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Cease-fire Bringing Temporary Relief to Homs Civilians in Syria; Kyle White`s Heroic Actions under Fire Earn Him Medal of Honor; Christopher Columbus`s Ship Santa Maria Wreckage found in Haiti; Wildfire Devastating Texas

Aired May 14, 2014 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. I`m Carl Azuz. For CNN STUDENT NEWS. It`s good to see you this Wednesday May 14. We are starting today with a report from the Middle Eastern nation of Syria. It`s a country that`s been divided, and in many places destroyed by civil war.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That started three years ago, and the Syrian observatory for human rights says at least 150,000 people have been killed, and that roughly a third of those people are civilians. A week ago, a truce took effect in the city of Homs. This is a strategically important city for both the Syrian government and the rebels fighting it. It`s an ancient city, and it`s a city that`s been under siege in the conflict.

The cease-fire is showing signs of falling apart, but it brought at least temporary relief to people who`d seen war at their doorstep.

The massive destruction and an old town of Homs shows the whole tragedy of Syria Civil War. But in the middle of this sad scene some are (INAUDIBLE). Zeina Akhras is one of only a handful of civilians who lived through the entire 2.5 years siege of old Hams.

"I don`t even want to think about it", she says. The last three months were the toughest because we could only eat grass and leaves all the time.

The Syrian Army sealed off Homs after it fell into rebel hands, supplies of food and medicine quickly depleted.

Zeina`s brother Aiman was trapped with her the whole time. He tried to find food and gather firewood for the little stove in their apartment.

"I took wood this size and bigger" he says. It`s some of the wood rebels broke out of Homs to burn. I only use leftovers.

When virtually all their food had run out, they were forced to eat leaves. Aiman says of all places, he found the best ones in a graveyard. He asks me to try them.


ZEINA AKHRAS (speaking Arabic)

PLEITGEN (on camera): It`s OK. Everyday?

PLEITGEN (voice over): For breakfast, lunch and dinner, he says. And each meal was just a tiny bowlful.

What we always have to keep in mind is that the people who are stranded here were not only starving. They were also subject to intense shelling pretty much round the clock that laid waste to large parts of the historic town of Homs.

With its use of heavy weapons and the siege of this and other districts in Homs, the Assad regime has been accused of using starvation as a weapon in the civil war.

Zeina and Aiman said their apartment was raided by opposition fighters dozens of times, and rebels took most of their few remaining supplies.

AIMAN (speaking Arabic)

PLEITGEN (on camera): They took everything, he says. Marmalade, five canisters of olive oil, honey, tea - they didn`t leave anything.

After more than two years of hunger, Zeina is week. She weighs only 34 kilos, 68 pounds.

These photos from a family celebration show her before the conflict began.


AZUZ: Next story takes us to the U.S. state of Texas, a wildfire started burning in a panhandle on Sunday, and strong winds whipped it across the landscape. As of last night, the Texas A&M forest service said the fire was about 65 percent contained, but if it had still destroyed more than 90 homes, dozens of other buildings and forced the evacuations of thousands of people.

Wildfires are relatively common in the U.S. On average, the country sees more than 100,000 of them a year. They burned between 4 and 5 million acres, that`s like millions of football fields. And the vast majority of these fires, about 90 percent are caused by people, though officials don`t know yet what caused the one in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIFED FEMALE: Time for the Shoutout. Under what flag did the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria sail? If you think you know it, shout it out! Was it the flag of Italy, Spain, Portugal or Britain? You`ve got three seconds, go!

Because Spanish rulers financed Christopher Columbus` Transatlantic voyages, his ships sailed under the Spanish flag. That`s your answer and that`s your shoutout.

AZUZ: The Santa Maria was Christopher Columbus` flagship, when he first sailed the ocean blue, it never made it back to Spain, the Santa Maria was wrecked when it ran aground near Haiti on Christmas Day, 1492. So, where`s the wreckage? He says at that time. After doing some research. Barry Clifford, a modern day explorer, thinks he has found it. Lying in a reef about ten to 15 feet deep, off Haiti`s coast. But this isn`t a newly discovered shipwreck. Clifford and his team dove the site back in 2003. He says at that time, archeologists misidentified a cannon that was part of the wreckage. After doing some research, Clifford realized that this wreck could be the big one.

There`s a problem, though. The cannon has been looted since Clifford explored it. So, in order to determine if this is the Santa Maria archeologists will have to excavate the wreckage. Clifford`s planning a trip back to Haiti to figure out the next steps.

Before Kyle White received the Medal of Honor he said that from what he`d heard, it was heavy, that when it`s put around your neck, you feel the weight of it, what it all costs.

The former U.S. Army Sergeant found out what that`s like yesterday. It was for his heroism in November of 2007, when he was 20 years old, and a long way from his home in Seattle, Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The platoon radio telephone operator says he`s changed since then. He`s left the Army.

But his service earned him the nation`s highest military decoration.

For radio telephone operator Kyle White and a soldiers of Chosen Company Second Battalion Airborne, the mission to meet with village elders in the mountains of north eastern Afghanistan had red flags from the very start. They suspected the villagers are (Inaudible) with the enemy.

FMR. SGT. KYLE WHITE, U.S. ARMY: A lot of us - we had that, you know, just - you know, I got feeling right before we left that it`s just something - something wasn`t right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More alarms, it seemed like every male of fighting age and above was at the meeting, radio communications were coming in a language the interpreter didn`t understand. And then when they left the shooting started.

WHITE: One, and then, two shots. And then the echo and then just fully automatic fire and rocket propelled grenades coming in from - it seemed like everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White was knocked unconscious. When he woke up, ten of the 14 Americans in his unit were nowhere to be found. Among those White could see was Marine Sergeant Philip Bocks, by now severely wounded.

White repeatedly braved enemy fire to drag Bocks to safety. Bocks later died, along with five other Americans.

The medal of honor is being awarded to White for what he did to try to save his comrades and get them out of there, though he says he never expected to make it home himself.

WHITE: I told myself from the beginning of that ambush that I was going to be killed. You know, just the amount of fire, I just - I`m not going to make it through this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he did, along with Specialist Kain Schilling of Iowa who says he owes his life to White.

FMR. SPC. KAIN SCHILLING, U.S. ARMY: I was probably more excited for it than he was, just because it shows - you know, he absolutely saved my life that day and many others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those who survived wear wristbands bearing the names of those who did not. White sees the Medal of Honor as a tribute to them.

WHITE: To me, the heroes are those who lost their lives that day. Because they gave their lives in defense of all of us, and all of America.


AZUZ: On the Potomac River across from Washington, D.C., Arlington National Cemetery is the resting place of more than 400,000 people. It was 150 years ago. That Arlington was first used as a military burial ground.

An Army Private, who enlisted to fight in the Civil War was laid to rest there on May 13, 1864. Arlington was established as a national cemetery a month later. And today, it`s where you`ll find the graves of presidents, astronauts, war heroes, including men and women who`ve served in every branch of the U.S. military.

Arlington is still active. There are thousands of funerals held there every year. And there are plans to expand the site to ensure its availability for decades to come.

It`s World Wide Wednesday on CNN`S STUDENT NEWS "Roll Call." What does that mean? It means we are going to places like Kaisersrlautern, Germany. We are happy to be part of your day at Kaisersrlautern Middle School.

Next, we are traveling across the Atlantic to Canada. At the Saint (INAUDIBLE) School. Thank you for watching in Calgary, Alberta.

And now across the Pacific to Japan. At the Muroran Institute of Technology, we are glad you are watching in Muroran, Hokkaido.

Edna Lamping never made it to her high school prom. Her family was strict and didn`t let her go. But more than 70 years later, she and her husband were the VIPs at this year`s prom for Montura High School in Pennsylvania. Edna`s husband who`s one year older at age 92, says he had the best looking girl there and they showed everyone how to dance - or at least how they danced.

I love this season. It reminds me the proms I went to. I`m glad there are no pictures of me lying around anywhere, because that will be pretty embarrassing. Especially considering the size of my hair and the way I just hand it up for the camera. Well, that`s just so you can picture it. I went to junior and senior proms, had perfect attendance. It was a chance to step up, step out and step on my date`s feet. One thing we can promise, there are always puns a foot on CNN STUDENT NEWS. I`m Carl Azuz, hope to see you tomorrow.