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Deadly Tornadoes Hit Midwest and South

Aired February 29, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening, everyone.

We have break news tonight. Right now these are the hours of peak danger for millions of people from Ohio and Pennsylvania to Alabama and parts of Georgia, tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings are now up across the area. All part of a massive punishing and deadly storm system that did this to the southern Illinois town of Harrisburg, hammered Branson, Missouri, and leveled parts of Kansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Now it began just before dawn. Here's the terrifying sound that awakened one family in Frankfurt, Kentucky.

Imagine waking up to that. Frankfurt was spared thankfully but so many other places were not. At least 10 people have died in this still menacing storm system. One in Tennessee, three in Missouri, six in Harrisburg alone. Survivors there and across the area describing what they saw and what they felt.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very devastating. We are lucky compared to people out that way. Very lucky.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overwhelmed. Just overwhelmed with the emotions. I had no idea it was this bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lights went out. He came out of his bedroom and all of a sudden there was a freight train. I mean the whole house was shaking, and he said -- I said, oh, my god, it's a tornado, and Dalton grabbed me and pulled me in the pantry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The windows were starting to blow out and I knew the pantry was the closes place with no windows.


COOPER: Smart little kid. Harrisburg is under a curfew right now. The tornado that struck there measuring near the top of the scale, 170 miles an hour winds, upwards of 100 people hurt, up to 300 homes known destroyed right now.

A shopping center, you see there, simply obliterated. The storm that did it measured three or four football fields across and stayed on the ground for miles. Literally tore the side off a local hospital. You can see the beds next to the place where the windows used to be. Could have been far worse. Hospital staff at least they had enough warning time to get patients to safety to move them further indoors.

And as horrific as the damage is and as heart-wrenching the loss of life is, we're also learning as we did in Joplin, Missouri, last year, that the people in Harrisburg are stronger. They are made of much stronger stuff than just timber and bricks and mortar -- excuse me. We'll talk to the major shortly. First Chad Myers on where the storm that hit Harrisburg, where it's threatening right now -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the storm system, the line between the clash of the warm and the cold has moved off to the east, Anderson. Not so much for Washington, D.C., although there are some showers, some thunderstorms you're probably hearing a rumble of thunder around Somerset and to Pennsylvania, also in the nation's capital. But that's not the area that we're watching for the potential for tornados tonight.

That would be farther to the south. Farther to the south into places all the way down here into Virginia, the western little boot hill of Virginia, down into almost Atlanta, Georgia, and even into Mississippi, Alabama and into parts of Tennessee. That's the only real area that has a threat right now.

Let me tell you, though, last night that EF-4, EF-4 tornado, 170- mile-per-hour tornado, only about one out of any four days that ever in a year will have a four tornado or bigger, about once every five years for an EF-5. So this was a rare tornado although there were only 15 other tornadoes that day or that night. Typically when you have one very large tornado, it's a system that might put down 100 tornadoes in a day.

This didn't do it. The thing was this storm had it moved left or right by one mile, Harrisburg would have been completely spared because it would have been farmland. There would have been no story here but tonight is the night that you need to understand before the severe weather season occurs, you need to go out and buy a tornado warning siren from the NOAA weather radio.

It's a NOAA weather radio. You put it in your house. You program your county in it and it will wake you up if a siren goes off at night. Those sirens that are outside, we've all heard them, they go around, they're not made to wake you up. They're only made to tell you to go inside if you're outside. All these people were inside. It was 5:00 in the morning. Many people didn't hear the siren, they didn't wake up from the siren, but that NOAA weather radio would have gotten you up in a big hurry.

COOPER: And Chad, as we look closer at the -- at the images from Harrisburg, just the devastation, I mean 170-mile-an-hour winds, and this thing stayed on the ground, we're told, for miles.

MYERS: Yes, almost 20 miles. And it was 200 yards wide. Now you have to think about it. Just watching the football game or a soccer game. Think about a tornado that's twice as long as a football field is long and with winds of 170 miles per hour driving itself right through your city. Right through your town. And then you find the miracle that literally the whole town wasn't devastated only the south side.

There are many parts of Harrisburg that are just fine and if you have loved ones that you can't get ahold of, I mean, trust me, there is just the power lines are a mess, obviously cell towers are a mess, line of communications in and out of that town are still not going to be repaired for many days. It's going to be a couple of days before they get their feet back on the ground, but this town will survive. It will come back and it will come back stronger than ever before.

COOPER: And it really does take time for your eyes to kind of adjust to the reality of what you're looking at in those pictures, you suddenly realized, boy, that's a storefront that's been crushed now and it's just laying in rubble.

Chad, we're going to check in with you throughout the hours to track these storms. This is a dangerous storm system that is still playing out.

Let's check in with CNN's Don Lemon who's on the ground right now tonight in Harrisburg, Illinois.

Don, what are you seeing there?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you know, Chad is exactly right. And you have seen this. You'll be driving and it looks like nothing is going on, then all of a sudden you see all of the damage.

I just want to show you, this isn't a major city center, right? So not a lot of electricity around here. Electricity, within maybe a mile or so, fine, but then when you get to where the storm actually hit there is no electricity, it's pitch black. Right over there in the dark they lost a senior center, they said, earlier today. Then if you come back around here where I am, Anderson, this was a Hibbett Sports and then it was also -- a little strip mall through here that had a Cash & Carry, and whatnot and all. A couple of different stores.

This is completely gone. You see the big iron girders back there and also the pylons and everything that are here. And also there's like glass and merchandise still in there and you see debris, as well, and also insulation and just shards of wood, sharp wood, so -- it's amazing to see how this thing just came through and then just on the other side, it looks like nothing happened.

I want to take you through. It's going to be -- probably get a little dark here and then some of the extra light here from -- because this is where the media has been parked out and also where the people who are trying to clean up. Right over that ridge where you see that big bright light and you see some yellow lights over there, that's where they said most of the six people who lived -- the people who died, that's where they lived and that's where they died over in that area and there are buckets over there to try to get the electricity, try to get the electricity back on.

And then if you go over here to the left, I can't -- go over this way back the other way, back to the Wal-Mart. There's a Wal-Mart over here, Anderson, which was a super Wal-Mart, one of these giant stores, and if this had happened during business hours it would have been really hundreds of people in there and that, they say, is damaged pretty badly. And then over a little bit further to your left you can see the electricity is still on. There's like a Sonic over there, a Burger King, nothing damaged over there.

COOPER: Right.

LEMON: Except they're not letting cars through. So back around over here again, the Wal-Mart that's completely damaged, the ridge over there where most of those people they say died, the six folks here, and then also right in here where you have the strip mall and this Hibbett Sports. Imagine if people had been inside, this thing just collapsed on top of itself so you can see something terrible happen here.

And the stories, Anderson, that I'm hearing from people, and you're going to hear later, one guy here who is a volunteer firefighter, storm chaser, was in his truck when it happened. He survived this EF-4 tornado and you will see his bandages and you'll see the blood. He'll show it to you coming up.

COOPER: Don, appreciate the reporting.

This afternoon Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg described the feeling he had when the tornado warning went out. He said he felt in his gut that something horrible would happen. It has, it certainly has, and he's been having the worst day any mayor can possibly have especially in a town where chances are everyone tonight knows someone who either died in this storm or whose house has been badly damaged in this storm, or whose life is going to be changed one way or another from what happened when that storm touched down today.

It's why we're so grateful he could spare us a few moments to talk tonight.

Mayor, just the scope of this, do you have your arms around it? I mean can you give us a sense of the damage that you have been seeing?

MAYOR ERIC GREGG, HARRISBURG, ILLINOIS: Anderson, it's absolutely been a horrific day here in Harrisburg, Illinois. We've lost six lives. We're a very tight-knit community. People care about each other and to lose six lives and have, you know, many, many hurt and, of course, millions of dollars in devastation is just heartbreaking for a community.

And it's heartbreaking -- we've seen this in Joplin, Missouri, last year. In fact, many of our people went to Joplin to help out. My daughter was one of them. And now here today we're faced with this here in our community, in our area, and so it's just been a very tough day for us and our hearts are going out, our hearts are broken, in fact, for those that lost their lives and their families and those that are injured.

But I'll assure you this, Anderson. I appreciate what you said. This is a community that's going to rally around, you know, itself. We have people that care about each other. This is a region of the country that we care about each other. The outpouring of support from the -- from the governor of Illinois, all the way down to neighboring communities has just been profound. I mean we've had more -- more people coming into this community offering to help us and just in whatever way we need they're here, so it's very redeeming.

It makes me glad to be an American and glad to be a mayor of a small town in southern Illinois, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Well, as you said, we saw that in Joplin. We saw it in Nashville after the floods there. People really taking care of one another, bringing out the best in people.

What's the latest on rescue operations?

GREGG: Well, right now what we're doing is we're certainly making sure we've got every man, woman and child accounted for. We're making sure that we're taking care of those that have been displaced, whatever they need, food --


COOPER: Are there people still missing at this point?

GREGG: -- water, whatever they need were taken care of. No, there's not. I think we have everyone accounted for, which is, you know, we're very thankful for that. Right now we're just still working through the debris, just checking and -- you know, just doing our due diligence to take care of the people of Harrisburg, Illinois.

COOPER: I heard you say, Mr. Mayor, that when the sirens were going off this morning that it was kind of eerily quiet.

GREGG: Well, when the sirens started going off, I immediately got up, got my wife and my two sons up, and we went out to -- actually I don't have a basement in my home so we went to our neighbor's house. We live up on a hill and I actually stood out with my son and kind of tried to assess where the -- where the problems was at within the city, you know, and it became eerily quiet, just -- and the sirens going off and then you could hear -- you know, you could just hear the horrible sound and you're thinking this is just unbelievable, you know, happening in our community.

This is the worst disaster to ever hit Harrisburg, Illinois, and with the loss of life and just the damages, but, you know, immediately -- I'll tell you this, Anderson, we went into action. You know, this is a community that does not run away from, you know, from problems, from horrific events like this. We run to help our neighbors and the people we love and care about. And that's the way the entire region has been today and the entire state of Illinois has been and the Midwest. I mean, we've got people coming from everywhere. We've just basically put together an army of support to come in here and help us today so we're very grateful and as a mayor I can tell you I'm very -- I feel very blessed today to have the support that I do in Harrisburg, Illinois, but the loss of life is heartbreaking and my heart is broken for, you know, the families that now are dealing with this tragedy and, of course, all the ones that are hurt.


GREGG: And we can rebuild, and we will rebuild, Anderson. We're going to put this town back. I mean, we are a community that -- we may get knocked down seven times but we're going to get up eight times.

COOPER: Well, Mr. Mayor, just finally I want to ask you, that store behind you, we see the sign that says "sports" on it. It looks like that's kind of laying on the ground. Was that -- I mean was that a second store -- I mean how tall was that store?

GREGG: That's -- that was a large store and I mean this -- you know, there's a couple of things, Anderson, you know the time that this event took place, when this tornado came through, of course, it was an F-4 they have determined, 170-mile-an-hour sustainable winds but when this storm came through, you know, today we're all connected. We all have our cell phones, we all have ways to communicate, well -- you know, at five minutes to, you know, 5:00 in the morning we don't have our cell phones on.

We're not watching television, we don't have the radio on so our communication system was knocked down but the sirens did go off and it went off in time -- I actually talked to eyewitnesses that were able to get loved ones in safe, secure areas, but, you know, it came upon us, I guess, after -- you know, when the sirens went off it came upon us so quick -- quickly that those that we did lose just could not get out of the path. And again, I was on site almost immediately, and it's like nothing I've ever seen and I pray to god I never have to see it again.

COOPER: Well, Mayor Gregg, I mean, our -- I appreciate your time, first of all, and our hearts are with you and with the people of Harrisburg and the surrounding counties tonight, thank you for being with us.

GREGG: Thank you, Anderson. Good night.

COOPER: Good night.

There's more to talk about this. Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, obviously Google Plus, you can add us to your circles. Or you can follow me on Twitter right now @andersoncooper.

Later on in the program we have new developments in the Ohio school shooting, more importantly the stories of three kids who lost their lives. I'm going to talk to the mom of one teen boy. Tomorrow he would have gotten his first paycheck from his first job at a local bowling alley. She wants to bury her little boy with that paycheck in his coffin. We're going to talk to her tonight.

Also throughout the hour breaking storm coverage continues. We'll talk to a storm chaser who got just a little too close to the storm. We'll show you what he saw.



STEVEN VAUGHT, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I got up and took two steps off the couch and then me and the two dogs I have and the trailer started rolling down the hill and you can see what's left. And after I rolled five times, I mean, I can remember everything about it. I was -- once it hit the ground on the fifth time, everything just -- I saw daylight. I don't know how I'm here. No doubt. The Good Lord just didn't call me is all I know. Wasn't my time.


COOPER: Steven Vaught of Greenville, Kentucky. We're hearing so many stories like that. He survived a storm that's already taken at least 11 lives. Utterly devastated the southern Illinois city of Harrisburg and is on the move right now. A lot more lives potentially in jeopardy tonight. That's our breaking news and that's what Chad Myers is going to be following for us throughout this hour. We're going to check in with him again shortly.

First let's check in with a volunteer firefighter and storm chaser Brandon Culkin.

Brandon, first of all, how are you doing? I see that bandage around your head.

BRANDON CULKIN, STORM CHASER: I'm doing all right. I'm banged up and I'm sore, but I'm alive and that's all that matters.

COOPER: What happened to you?

CULKIN: I was out chasing the storm and I heard that the storm was getting a little too close to the neighboring town so I headed back towards town and the wind and the rain picked up a little bit, and so I pulled off somewhere and next thing I know, my ears popped and all my windows broke out in my vehicle, and the next thing I know, I'm getting tossed and rolled and, I mean, it's just completely a miracle that I'm standing here right now.

COOPER: Did you stay -- remain in the vehicle because we're looking at pictures. I mean it looks like that vehicle just rolled and rolled and rolled.

CULKIN: It did and I had a gentleman come up to me and make sure I was all right. But after that he went to find help and I climbed myself out of my vehicle and the only way I done that was with the Good Lord's help.

COOPER: Where else are you -- I mean do you have bandages elsewhere?

CULKIN: Yes, I have a laceration on my left hand, on my lower left leg, and I have cuts and scrapes on my left arm and just places where shards of glass hit me in my face and all over my body.

COOPER: Can you -- I mean, can you describe what it's like to be that close? I mean you say your ears popped and then --


COOPER: All the windows cracked? Broke out of your car?

CULKIN: Yes, it was probably the loudest sound I ever heard. The popping sound, it was like going over a mountain, how your ears pop, but 10 times worse than that, and next thing I know, all the windows shattered in my vehicle and I knew I was getting hit and I was directly in its path and I just kept rolling and rolling.

COOPER: Have you -- have you ever seen anything like this? I mean not just what happened to you but what's happened to your neighbors and to the town?

CULKIN: No, I've never seen a devastation like this to our community. We've had some floods, but nothing to this devastation and the loss of lives that we've had today.

COOPER: Have you gotten your head checked out?


COOPER: Yes, OK. Because you --

CULKIN: Everything checks out all right. They got me in, checked me out, stitched me up and sent me out the door.

COOPER: All right.

CULKIN: They had bigger priorities to handle and I respect them for that.

COOPER: Yes, understandably. Brandon, I'm glad you're doing OK and I appreciate you coming on to talk about it, and glad you're doing OK, as I said.

There's so many stories emerging tonight, not just of what's been lost but how survivors are coping right now and how they've come to grips with the challenges that lie ahead. Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg said it best, these are people who get up when they're knocked down and if they get knocked down seven times, they'll get up eight times.

Tyler Profilet of station KFVS has been on the ground all day talking with people in Harrisburg. He joins us now.

Tyler, what have you been seeing in terms of damage and the recovery effort tonight? TYLER PROFILET, KFVS: Anderson, I've seen a lot of damage. I have rolled up on the scene around 6:30 this morning so just around daybreak and when I first arrived, the strip mall behind me was the first thing that I saw and then as I started to pull around the parking lot, that's where I saw the area that the locals call Gaskin City. That's where we've had a lot of the fatalities and a lot of those injuries, as well, and we've been talking a little bit throughout the show and throughout the day how reminiscent this is of Joplin. Obviously not a population center the size of Joplin but when you're talking about devastation and be able to see the homes flattened and seemingly be able to see for miles where there used to be a tree line, there it is very similar.


PROFILET: But in this strip mall here, we talked -- Don was talking about the different stores here. There was an Alltel Wireless store here. I was able to talk to the manager. He said he grew up in Oklahoma, of course, in tornado alley, so something that he's very accustomed to. He says he's never heard anything like this. He's never seen a tornado leave this much devastation, so to give you an idea of someone who grew up with it, they say it's still one of the worst they've ever seen and for the people that were in Gaskin City, that area including a teenager I talked to today that was able to survive it, he says it's the closest to death he's ever been.

COOPER: You know, Tyler, I don't if we --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm praying. I mean I'm really hoping and praying to God that everything will be cool but I was, I was really thinking for a second that we were going to die. I mean, I was scared. I was -- I really thought my dad and I were going to die and get -- or get thrown from our trailer and die. It was scary. I've never been so close to death in my life. It was scary.


COOPER: Tyler, you were saying that a number of folks who did die, who lost their lives, six in that area, were kind of all in the same area. Do we know why in that area so many, so many died?

PROFILET: Anderson, this was just the path of the tornado. There was a clear path of destruction. I know it's nighttime now but you can see that there was a 200-yard-wide path that this tornado cut through and the margin of error for complete destruction and being safe was so narrow, as a matter of fact, you saw homes that were destroyed and flattened, and literally right across the street, you're talking 35, 40 yards, you had homes that just had the siding ripped off, so the gap between total destruction and being spared was so, so narrow, so some people were very, very fortunate but obviously for six people and hundreds of others that were injured they weren't quite so lucky.

COOPER: Yes, and at this point, you know, what are people telling you in terms of how they moved forward?

PROFILET: Well, it's really impressive and I kind of want to reiterate what the mayor was saying. This is the kind of town that's starting to dig in and dig out of this rubble. I noticed people at 9:00 this morning that just had damage to their roof and they were already beginning to repair, people were already beginning to repair the siding. They had some heavy equipment, backhoes, bulldozers trying to clear the roadways, trying to dig out of the rubble to see if any of their loved ones that were unaccounted for were still inside.

So the people here are already in the rebuilding mode. You didn't see a lot of people standing around looking. You saw a lot of people actually getting to work and starting to help their neighbor.

COOPER: Yes. And as the mayor said it seems like everybody is accounted for in Harrisburg and that is certainly good news. At this moment a large number of missing, though, that number of wounded. a hundred or so.

Tyler Profilet, appreciate your reporting as always.

If you want to help, you can. To find out more, we've set up a one-stop location with all the details. You can go to You'll find all the organizations and ways you can make a difference there. Again, that's

Just ahead on the program, new details in the Ohio school shooting. Three young lives cut short in the high school cafeteria. Three families destroyed tonight. The mother of one of the victims, a teenage boy named Danny, joins me ahead. What she has to say is heartbreaking, but she wants you to hear about her son. She wants you to hear about the boy that he was and the life that's been lost.

Also ahead, "Raw Politics" tonight. Will Mitt Romney's wins in Michigan and Arizona power him through Super Tuesday? Was the win in Michigan a win in name only? We'll also find out about the Wyoming caucuses tonight, the results. First let's check in with Isha Sesay -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, in Syria, the siege on Homs gets even worse with opposition saying that the Assad regime is flying helicopters overhead firing at citizens on the ground. That and much more when 360 continues.


COOPER: In a phone call today President Obama expressed his condolences to the principal of Chardon High School in Ohio. That's the school and the community, of course, there, they're all still reeling from the deadly shooting rampage.

Up close tonight we have new details about the 17-year-old suspect. We're going to have that report in a moment, but first the terror that gripped a school during the attack. It's a parent on the 911 recordings that were released. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just had a shooting at our school. We need to get out of here. Oh, my god.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need help badly.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK, we need to know where the shooter is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. We got everybody out there outside the building.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Where is the shooter? Where is the shooter?


UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Where is the shooter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody, quiet down. He could be -- he could be out there.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Are you -- do you see the shooter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I didn't. I just felt like the gun.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. Did you see the gun?


UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. Now listen to me, listen to me. Where are you at?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm outside the school right now. We hear there's the siren.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm a student. I was right by the shooter when he pulled the gun.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. Who was the shooter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His name is Thomas Lane. I saw him take out two and then I was, I was gone. I was out of there.


COOPER: Five students were shot. Three of them died. Danny Parmertor was 16 years old. Daniel was his real name so was Demetrius Hewlin and Russell King Jr. was 17.

All three left home that morning expecting it was going to be just another day at school. Goes without saying their families are shattered. On CBS this morning, Danny's parents described arriving at their hospital where their son had been taken and begging him not to die.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Said don't go, Danny, don't go.

BOB PARMENTOR, SON KILLED IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: Don't. Don't go, Danny. He fought. He just didn't have no brain waves left.

DINA PARMENTOR, SON KILLED IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: Think about going to a funeral and picking out a casket. What is that? Picking out a casket for your son, I don't want to do it.

We were supposed to go and pick out colleges and supposed to go visit out of state next month. I'm mad now. I'm mad now. It's just my little boy. He was so little, just 16. He was 16 years old.


COOPER: Picking out caskets for their children. That is what three families are faced with now. We wish them strength through this incredibly difficult time. I talked earlier to Danny's mom, Dina.


COOPER: Dina, I'm so sorry for your loss. How are you and your family doing?

PARMENTOR (via telephone): I guess like they say you find the strength somewhere, you know. And, of course, our family, Bob's family and mine is just amazing. They're just -- they're just doing everything.

And we're just -- they're just carrying us and just supportive, the city, the state, the nation, which I didn't -- I didn't know that it was that big, I just thought it was us. Just unbelievable how people are so great and supportive.

COOPER: And we're looking at pictures of Danny now. I mean, he looks such an outgoing, exuberant kid. What do you want people to know about him?

PARMENTOR: Yes, you know, you said the right words, Anderson. That's -- that is Danny. How could you not like Danny? He was just -- everybody loved him and he is just going to be missed so much and we just love him.

He was so -- I mean, he was like a jokester, and everybody just wanted to be around him if he was around, you know, that kind of kid that they gravitate toward and always that person that everybody likes. That's Danny and my Danny.

COOPER: And I understand Danny just started a job, his first job.

PARMENTOR: Yes, yes, he was so excited. It was at the local bowling alley right here in Chardon and all he wanted was -- he loved it, but then he just wanted that first paycheck, and he can't get that check. He just can't get it.

He was -- he just loved it. He only worked there for like two weeks, three weeks and then -- my heart is broken. It's just torn apart and everybody in the family and I just -- I want -- that's why I wanted to talk to you too.

I want people to know him that they didn't get to have the joy of knowing him, but hopefully through this they can because, you know, he wants to say thank you for the support and we all do too.

That's what we feel is our way to thank you all for the overwhelming support. It's just unimaginable how great people are.

COOPER: Do you know what he was going to spend the check on?

PARMENTOR: Well, of course, he said he was going to save for a car, but he also wanted to -- he kept saying he wanted to get an iPhone and, you know, or new skis because he just loved skiing.

And of course, not with the first check but anything, kids that -- we joked because me and my husband laughed because he kept saying this is going to be big money, mom. This is going to be big money. It was so cute.

COOPER: I heard that you may actually bury the check with him.

PARMENTOR: Yes, Anderson, we are, we are going to. We're not cashing it. We want him to have the check. Him with that check, you know, so, yes, we are going --

COOPER: It was a big step for him.

PARMENTOR: Yes, yes, absolutely.

COOPER: Dina, I really don't know what to say to you other than, you know, my heart breaks for you and I think so many people around the country and around the world are thinking about you and thinking about Danny and your whole family. And it doesn't give you peace, but I hope it gives you some strength.

PARMENTOR: Yes, thank you. It does, it really does. It does. It's helping me. It's helping me to see that that's out there for us, I've kind of taken another step. It's helping me get through one -- they say day by day, how about minute by minute.

COOPER: Yes, breath by breath.

PARMENTOR: Right, right.

COOPER: My mom often said just breathe in and breathe out, and that's how you get through each minute.


COOPER: Well, Dina, as I said, I wish you strength and thank you for telling us about Danny a little bit tonight. PARMENTOR: Thank you for letting people see him. You know, I appreciate that, Anderson, a lot.


COOPER: One shooting victim remains hospitalized. Classes are expected to resume at Chardon High School on Friday. Prosecutors said the accused shooter, 17-year-old TJ Lane, is likely to be tried as an adult.

Details of his troubled home life have been emerging. Tonight, we have more to report on that. Here's Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Late Wednesday afternoon in court proceedings, CNN won access to accused school shooter TJ Lane's juvenile record. It shows in 2009, he was involved in an assault putting another boy in a choke hold and punched him in the face. Lane pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of disorderly conduct.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Three down in the cafeteria. We need an ambulance too.


UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Three students down. We need an ambulance.

UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: OK, hold on. Let me fix that. Do we know where?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: They're all in the cafeteria.

UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: Where is the shooter?


SAVIDGE: Since Monday's rampage at Chardon High School, this small tight-knit community has been asking one question, why? Authorities say Lane hasn't given them any reason for the attacks.

DAVID JOYCE, PROSECUTOR, GEAUGA COUNTY, OHIO: He chose his victims at random. This is not about bullying. This is not about drugs.

SAVIDGE: On Tuesday when Lane first faced a judge after his alleged killing spree, neither his mother nor father was in the courtroom. It was a telling sign. Documents show TJ Lane had a troubled home life and that his parents often led by violent example.

Police reports obtained by CNN show officers were frequently called to the home to break up domestic fights. Court documents also show TJ's father, Tom Lane, suffered from anger management issues and depression, and at one point, even attempting suicide. He spent time in and out of jail. A court document from 2002 describes a particularly violent attack by Tom Lane on another woman. It reads, "He strangled his ex-wife by the throat until she lost consciousness for several seconds. Also held victim's head over a washing machine and poured cold water from a utility hose over her nose and mouth preventing free breathing."

Tom Lane was convicted of felonious assault and sentenced to four years in prison, but was released after only nine months. Such was TJ Lane's unstable family background. Even prosecutor David Joyce seemed to hint that it could be an argument for the defense.

JOYCE: This is someone who's not well and I'm sure in our court case we'll prove that to all of your desires and we'll make sure that justice is done here in this county.


COOPER: Martin, how do people in the community feel about TJ Lane?

SAVIDGE: You know, that's a very complicated question, Anderson, and I've had that conversation with a lot of people here. It always starts off with people starting to say, you know what, I feel sorry.

Then they stop themselves immediately because, of course, we know that nothing can condone, nothing goes along with excusing this young man from what he's been accused of doing.

And I think the best way somebody put it to me was they said that they feel sorry for his life, and what they mean by that is that they just wish somewhere, maybe a couple of months ago, maybe a couple of years ago somebody intervened, somebody reached out some way somebody got to him because maybe all of this heartache tonight could have been avoided.

COOPER: Martin, appreciate the reporting. Martin, thanks.

Coming up "Raw Politics." Will Mitt Romney's win in Arizona and Michigan propel him through Super Tuesday? You know, Romney got more votes. Rick Santorum says the night was also a huge win for himself in Michigan. We'll, plain that. I'll speak with James Carville, Mary Matalin and Erick Erickson.

Also had the latest on the deadly storms that left that path of destruction in parts of Midwest, where they're heading now. Got a live update from Chad Myers.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight, fresh from winning the Arizona and Michigan primaries, Mitt Romney headed to Ohio today. The campaign ahead of Super Tuesday, the victory in his childhood home state was not as decisive as Romney would have perhaps hoped.

Well, he did get more of the popular vote in Michigan. He and Rick Santorum actually each picked up 15 of the state's delegates. Now, the state of Wyoming has been holding caucuses all month long with the last county voting tonight, CNN has not yet projected a winner in the state.

But tune in to our 10:00 program and hopefully by then we'll be able to project a winner in the state of Wyoming. All eyes are looking ahead to Super Tuesday. At stake, just six days from now more than 400 delegates in 10 states. John King has more.

JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S "JOHN KING USA": Anderson, here's where we are after the Romney wins last night. He gets all the delegates in Arizona, splits the Michigan delegates with Rick Santorum and here's where we stand, 1,144 to clinch.

Romney with the lead right now and a big lead, but nowhere near what it takes so we move on. We know Romney is leading in Wyoming. We'll get the final results a bit later tonight. Let's assume Romney picks up the bulk of the delegates there in this hypothetical.

Up next, Washington State on Saturday, I'm going to project here that Ron Paul gets his first win of the season. We'll give that to Ron Paul. Again, others pick up a few delegates based on a proportional rules.

Then we move on to the big challenge, 10 states on Super Tuesday in New England, down here in the south, in Oklahoma, Idaho, North Dakota in the west and Alaska, here's a hypothetical for you. Let's play this out.

Romney wins Massachusetts and Vermont. Romney wins Virginia, it's only Romney and Paul on the ballot there. Gingrich wins at home in Georgia, Santorum takes Oklahoma. Romney, Idaho, Romney winning North Dakota here, but for the sake of argument let's say Ron Paul picks up that one as well and switch it.

What would you have, Romney with a bigger lead starting to pull away, two big battlegrounds next Tuesday, Super Tuesday, all the campaigns concede Tennessee and Ohio. Santorum leads right now in both of them. So if we make the purple, what kind of a race do you get?

Well, you get Santorum picking up more states. You also get Santorum in second place in the delegate chase. Still not that close to Romney, but that would be an important psychological boost.

So this is the big challenge in the next week, can Romney turn these around? Take away the Santorum leads, put Ohio and Tennessee in the Romney column. If he can do that, Anderson, it's only a couple dozen delegates.

But it would leave Gingrich in second place and the Romney campaign believes take a lot of the steam out of the Santorum challenge. That is Governor Romney's challenge in the next week. Can he turn these two Super Tuesday battlegrounds dark red and keep them from going purple? COOPER: John King, thanks very much. Let's bring in our CNN contributors, Democratic strategist, James Carville and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin and Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief for James, to John King's question, can Romney turn around in Ohio and in Tennessee?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Possibly. This is not a race anymore, Anderson, in my opinion between Romney and Santorum or Gingrich. This is Romney versus 1,144. That's the only thing that

matters. He's the only candidate in this race that has a chance to get to 1,144.

And every time these other guys get delegates, it keeps him away from that that means he's going to have to go to Tampa and deal with a situation when he gets there. This is not -- he's not running against anything other than a number right now.

It's Romney versus a number. That's where I think this race is at this moment. I suspect that I'll -- Ohio might be a little more favorable to him than Tennessee, but -- I don't know. I'd like to see some polls before I listen to Erick and Mary on that.

COOPER: Mary, if James is right that he's running against that number, the fact they actually divided the delegate number with Santorum in Michigan. Does that mean his win in Michigan wasn't really so much of a win?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, we are ostensibly having a fight here in the nomination process about purity versus electability in a general election and we're impugning meanings to victories or defeats in this nominating process that are completely irrelevant to the general election.

They don't tell us anything of these -- go to the 14 swing states, which is all that's going to matter in the general election. The process in those swing states include over half that are caucuses or nonbinding or conventions and which disincentivizes turnout.

That doesn't reflect the general election turnout and of the remaining half three of them are home states of one of the candidates so those will be discounted. So it's -- we're trying to impugn mining for the general election in a situation where there isn't any.

That's because we have a new process, we have new rules. We have "Super PACs," so many things so I do think that Romney has to -- he's running against a number, but he has to do what he's always had to do, which is get the purity down. Get the conservatives more mobilized and activated and psychologically get them excited.

COOPER: Erick, a prominent Republican told CNN that the campaign after Super Tuesday was going to be like a lot like water torture. Has the race gotten to the point where it might be hurting Republican chances in the fall? ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I'm thinking that it's starting to hurt. If only because you've got a limited amount of money out there and a lot of it is poured into the primary instead of going into the general election.

Now, if they save the money, they'll be able to spend it in the general election, but the burn rate particularly for Romney right now he has a ridiculously burn right and go back to John King's scenario, I interviewed Newt Gingrich this morning and he doesn't see Santorum's prolonged viability largely because of one of the scenarios John King highlighted.

What if Romney does win Ohio and Tennessee then suddenly Gingrich remains in second place in the delegate count and he thinks that he'll be able to rebound. His staff told me this morning that he thinks Santorum got his best shot at Romney in Michigan and fell short of it.

And they really see this race rebounding between the non-Romney candidates, which to James' point drags it out.

COOPER: James, to Mary's point, which was that Romney's got to kind of energize conservatives more, I think I'm right on what she said, do you believe that this is actually by doing that, by trying to appeal to conservatives someone said Paul Begala was saying he was moving to the right throughout this primary and caucus process. Is he alienating independent voters that he's going to need in a general election?

CARVILLE: Well, he's already -- he's not doing very well with independents at all, but Mary and Erick are right, you won't get the republican nomination without, you know, stimulating the conservative vote. That's overwhelming bulk of that.

Look, he's moved way to the right on his tax plan and now in addition for being for the Bush tax cuts for another 20 percent across the board tax cut. He's already moved far, far to the right on immigration to the point where Jeb Bush refuses to endorse him.

So he's moving as fast as he can -- as fast as he can get there today he said he would be for -- he's going to keep on -- he's going to have to move because he can't get to 1,144 unless he gets his conservatives more enthusiastic about it.

MATALIN: Anderson, can I say this? I didn't make my point well to you earlier. It comes down to the swing states. No fundamentals have changed in the swing states. We're talking about today is not going to -- has no meaning for the general election.

And the swing states, Obama's numbers are down. Republicans have greater registration than they had in the last cycle. We have more Republican governors, we have more senators, we have more House members. We have more legislators.

We have an infrastructure and his decrease in the support of the swing states is what's going to matter. What we're saying today and say with authority that it's going to have an impact on the general election, it just isn't. We're not there.

ERICKSON: You know, Anderson, I think summer gas prices will have a bigger effect on the general election than what's happening right now. If gas prices continue to go up and people start pulling money out of other sectors of the economy just go to drive to work then the economy will probably suffer again and it's -- there are so many external factors right now.

It is hard to say. I agree with Mary on that point, but at the same time if the economy starts to improve. I asked Gingrich what's the Republican backup plan if it improves? All he could really say is the economy is not going to improve. Well, if it does, the Republicans may have some trouble.

CARVILLE: Anderson, OK, I think this thing has been not very good for Romney at all. I mean, any -- his numbers have really, really taken a hit, and he's having to keep pulling and keep pulling because he's running against a number. He's not running against a person and that's always a tough thing to do.

COOPER: James Carville, Mary Matalin, Erick Erickson, I have to leave it there, guys. Thanks very much.

Coming up, dozens more dead in Syria. The heaviest shelling yet in the Baba Amir neighborhood of Homs according to opposition activists. They say only bad weather finally stopped the gunfire from helicopters aimed at people on the ground.

Also ahead, the latest on deadly storms in the Midwest, massive damage with more tornadoes possible tonight as the storm heads through the south and into the mid-Atlantic. We'll track it for you ahead.


COOPER: Let's get the latest on the deadly storms that have left at least 12 people now dead in Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee. And meteorologist Chad Myers joins us live -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, even though the storms are gone, Anderson, people picking up the pieces still get injured. They still get killed. They touch live wires. They're down. They didn't realize it. They step on boards. Things happen.

Sometimes the most dangerous part of a storm if you're not really in it is after the storm. We have to remember these people have a lot of cleaning up to do. Many of those towns are completely devastated. Now, the weather tonight is not as bad as it was last night.

I'm seeing a lot of these storms kind of die off. We still have some watch boxes which mean, yes, something could still pop up, but this is what it looked like at 5:00 this morning, Anderson, let's go. Let me try to circle Harrisburg right there.

A line of weather came in from the west and slammed right through this city at a really odd time, 5:00 in the morning. Typically, that's the coldest time of day and storms don't fire up then, but they did last night. I don't think they'll do the same thing tonight, but this is just the first of a very long severe weather season here in the U.S. -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Chad Myers, appreciate the update. Thanks.

Let's check in on some other stories that we're following. Isha is back with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in Syria, a siege on the city of Homs and the Baba Amir neighborhood has left the opposition in an all-out ground invasion. Activists say for the first time helicopters fired at civilians on the ground today and only stopped when snow started to fall. An opposition group said at least 29 people were killed throughout the country today.

Ferrari says it will unveil its fastest streetcar ever next month. The F12 Berly Net will have a top speed of 211 miles an hour. No word yet on how much it will cost, but the model it's replacing goes for about $310,000.

Davy Jones of "The Monkees" has died of an apparent heart attack in Florida. He was the lead singer of "The Monkees" on the popular 1960s TV series. Davy Jones was 66 years old.

And, Anderson, it's a new world record for paper airplane distance, yes, a paper airplane was thrown 226 feet and 10 inches in a hanger at McClelland Air Force base shattering the old record of 207 feet 4 inches. He's had some practice. He's a former NFL quarterback.


SESAY: Yes. I guess you say congratulations, right, no matter how pointless.

COOPER: What do you mean pointless? I'd like to get a look at it.

SESAY: Get a grip.

COOPER: You didn't do paper airplanes when you were a kid.


COOPER: My God. That's a huge deal. They probably did have that in England. You probably had paper Shepperd's pies or something, threw the Shepperd's pie.

SESAY: No, we sat by the fireplace and read dickens.

COOPER: I made lots of paper airplanes. Thanks very much. We'll be right back.


COOPER: That's it for us. We'll see you again at 10:00 Eastern, another edition of 360 with the latest on the race in Wyoming, the Wyoming caucuses. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.