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9/11 Survivors Dedicate National Memorial; Coal Mine Disaster in Turkey; LeBron Speaks About Donald Sterling

Aired May 15, 2014 - 12:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Thursday, May 15th, and welcome to a special edition of LEGAL VIEW.

Today I am near a place that even the mayor of New York City says will be a difficult place to enter. It is the now formally dedicated museum and memorial honoring the people who died and the people who survived the worst-ever terror attack on American soil.

The National September 11th Memorial and Museum officially opens to the public next week, but today is the day that families and firemen and policemen and medics and city leaders and responders put their blessing on this more than decade-long project. It is a physical space filled with manmade objects and photographs that President Obama told people at this morning's dedication ceremony that it holds much, much more significance than that.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To all those who responded with such courage, on behalf of Michelle and myself and the American people, it is an honor for us to join in your memories. To recall and to reflect, but above all, to reaffirm the true spirit of 9/11. Love, compassion, sacrifice.


BANFIELD: I'm about to show you something that only the victims' families and a few other people have had a chance to see so far. It's the inside of this remarkable memorial where it is hammered home that this national tragedy is intensely personal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the wall of faces lined from floor to ceiling with smiling fathers, daughters, brothers, nieces, family and loved ones. In the same way we have photos in our own homes, these pictures are alive with the memories of the birthdays and weddings, barbecues and baseball games of those we lost. What you will be looking at are the pages of the chapter in our history we call September 11th.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good picture.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You would be so proud of your daughter. Just amazing, just like you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seeing all these faces, different people. There he is.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Hanna. This is you. This was a couple of weeks before 9/11 actually happened. So this is our last family picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love this one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That's him. That's you. That's your smile. That - that mustache (ph). That's you. You act just like him. Right? Mannerisms, everything, is just like your father. You look like him. You act like him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You act like him and sound like him.


BANFIELD: It is a somber and rainy day here at what used to be called Ground Zero and perhaps won't be called Ground Zero as much anymore. My colleague, Deb Feyerick, who 13 years ago was here as well, along with me covering this story, remarkable magnitude. She's back here again with me today.

And, Deb, you had a chance to go down to the bedrock, as they say. I mean this is seven stories underground where this incredibly poignant memorial is. We just saw that wall of faces. Walk me through a little bit more of what visitors who come to New York City and come down here to see that they're going to see and feel when they get in there.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is an incredible museum. Just because of the mood, the way it feels, the way it looks, it almost feels like it's living, it's breathing, the voices of the people, the images of that day. And you take it all in and you begin to process it really in stages. And the reason, Ashleigh, that it is so far below ground is because it gets down to the bedrock of where 9/11 was. And also you've got the corner of the reflecting pool. Those reflecting pools were built in the footprints of the two towers. We did get a chance to go below. Take a look at what we saw.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FEYERICK: You can see the faces just frozen as the reality of what has just happened begins to dawn. What they're looking at is put in perspective. What they're feeling. The horror of what is happening.

This is the (INAUDIBLE) wall. If this wall had collapsed, all of lower Manhattan would have been flooded. The damage would have been even greater than it already was.

These are the survivor stairs. Hundreds of people saved. This was the way out. One lieutenant famously quoted as saying, "go down the set of stairs and then just run. Run as fast as you can."

This is a Virgil quote. It was made from steel from the towers. It says, "no day shall erase you from the memory of time." The squares represent each of those who died. And behind this wall are the remains of some 40 percent of the people who were never positively identified.


FEYERICK: And what's really incredible is the (INAUDIBLE) an archeological dig, keeping different things intact, also bringing in a lot of items from that day. You know, there were the missing posters, those posters of family frantically searching for people that they hadn't heard from. Their eyeglasses and shoes. There are pieces of flags, pieces of the buildings that once stood. There are symbols, Ashleigh, of hope, of resilience, and also defiance within those walls.

And the curators in the museum really tell (ph) you well, this is not just about 9/11, not just about that day. Yes, that day defines so many of us. But it's also about all the days that followed and how we as a nation reacted to this tragedy, how we came together, how people all around the world came out in support of the United States in order to help them cope and help deal with what had just happened. So it really is just a living testimony to a day that defined really generations.


BANFIELD: Deb, thank you. I think one of those more unbelievable exhibits is that wall, that staircase that you walked down beside, the staircase where you know hundreds and hundreds of people actually escaped for their lives. They used that staircase to survive. And it's in there. And you walk down just as they would have. It's so incredibly presented.

I want to introduce you to someone who I just met today. I feel as though there's a great kinship. Monica Iken-Murphy joins me here at the memorial.

You lost your husband, Michael, on September 11th.


BANFIELD: And within days, Monica, you started work -


BANFIELD: On now what we have behind us.


BANFIELD: It's remarkable that you would have even had the wherewithal to do that.


BANFIELD: Tell me about this journey.

IKEN-MURPHY: You know, when I knew he wasn't coming home and he didn't make it out, I knew I had to do something for him and all those who had no voice left. And I just couldn't accept the reality that they would build buildings over their final resting place. We felt that that place was sacred and hallowed. The majority of the remains were found in that space. And I feel, you know - I felt at that time I had to do something. I could not bring him home. And I felt that this was his home. And I had to do everything in my power to make sure that this would -- we would create this world-class memorial and museum someday.

BANFIELD: Michael worked on the 84th floor -

IKEN-MURPHY: Tower two.

BANFIELD: Of tower two. A what - a surprising statistic I think a lot of people might not know is that approximately 40 percent of those who died here have never been identified. Nothing has been found. And Michael is --

IKEN-MURPHY: And I'm one of them. Yes.

BANFIELD: One of these people and you're one of the families.


BANFIELD: So, Monica, what I find really remarkable is that there has been this struggle between a lot of the family members. Some of the family members, like yourself, are happy with the way these - I hate to say it -- there's no other way to say it, fragments. I mean these are -- these are body parts that have yet to be -- we don't have the science yet to identify them. They are entombed behind that beautiful blue wall seven stories down. Other family members like you want those remains above ground where they can be sort of memorialized almost like Arlington National Cemetery. But that's really been part of the holdup, hasn't it, for a lot of what's developed.

IKEN-MURPHY: Well, the remains -- we decided in 2002 that would be their final resting place. We always said they would be interred where -- seven stories below because that was where the majority of the remains were found. At that time we called it the bathtub. It was the two tower footprints, the Marriot (ph) and the Path (ph) Station (ph). And that was their final resting place, the majority of those remains. So we felt that space was sacred and hallowed, which is eight acres now. It's, you know, we have that -

BANFIELD: It's eight acres, by the way. I don't know if you can really get the scope of it behind us here.

IKEN-MURPHY: Eight acres. Yes, and I just --

BANFIELD: The other (INAUDIBLE) about that is if -- people who are watching right now might consider at some point in the future, if they're going to be in New York or they might come to New York, this will be one of the places they will want to come to see. And when they go into the museum, it's hard to tell that that blue wall actually behind it is this almost forensic holding zone of all of those remains. Is there anything to give them that information, to help them know that this is really a tomb you're looking at?

IKEN-MURPHY: This is - what was it - it was -- it's just for the families. So it was never designed for the public to view. And that was why we never said we would inter them above grade because they're not - this is their -- this is not a tomb of the unidentified remains. This is still identifying remains. And I'm still optimistic that Michael is one of those remains. And I'm hopeful that he is there so that I feel he's at home now in his final resting place. And we have another five years till DNA - until the analysis - you know, analyzed -

BANFIELD: Analyzed, yes, yes.

IKEN-MURPHY: Yes, because, you know, technology advances every day. And I'm hopeful that I'm going to be one of those lucky ones that we will find. So -

BANFIELD: That's hopeful.

IKEN-MURPHY: That's why they can't be above grade.

BANFIELD: I'm hopeful for you as well. I'm hopeful for you. I think everybody watching really hopes the best for you and other family members like you who are still waiting for these answers 13 years later. But, you know what, this is wonderful today and -

IKEN-MURPHY: This is beautiful.

BANFIELD: Thank you for coming up to talk to me. I really appreciate it.

IKEN-MURPHY: Thank you for having me. I can't wait to share this world-class memorial and museum with the world. I really can't.


IKEN-MURPHY: I'm so excited. So excited.

BANFIELD: Me too. I was here on September 11th. I was under the north tower. So I feel the same kinship and I feel the same desire to share the good stories, what's final (ph).

IKEN-MURPHY: Yes. This is - it's so positive and so emotional but so inspiring.

BANFIELD: Monica Iken-Murphy joining us today, was also a part of that ceremony that was so remarkably poignant. Seven stories underground at the bedrock.

When we come back after the break, I also want to take you to Turkey because we've had some incredible developments in the story in Turkey. A death toll nearing 300. Dozens still feared trapped underground in that mine disaster. And the prime minister of that country saying something that set off a firestorm. Perhaps one of the most insensitive remarks you might say to people who are grieving like this. We're back after this break.


BANFIELD: Anguish and outrage in Turkey today over the single deadliest coal mine disaster in that nation's history. Two days after a fire, a blackout and a partial collapse, almost a mile beneath the western city of Soma, 282 miners are now known to be dead. Dozens more people are still believed to be trapped.

Many Turks are blaming their government for shoddy oversight. And then came the comments yesterday from the prime minister, who while visiting the mine appeared to shrug the whole thing off as just an occupational hazard. Mining is dangerous.

Today the Turkish president visited and promised a full investigation and then called the miners' work, quote, "sacred."

Our Hala Gorani from CNN International is there. She's with us now life.

Hala, first of all, those are the kind of remarks that can start off a firestorm, a deadly one, and it looks like p public anger has really exploded there.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly has. We've seen demonstrations in several big cities across the country. We've seen them in Istanbul.

We've seen them in Ankara, right here in western Turkey, in Soma, in fact, where miners protested saying, listen, the kind of oversight we need to make sure these accidents don't happen in the first place, let alone the safeguards that weren't in place to try to secure the miners still trapped inside.

I'm going to let the camera pan and show you. For much of the day, Ashleigh, we had no activity, and that's because we had reports there was still an active fire inside the mine, rescue workers therefore unable to go inside and try to retrieve what we believe at this point, unfortunately, are bodies of miners, Ashleigh.

However, in the last half an hour or so, we've seen ambulances line up. We've seen rescue workers gather at the opening of the mine shaft. And at this point, we are thinking that in the next few hours, we might continue to see that grim process of removing the bodies of miners who lost their lives.

You know, Ashleigh, it's not just anger. It's anguish. It's anxiety. It's resignation in some cases. This is gritty mining country in Turkey and the western part of Turkey. People here rely on mines for their livelihoods.

One miner I spoke with had burns all over his hands. He said last year he got into an accident. It burned his hands, a portion of his nose.

I said, are you going to go back? Is it safe? And he looked at me and said, "I don't have a choice. This is how we make our living."


BANFIELD: And there was a photo that surfaced as well today that's causing a lot of problems. Is it an aide to the prime minister seen kicking a protester?

GORANI: Yes, it's a remarkable image. There were two angles of the still photograph released, all the buzz online, of course, in Turkey and elsewhere.

There was also a video version of it, but it came a little bit after the actual kick. And this is an aide to the Prime Minister Erdogan, of Turkey apparently taking a shot at a protester already pinned down by two security officials.

Now, he, according to BBC Turk, has admitted that it is him on the photo, but that he will be forthcoming with an explanation. Some members of the prime minister's party said -- and I'm paraphrasing more or less -- look, all people who are down aren't necessarily innocent. In other words, saying you don't know the full story.

But when you see the actual still photo, and many of our viewers have, it is a remarkable image of a man, a government official, in a full suit and tie taking a shot at a protester on the ground. And this is just sort of an image that exemplifies the tension here between protesters and the government in this country.


GORANI: We've seen demonstrations today. As you know, Ashleigh, and our viewers know, we've seen so many over the last year or so in this country.


BANFIELD: We'll be prefacing that image alongside the images behind you as well.

Hala Gorani live in Soma with CNN International and doing a job like no other news organization can, Hala, thank you for that.

I'm also joined by the head of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, Davitt McAteer. Thanks for being with us. There are reports that some Turkish engineers are saying this was no accident, that it was murder, that it wasn't a transformer exploding as officials had claimed, but this was a coal fire and it was spread.

Does that sound plausible with the background that you have?

DAVITT MCATEER, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF LABOR: It is possible. The transformer could have been part of the process, or it could have not been. The fact that you have an ignition source in a coal mine is, one, very, very dangerous. The second fact is you have methane in existence in this mine, and it hasn't been cleared out.

So you really are flaunting the very fundamental principles of safety by failing to control the explosion or failing to control an ignition and then failing to control the ventilation system so that you remove the deadly methane gas and/or dust, coal dust.

All of those we know are risks in mines, and all of those need to be controlled in any setting. The fact that they had an explosion that crippled the electrical system and failed to -- couldn't bring the miners out because the elevators weren't working also points to an irresponsible part -- action on the part of management of this mine.

There doesn't appear to be a secondary escape way that these miners had access to, which is around the world a very fundamental principle. So all in all, the basic principles have been neglected.

BANFIELD: So you have said several times that the safety standards, you know, as they compare to the United States, just really no comparison.

But when you see the extent of the death and the destruction and this attitude of at least one public official towards protesters, do you see this event as having any effect going forward on safety for those who work underground and for anybody else in an industry like that in Turkey, knowing what you know about the business internationally and nationally?

MCATEER: Yes. I mean, first of all, you remember, this explosion occurs when shifts are changing, and they're changing the shifts in an underground setting which doubles the number of miners at risk, and the only reason to do that is for profitability, to continue the production.

But the comment by Prime Minister Erdogan that these accidents occur in mining industries around the world is the kind of comment that is a throwback for a hundred years to this country where these mine operators used to say, well, it's an act of God or mother nature. We know that that's not the case.

Statistically, scientifically, from an engineering standpoint, we can prevent these accidents and disasters from happening. We can reduce the number of people that are put at risk.

But they took all the precautions out and put a number of people in there and then did not have the basic, fundamental ventilation controls, explosion controls, none of those seems to be in place and had an explosion that could be stopped. Their record is among the worst record around the world, only bested by perhaps the Chinese or the Ukrainians.

BANFIELD: Davitt McAteer, thank you for taking the time to lend your expertise on this. We do appreciate it.

In other news, a top NBA union official is suggesting LeBron James could boycott the league if Donald Sterling remains the owner of the L.A. Clippers. But is that really true? What LeBron James himself says he wants and what he's prepared to do, coming at you, right after this break.


BANFIELD: We are hearing more from banished NBA owner Donald Sterling. In his exclusive interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, and yes, there is more, he really doesn't stop.

This time he says he regrets how he has treated his wife, and he says he remains confident that he can retain ownership of the L.A. Clippers, all of this despite the controversy over his racist comments.


DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: She loved the team and always helped me with everything.

If for some reason I can't have the team, I think that she should have her interest -- I mean, she didn't do anything. I brought all this on her, the poor girl. I don't know how she can live and deal with this. Thank God she has wonderful attorneys, wonderful --

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": But you are --

STERLING: -- and they will protect her.


BANFIELD: Well, this evening you can watch more of Sterling's controversial sit-down with Anderson Cooper. That's tonight at 8:00 Eastern.

And joining me now from Miami is Rachel Nichols who recently sat down with NBA star LeBron James in an exclusive interview to talk about the future of Sterling's ownership.

So there's been a lot of talk not only about whether Sterling's going to be able to keep the team but also what are all of the other players in the league think about this, and what kind of action -- how far they would be prepared to go to have their voices heard about what they think he should and should not do.

Can you weigh in on what LeBron himself is saying?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN HOST, "UNGUARDED": Yes, the executive vice president of the players union, Ashleigh, went out on TV a couple nights ago and created a huge stir. He said that if Sterling is still the owner when the new NBA season starts this coming fall, he said the players will boycott.

And he went even further, he said that he had been talking to LeBron James about this. He said LeBron James is not playing if Sterling is still the owner, that they would be walking off the court. As you can imagine, the idea that the NBA's best player would just decide not to play if some certain date ultimatum was not met, this created a bit of panic.

So I did get to sit down exclusively with LeBron James to talk this out. He explained to me, hey, no need to get up in arms about this. In his mind, it's not a specific date that he wants to hit. It's more about the intentions of the NBA. And right now he feels good that the intentions of the NBA are good, and as long as that continues, then he's OK with playing.

Take a look.


LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT: I think the most important thing that we understand is that Adam Silver is moving forward. You know, he's not just for the owners, he's for the players as well. And the direction that they're going in, we're all for it. You know, so we look forward to the next step, and we go from there.

NICHOLS: Is there a point where you feel like boycott could be an effective tool for the players?

JAMES: Well, I think at this position or at this point, the direction that Adam is going and the NBA is going, I don't think there should be a need for it.

You know, we trust those guys, and we know that they're going to take care of what needs to be done for our league, and we understand it's not going to be, you know, tomorrow. You know, the system will not work tomorrow, but the direction that they're going in, we're all for it.


NICHOLS: So you heard LeBron there talk about the fact that hey, he understands it's not going to be tomorrow. He's OK right now with the pace of this.

However, he made it clear he's not just ruling out a boycott entirely. If this gets bogged down in politics, Ashleigh, if this starts to look like it's running off the rails, the players may talk more seriously about taking some sort of action.