that turned up in a New York waterway. It was about 200 feet from where the Queen Mary II was docked.

In the end, it is what police described as a case of "marine mischief." The strange-looking vessel turns out to be a replica of a Revolutionary War submarine manned by a Brooklyn performance artist. He says he's sorry that he alarmed anyone. DE LA CRUZ: Well, living in fear in dangerous public housing projects. CNN's John Zarrella takes a look at one troubled community, the scene of a horrific crime.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Citoya Greenwood lives with her 4-year-old daughter in a back apartment in a place called Dunbar Village in West Palm Beach.

CITOYA GREENWOOD, DUNBAR VILLAGE RESIDENT: If you notice, the majority of my pictures, Joya (ph) carries a smile.

ZARRELLA (on camera): She really does. Look at that.

(voice-over): Joya's smiling photos were taken at school at relatives and friends' homes, but not here in this public housing project. Because this place, many residents say, does not breed smiles. They call it hell.

GREENWOOD: She said, mommy, we have to get out. I'm tired of hearing gunshots. I'm tired of not being able to go outside.

ZARRELLA: These days the fear is greater than ever. Greenwood, a single mother, lives four doors down from this now board up apartment. An apartment where last month no one seems to have heard the screams, the cries for help. For another single mother in and her 12- year-old son, Hell, that night, lived up to its name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The one had a big gun in the front and two others had -- with a -- another shotgun.

ZARRELLA: The victim says up to 10 young men forced their way into her apartment and the nightmare began.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of them have sex with me twice. Some have sex with me three times. They're beating me up and make me do those things over and over.

ZARRELLA: The horror lasted three hours. Before they were finished, the victim says the attackers forced her to perform oral sex on her son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told him, it doesn't matter, to save your life child -- to do it. I know you love me and I love you too, but you have to protect yourself.

ZARRELLA: The crime has led to an outpouring of support for the mother and child. St. Ann's Catholic Church gets 25 to 30 checks a day, thousands in donations. The crime has also focused attention on Dunbar Village, federally subsidized public housing that was built in 1940.

MAYOR LOIS FRANKEL, WEST PALM BEACH, FL: You have poverty. You have poor people in projects that are -- really are outdated. ZARRELLA: Dunbar Village needs to be torn down, says Mayor Lois Frankel. The kids need mentors and more youth programs. But every year, Frankel says, federal funds, the primary source of support to run public housing in West Palm Beach, have gone down. And millions of federal dollars that used to be earmarked to fight drugs and crime in housing projects, have now been eliminated.

Frankel says she went to Washington looking for $30 million to rebuild Dunbar. What did she get? Nothing.

FRANKEL: You know what? We don't have $30 million to give. And really the federal government cutting off the funds, those people are left to fend for themselves.

ZARRELLA: So, people continue to live in fear.

TED WHITE, WEST PALM BEACH POLICE: They deserve to be safe, here. And that's something that our city is not overlooking.

ZARRELLA: And cameras may be installed in streetlights fitted with bulletproof covers to keep them from being shot out. Police say fear is hampering their investigation. Residents won't talk. No one sees or hears anything.

Citoya Greenwood is one of the few who speaks out.

GREENWOOD: We're fighting a war zone every single day, and that's what I feel like. I'm fighting a battle zone in Iraq, and I'm not even there.

ZARRELLA: Greenwood hopes some good can come out of last month's tragic event. Perhaps now something will be done, she says, about this place she calls home and others call Hell.

John Zarrella, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.


HOLMES: We turn now to pork barrel spending. And has it, all the pork barrel politics sucking up much-needed bridge repair money?

DE LA CRUZ: You're going to get a chance to decide after you see where some of your money is being spent. That's next.


HOLMES: Look here what's "Happening Now." President Bush, as you see there, in some of newest video we're getting out of Minneapolis this hour. He's getting briefed on the bridge collapse and the recovery efforts there. He took an aerial and foot tour of the disaster site. He is scheduled to speak in about 15 minutes. We will take that live.

Also Britain is halting all its livestock exports after an outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease on a farm west of London. Britain's prime minister is vowing to take quick action to prevent the outbreak from spreading.

Also, the beginning of a 422 million-mile journey, the unmanned Phoenix Mars Lander blasted off six hours ago from Cape Canaveral. If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will land on Mars in May. It will scoop up and analyze soil and ice samples.

DE LA CRUZ: Now more on the after of the Minnesota bridge collapse. The search for bodies continues in the Mississippi River. Five bodies have been recovered so far. At least eight people are still missing. And there is growing optimism, the count won't go much higher than that. Investigators say there is evidence that the south end of the bridge shifted 50 feet to the east at the time of the disaster. But the rest of the structure appears to have collapsed in place. That could offer a clue to the cause of the collapse.

Now, in Washington, Congress is expected to take a final vote today earmarking $250 million in funding for a new bridge. The actual appropriation would have to be included in other legislation.

HOLMES: And the bridge collapse in Minneapolis has sparked concern about the aging infrastructure across this country. The Federal Highway Administration says 24 percent of all bridges more than 20 feet long are structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The government spends billions on roads and bridges every year, but as CNN's Jim Acosta reports, the money doesn't necessarily go where it's most needed.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're wondering why America doesn't have enough money to fix its crumbling bridges, critics of government waste say, hold on to your hats and take a drive down Interstate 99 through central Pennsylvania.

That's where the federal government has spent $690 million to build Interstate 99. The largest city it will ever serve is Altoona, with a population of roughly 50,000 people. The project was spearheaded by former Pennsylvania Congressman Bud Shuster when he was the chairman of the House Transportation Committee. The state later named it the Bud Shuster Highway.

(on camera): I-99 technically is not an interstate, because it never really leaves the state of Pennsylvania. It's actually more of an intrastate, or, as one critic described it, intra-Bud Shuster's congressional district.

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: Essentially, we're deciding what is going to get funded in our infrastructure not on the basis of need, but on the basis of political muscle.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Steve Ellis is a critic of congressional pet projects, known as earmarks, that are written into transportation bills. He says the Bud Shuster Highway is no different than the so- called bridges to nowhere in Alaska, which, if they're ever built, would cost taxpayers close to a half-billion dollars. Ellis slams them all as congressional pork. ELLIS: There are projects that are not getting funded that are critically important.

ACOSTA: Today, Pennsylvania has some 5,900 bridges deemed structurally deficient, more than any other state in the country. Spans like this one near Scranton are patched time and again.

The state's governor, Ed Rendell, is looking to Washington for help.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The American infrastructure is crumbling.

ACOSTA: While Rendell says Congress should eliminate wasteful earmarks, he admits his state has had its fair share of Potomac pork.

RENDELL: I'm not a hypocrite. We benefited by having Bud Shuster as the chairman of transportation. And he was awesome in what he did for us. But, for the overall country, was that good or right or fair or appropriate? No.

ACOSTA: As we drove down the Bud Shuster Highway, we found that it ends just miles from the Bud Shuster Byway, which takes you to the town of Everett, hometown of -- you guessed it -- Bud Shuster. That's where we caught up with the retired congressman.

BUD SHUSTER, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: You talk to any of the people here in central Pennsylvania, and they will tell you that this highway was needed.

ACOSTA: Shuster insists the highway has brought economic development.

(on camera): Wouldn't we have money for those bridges in this state if we didn't have the Bud Shuster Highway?

SHUSTER: Oh, that's ridiculous. That's ridiculous. First of all, you're talking about billions of dollars that are needed here. And the way you get that billions of dollars is, you have to decide that you're going to dedicate more money. And to look at one highway is very simplistic. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

ELLIS: This sort of thing is -- unfortunately, will continue to repeat itself until we actually prioritize our funding to where it's actually the most essential.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Essential may be in the eye of the beholder, or, in Washington, in the holder of power. Jim Acosta, CNN, Everett, Pennsylvania.


HOLMES: And to show you more of the new video we continue to get in from President Bush who is getting an aerial tour and also a foot tour of the devastation there in Minneapolis at that bridge collapse. Here he is taking that foot tour. The president arrived a little while ago and went right to it. He is certainly getting a briefing on the recovery efforts, getting a briefing on exactly what the people there need.

Certainly need not just financial support but just support. It's just to know the government is behind them. The president says he is there to give that certainly to give that. The first lady of course was there yesterday.

We are expecting to hear from the president coming up in about 10 minutes. He's scheduled to make live remarks at 11:45 Eastern time. When that does happen, we will bring those to you live right here.

DE LA CRUZ: We would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the hundreds and hundreds of people in Minneapolis who sent us their photos and video of this bridge collapse. It was critical in telling all of the news. Josh Levs is manning the desk. He's been looking through all of these i-Reports. Have you found some new ones?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have, some that we really haven't gotten to show a lot of people yet. It's really amazing stuff. You and I were talking before about how these pictures really puts you there and make you realize the force of this bridge. It's very powerful.

I'll tell you, we have received more than 550 photographs and video clips also of this tragedy.

Let's start here. This one is from Jeremiah Telemantes showing a close-up of one of the train hoppers crushed by a steel beam. You can see how it just crumpled like a tin can. Incredible image showing the raw forces at work there.

We've also got this one from Chuck Green who heard federal investigators were looking for photographs of the bridge before the collapse because it could help them in their probe. He says he took this picture back in March and now he's hoping it will be useful to them in figuring out what went wrong.




LEVS: Video now that we're showing you. And this was shot by Steve Dworak just moments after the collapse. Now as you can see from the perspective, he was down toward the water level as he recorded emergency crews arriving on the scene during those first few frantic minutes.

Now this Jane Summerlin, the sheer terror of a moment as motorists, a lot of them visibly shaken, obviously, carefully made their way off of that collapsed roadway.

Now, obviously if you see news happening where you are, send your photos and also your videos to When you go over there, you'll see how it works.

And I'll tell you Veronica, if a picture says a thousand words, some of these are Harry Potter books. It's amazing to see what you get just from a few pictures.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, absolutely, you've done a great job today.

LEVS: Yeah? I'm filling in for her on this gig. So thank you very much.

DE LA CRUZ: You've done wonderful, thanks. A lot of people also, Josh, wondering this. What is the anatomy of a bridge, how easily can it bend? CNN's Rick Sanchez goes on assignment to find out.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: It's important to note that every single time something goes over this bridge, the bridge has a little bit of movement. Not much, very little, but now imagine that movement occurring millions and millions of times. That is what causes fatigue.


DE LA CRUZ: Yeah, I know, it's something you probably don't want to be thinking about, but it is a report that you will want to see before you drive over another bridge. Join Rick Sanchez tonight, 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

HOLMES: Also coming up, historic floods are making life miserable for millions. Those details also ahead right here in the NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: New pictures continue to come in to us here at CNN as President Bush gets a tour of the devastation of that bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The president arrived a short time ago lending his support and promising the federal government's support and federal money. The president is expected to speak. He has been getting a briefing from officials on the recovery efforts there. We do expect to hear from the president coming up at 11:45, just about five minutes.

They are setting up right now as we can see for that press conference and as soon as the president begins to make his remarks, we will bring those to you live.

DE LA CRUZ: A desperate situation in south Asia. Massive flooding from torrential monsoon rains has killed more than 250 people and forced millions from their homes. One of the hardest hit countries, low lying Bangladesh. This update now from CNN's Tim Lister.


TIM LISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The district of Manakange (ph) is more than 120 miles from the ocean but the horizon is nothing but water. The people of this densely populated part of Bangladesh have been driven by their homes from the monsoon rains. They're clinging to higher ground just a few feet above the delta. But most expect this refuge disappear under water in the next few days.


HOLMES: We do take you to the president in Minneapolis talking about the bridge collapse.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a result of the collapse of the 35W bridge here in the Twin Cities, bring the prayers to those who wonder about whether they'll ever see a loved one again.

First I want to thank the governor and the mayor and the senators, members of the Congress for working in a coordinated way to respond to this tragedy.

I have met with chief of police and the sheriff and rescue workers, people who represent men and women who are working as hard as they possibly can to save life and to find life, to go under these murky waters to find the facts. It's going to take a while.

But I have been impressed by not only their determination but I've been impressed by their compassion. I have met people that were on the bridge. I met a man that was on the bridge when it collapsed. His instinct was to run to a school bus of screaming children and to help bring them to safety.

We have an amazing country where people's instinct, first instinct is to help save life. There's a lot of people's first instincts here in the Twin Cities was to save the lives of somebody who was hurting.

I know the people of this community thank their fellow citizens who did that. I'm here with the secretary of transportation because our message to the Twin Cities is, we want to get this bridge rebuilt as quick as possible.

We understand that this is a main artery, a life here, that people count on this bridge and this highway system to get to work. There's a lot of paperwork involved with government.

One of our jobs is to work with the governor and the mayor and the senators and the members of the Congress to cut through that paperwork and to see if we can't get this bridge rebuilt in a way that not only expedites the flow of traffic but in a way that can stand the test of time.

I make no promises on the timetable. I do promise that Mary Peters, Secretary of Transportation, is going to be in charge of this project. I do promise she's going to listen to the local authorities to find out what the folks here need. I do promise that when she sees roadblocks and hurdles in the way of getting the job done, she'll do everything she can to eliminate them.

Out of these tragedies can come a better life. And I have visited with the people here believe that not only are they committed to a better life, not only are they committed to turning something ugly into something good, but it's going to happen.

So I'm proud to be with you. Thank you for your leadership. God bless the people of this part of the world. Thank you.

HOLMES: You've just been listening in to the president of the United States there getting a tour and getting a briefing about what the going on there in the Minneapolis. Certainly saying not promising a timetable for when that bridge might be rebuilt, but saying that definitely the priority is to make sure that that bridge in Minneapolis is rebuilt as quickly as possible, putting his secretary of transportation in charge of that and to make sure they cut through any roadblocks to make sure it's done as quickly as possible. We're going to take a quick break here, be back with you in just a second.


HOLMES: Return to some presidential politics now and the power of the blog. Most of the Democratic candidates are scheduled to address a convention of liberal bloggers in Chicago today. That includes candidate Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama as well as former Senator John Edwards. Political observers say it's evidence of the influence of the bloggers in the presidential race. More than 1,500 bloggers are expected to attend the yearly coast convention.

Well also on the Republican side, Senator John McCain is in Iowa today for a town hall meeting. The GOP presidential candidates take part in a debate tomorrow in Des Moines, Iowa and then they will be taking questions from voters in the upcoming CNN/YouTube debate as well. And you can send your questions for the Republican candidates to That event is coming at you this fall.

DE LA CRUZ: And Barack Obama found himself on the defensive this week after opponents pounced on some of his foreign policy positions. CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider reports on the controversy.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): First came the CNN/YouTube debate when Barack Obama said he would meet with unfriendly dictators during his first year in office.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: The notion that somehow now talking to countries is punishment to them which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration is ridiculous.

SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton pounced.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive.

SCHNEIDER: It's got a not supposed to. You're not supposed to say you'd meet with such people without laying some groundwork first.

CLINTON: Let's approach this with some real careful planning and do it right.

SCHNEIDER: Implication, Obama lacks experience in foreign policies. Obama's response?

OBAMA: It's time to turn the page on Washington's conventional wisdom that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of a war.

SCHNEIDER: In that same speech on Wednesday, Obama got tough with Pakistan.

OBAMA: If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.

SCHNEIDER: Another not supposed to, you're not supposed to threaten an ally. Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson joined in the criticism, all touting their Washington experience. Get the idea?

Obama lacks the experience of his rivals in world affairs. In an interview with the "Associated Press" on Thursday, Obama was asked if he would use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and Osama bin Laden. "I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance involving civilians," Obama said.

Clinton's response?

CLINTON: I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons.

SCHNEIDER: The Obama campaign responded that "Senator Obama would act and is confident that conventional means would be sufficient to take the target down. Frankly, we're surprised that others would disagree."

(on camera): His rivals are attacking Obama as inexperienced. Obama's turning that around and arguing, "My critics are prisoners of conventional wisdom. I'm fresh and new. I say things you're not supposed to." Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


DE LA CRUZ: Well, CNN NEWSROOM continues at the top of the hour with our Fredricka Whitfield.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you, Veronica. Good to see you, T.J.

HOLMES: Hello there. WHITFIELD: Happy weekend. All right, a lot coming up beginning in the noon hour. Who didn't feel already nervous about crossing bridges and then the tragedy in Minneapolis. Now it has a lot of cities and a lot of people asking the question very loudly, how safe are our bridges?

Meantime, the Coast Guard didn't necessarily conduct rescue efforts in that Minneapolis tragedy over the Mississippi River. However, they have helped secure the water ways. Well, this weekend the U.S. Coast Guard is celebrating 217 years of jumping into action. We'll be talking to an admiral at the 4:00 p.m. hour to find out just how do they continue to do it. T.J. and Veronica?

DE LA CRUZ: Happy weekend to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks much. I'll take it.

HOLMES: Thank you.

DE LA CRUZ: We'll be watching.

HOLMES: And of course, an amazing story of survival for Minneapolis we need to tell you about.

DE LA CRUZ: A paraplegic driver trapped on that bridge. Found out how he escaped with his life.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN ANCHOR: Teach your kids about money now. It could pay off down the road. Once they learn how money works, they'll be more careful spending it. Sit down and do some budgeting together. You probably don't want to reveal all of your monthly expenses.

But, how about planning a trip to the grocery store to demonstrate financial restraint? Giving your kids an allowance will show them how to save up so they can afford the bigger things and make them do chores to earn the dough. I'm Gerri Willis. And that's your "Tip of the Day." For more, watch "OPEN HOUSE" every Saturday 9:30 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.



DE LA CRUZ: T.J., as you know moments ago we heard from President Bush. The president visiting the site of the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

HOLMES: And our Gary Tuchman spoke with one survivor of the disaster who has now cheated death twice in his lifetime.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Among the vehicles remaining on the wreckage of the destroyed Minneapolis bridge is this blue minivan. Its driver slammed on the brakes as the roadway collapsed. But the van wasn't going to stop in time.

So, the driver, Marcelo Cruz, took evasive action.

(on camera): And, in the last second, you swerved into the wall.


TUCHMAN: And it saved your life.

M. CRUZ: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): His close call, harrowing. But made even more incredible because Marcelo Cruz is a paraplegic. He was by himself in the van and couldn't get out as the bridge crumbled and as fire started to rage.

(on camera): How many cars did you see go in the water?

M. CRUZ: Twenty, something like that.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marcelo has a special hand brake and can normally get in and out of his van with a ramp. But his vehicle had stopped on a severe decline.

So, if you would have gotten out of your van down the ramp...

M. CRUZ: By myself?

TUCHMAN: ... the road was pointing, you would have ended up in the river?

M. CRUZ: Yes, with my wheelchair.


TUCHMAN: With the wheelchair. You would have rolled in the river.


M. CRUZ: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): While he waited helplessly, he heard a woman screaming.

(on camera): What was she saying?

M. CRUZ: Just: "Help me. Somebody help me."

That's stressful, you know, because you want to do something and -- and you cannot do anything, so...

TUCHMAN (voice-over): He doesn't know what happened to the woman. But, finally, help came for him.

(on camera): So, who got you out?

M. CRUZ: There were a couple people, and they help me.

TUCHMAN: Do you know who they were?

M. CRUZ: No. I -- probably, they were working there, workers.

TUCHMAN: You're probably pretty grateful about it.

M. CRUZ: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marcelo keeps seeing his van on TV, as he watches coverage of the disaster with his mother, who was stunned when her son called her from the bridge.

IGNACIA CRUZ, MOTHER OF MARCELO CRUZ (through translator): I was very scared. I was crying, because I couldn't control myself. He was in so much danger.

TUCHMAN (on camera): OK. Hasta luego.

(voice-over): The 26-year-old Mexican immigrant has suffered some back pain from the collapse. But, because he no longer has his van, he had no way to go to the emergency room. So, we were happy to drive him.

Marcelo was left paralyzed after being shot and critically wounded by an unknown assailant seven years ago. So, he is no stranger to hospitals. He was relieved that doctors here told him these injuries are not serious.

He feels he's a very lucky man.

(on camera): How will this change your life?

M. CRUZ: A lot, you know, now, you know, I feel like I have to tell people, you know, that they have to live every day like it's going to be the last day, you know, of their lives. They have to enjoy it, really enjoy, you know, every day.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This coming from a man who has says he has now had two near-death experiences. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Minneapolis.


HOLMES: Another feel good note here about this story. After our story first aired, California-based charity decided and said, they will give him another handicap accessible van. And one other little extra, fly him and his mother out to Disneyland.

DE LA CRUZ: Wonderful, that's great.

Well, CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Fredricka Whitfield. Hey, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, I love that story. It's great, he really is an inspiration in so many ways. You all have a great weekend. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT