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Honoring Lives 15 Years After The Terror Attacks; Trump, Clinton To Visit Ground Zero Memorial; Clinton Expresses Regret Over Comments; Iconic Flag Missing From Ground Zero Found; Muslim-Americans 15 Years After 9/11; Seahawks' Pregame Unity Plan. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired September 11, 2016 - 06:00   ET



[06:00:22] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and thank you so much for sharing your time with us this morning. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you. This is a day of remembrance across the country. You're looking here across the water at Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan, witness to the worst-ever at attack on U.S. soil 15 years ago.

PAUL: I think everybody who saw it happening, who remembers it remembers where they were, remembers what they were feeling in these moments, remember nearly 3,000 people were killed when hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The victims as old as 85, as young as just 2 years old.

But take a look at these images. I know remember watching them when they happened and they are hunting still 15 years later. Lights illuminated the sky, though, late last night in tribute here. They're going to be turned on again this afternoon in honor of the people who died.

BLACKWELL: For a lot of people involved the wounds have not healed even 15 years after. It's the sight of the twin towers collapsing is too painful for many to watch. The tragedy left so many families broken, victims without graves, now memorialized as names on that permanent memorial that I know so many people have seen there in New York.


NICOLE PILA, 15 NOW, 2 THEN: Most people when they lose someone, they have a grave to go to and that brings them closer to that person. But for us, this is our parents' grave. So it brings us closer and makes us feel more connected to that parent.

CAROLINE TUMULTY-OLLEMAR, 15 NOW, 4 MONTHS OLD THEN: A lot of our parents' bodies weren't found after 9/11. So that literally could be where our father's bodies lay to this day. It is a memorial, but it's our grave. We can go there and we can communicate with the people we lost. That's our safe spot with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: And this morning, a group of first responders are commemorating the day at the 9/11 memorial outside Jerusalem. It is the only such memorial outside the U.S. that lists the name of every victim.

PAUL: Now we should let you know both presidential candidates are going to pay their respects at Ground Zero this morning. Donald Trump visiting the memorial. Hillary Clinton participating in the annual moment of silence.

Now a British newspaper and New York radio station are claiming the Clinton of today is vastly different than the Clinton that we got to know during the 9/11 tragedy or that New Yorkers got to know.

I want to show you a photo from the day of the disaster, the then New York junior senator seen listening to firefighters as they toured Ground Zero.

And now "The Guardian" newspaper and WNYC radio have released audio revealing Hillary Clinton's reaction to those attacks, her criticism of the Bush administration and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for existing air quality over the city was, quote, "safe and acceptable."

I want to talk to Edward Pilkington from "The Guardian." Edward, thank you so much for being with us. I understand that you listened to these recordings of Hillary Clinton. Just want to ask you what struck you most about her at that time?

EDWARD PILKINGTON, JOURNALIST, "THE GUARDIAN": We partnered up with WNYC to go back on their audio archives and kind of immersed ourselves in what Hillary Clinton said at the time. It was very revealing.

I think two things came out of it. One very familiar thing about Hillary and one much less familiar thing. The familiar thing was that she immersed herself in the detail. She got really into it.

She learned all about the medical conditions that arose for the first responders, the respiratory problems, the cancers that started to crap up, and the doctors that we spoke to said they are incredibly impressed by how much knowledge that sucked up. They called her a sponge for information.

I think that's a side of Hillary that we all will know well, a politician who likes to be incredibly well-briefed on any subject before she talks about it.

The less familiar thing was that she also came across as incredibly impassioned, angry, very, very much, sort of a visceral person who's really in contact with the people she was dealing with.

And everyone you spoke to who were with her at the time, particularly firefighters and police officers said that she had a one to one connection with her that was very powerful and that they have never forgotten.

I think that's a side of Hillary Clinton that's much less familiar to us here today in 2016.

PAUL: That's what I wanted to ask you about, Edward, because I was reading the article and I know that you talked about -- I wanted to ask you about Firefighter Richard Als.

[06:05:06]Can you hear me now? I know we are having some audio issues.

PILKINGTON: Yes, I got you now.

PAUL: OK, great, thank you so much. Firefighter Richard Als is somebody that you've talked to. He had been at Ground Zero 20 minutes after the second tower collapsed. He was there for two days, two nights.

He called Hillary Clinton and his interaction with her -- he said she was compassionate. He called her a fighter. You had the former firefighter's union president, Peter Goreman (ph), saying the same thing about her, that she was effective, that she was an empathetic leader.

I'm wondering he also said she may not be the most natural politician. Do they see her differently today than they saw her back then?

PILKINGTON: Yes. A little bit of context is helpful here. Bear in mind that the firefighters of New York are not natural Hillary Clinton supporters. They represent working class, working people from the (inaudible). They tend to have a conservative bent.

They are the kind of -- actually many of their supporters would nowadays be Donald Trump supporters. This is not a natural political alliance. Yet they talked about very strongly post-9/11 this personal connection they had with Hillary Clinton.

And they were genuinely puzzled. I put it to them how does she come across to you today and they said that they were puzzled by how much she's struggling to get her message across on the wider national platform.

And that they regretted the fact that Americans across the country didn't seem to get her, to understand her like they had managed to do having this very close relationship to her.

I think, you know, that chimes a bell with what's happening in this political cycle. The polls suggest that she's still struggling with her favorability rate, which is pretty low.

You know, in Donald Trump, she has an extraordinary rival because the one thing about Donald Trump whether you love him or hate him, there is no lack of connection.

I mean, everybody in America, whether fans or foes of his, seem to have their electric fan stuck in the wall with him. There is no lack of connection and I think she on the other hand is finding that difficult. PAUL: She has even said at the (inaudible) New York interview earlier this week, she said I know I can be perceived as aloft, cold or unemotional, but I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions and that's a hard path to walk."

And she understood why people -- why women would understand that I think there are a lot of women who do understand that women who are in business and even those who are not, we learn to keep our emotions to ourselves often times and therefore become walled off.

You say that her work in New York after 9/11 gives us a glimpse of what we could expect if she wins the White House. But do you believe this, now 15 years later, she's clearly evolved like we've all evolved over 15 years.

How does who she was in the 9/11 years and the year after really give us a glimpse into who she might be come 2017?

PILKINGTON: Yes, I think in a way that point about her need to have detail, to grasp detail, I think that's what comes across for me still 15 years later. She remains a politician who likes to be on top of her brief, who likes to understand a subject before reaching decisions on it.

And in a way I think that's perhaps the more important point that faced with whatever dilemma you get in the oval office, she would deal with it in exactly the same way, learn about it, study it and then come to decisions about it.

The other point about style, communication, how you relate to individual Americans is of course, you know, supremely important in an election year. It's all about how you win the election and get into the White House.

Once you're there, if she makes it that is, what's more important, how she comes across in terms of style or the decisions that she makes as president?

So I think they are two very interesting sides of her that people need to think about carefully as they decide who they want to vote for, for president.

PAUL: No doubt that everybody who is going to be voting this year is taking everything in. I have no doubt. Thank you so much. We appreciate it. Edward Pilkington, thank you.

PILKINGTON: Thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: Also this morning, New York police, Bill Bratton, will join us to talk about the heightened security in New York the city still facing and to answer the most important question. Are we safer now than we were then? Also how the surviving officers on the force are handling that tragedy today.

Plus CNN reporters, photographers, producers, they are going recount where they were, what they did on that day 15 years ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Finally checked my phone and saw that I had like a gazillion missed calls and it turns out that my dad was at the Pentagon that day. I was unaware. So I immediately called my family and he was missing.


[06:10:08]PAUL: Also regretful, maybe not necessarily sorry, how the Clinton campaign is trying to frame her basket of deplorables comment as a double standard.



HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right? The racists, sexists, homophobics, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.


BLACKWELL: That's the comment that Hillary Clinton now says she regrets. She is not apologizing for it, though. Clinton's characterization of half of Donald Trump's supporters sparking that up for her on Saturday.

Now the political heat led Clinton to walk back those comments just a bit. In a statement she said that "I was grossly generalistic and that's never a good idea. I regret saying half. That was wrong."

She goes on to say, "It's deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices."

[06:15:02]Let's bring A. Scott Bolden, former chairman of the Washington, D.C. Democratic Party and a Hillary Clinton supporter, and former Republican congressman from Georgia, Jack Kingston, also a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. Gentlemen, good morning.

Scott, let me start with you. We heard there or at least read there that statement expressing regret. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, says there really is no reason for her to apologize. I wonder why you think she expressed regret and do you think she should have or needed to?

A.SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN WASHINGTON, D.C. DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, I think she did it because it was the right thing to do. Painting these groups of supporters by half with a number, even with the qualification of being grossly generalistic really wasn't the right thing to do.

I think to keep the political upper hand, but also the ethical and moral upper hand that was important for her to do. That being said, this whole paranoia, this whole prejudicial peddling is an important wedge issue for the Democrats.

There is a distinction and quite frankly, Hillary Clinton was really talking to the other group of Trump supporters who believe they've been left behind economically, who are uncomfortable with his rhetoric on xenophobia and racist and sexist comments.

BLACKWELL: Let me read for you, Congressman, what Trump tweeted. He tweeted several times. Here's one of them. He tweeted, "While Hillary said horrible things about my supporters and while many of her supporters will never vote for me, I still respect them all."

Right after that Clinton replied, except for African-Americans, Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, women, veterans and any so-called losers or dummies. The point here I think she is making is that, you know, Trump has made comments that have offended many of these groups.

At least we see here that Hillary Clinton expressed regret for her comments and the offense that some have taken. Donald Trump has not done that for those specific groups.

JACK KINGSTON, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Victor, I think Hillary has lost all of her quasi moral ground when she can say that Trump is the one who does race baiting or whatever it is. It real obvious actually not just what her comments were, but what Bill Clinton's comments were.

I was offended by that one. He said if you're white and southern, you know that make America great is a code word. I never hear of that and he used the phrase repeatedly himself, make America great again. There is nothing radical and there is no go talk about it.

But you know, when the economy is looking so bad and when your foreign policy is in the tank, then tough you have to resort to name calling. For me to be called a racist, a sexist, Islamophobe, I mean, it's just offensive.

Here we are on 9/11, you know, Scott and I have become friends of this show, because of this campaign and we're in the green room watching the 9/11 observation. Real people don't talk like this.

We have healthy respects for each other because of our different philosophical views and the role of government. That's what we should be talking about.

BLACKWELL: But let me ask you, Scott, about this report from "The Washington Post." The "Post" says that it has a memo sent out by the Clinton campaign to its supporters for interviews just like the one you're participating in now.

It says if pushed, focus on the media saying this, "It's well pastime the press stopped grading Donald Trump on a curve. So is the press going to cover this story in the right context or are they going to hold Hillary to a different standard again?

And they go on from there. The Trump supporters will say that Hillary Clinton is the one who is getting the lighter treatment here. You know on this show we hold both candidates to account. But they're going to turn now and blame it on the media?

BOLDEN: No, I don't think that. I think that most of us who are Democrats believed there is a double standard. If you look at the commander-in-chief forum, it manifested itself very well there. I think you hold both of these candidates accountable.

At the same time, Donald Trump, because he has been so racially divisive, so offensive to so many of these groups, we have almost become kind of numb to it. We report on it. He's still in the 40s. He can't get to the 50s.

So with Hillary Clinton, if she makes one mistake versus his 20 mistakes it seems like the world comes down on her shoulders. We almost not tolerate but have come to know that Donald, which is that curve.

That Donald is going to make these outrageous statements as part of this presidential campaign that makes it unique.

BLACKWELL: Fifteen seconds, Congressman, we got to go.

KINGSTON: We would absolutely trade press treatment immediately if you think that there is a bias. We would absolutely trade the press treatment with you. But the reality is here's someone who claims she wants to unite America, and she calls millions and millions of people racist, sexist, homophobes. I mean, there is just no leadership in that whatsoever.

BLACKWELL: All right --

[06:20:09]KINGSTON: Especially on the eve of 9/11 to make such a statement.

BLACKWELL: All right, Congressman Kingston, A. Scott Bolden, thank you both for being with us this morning.

Be sure to watch "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning for an exclusive interview with Hillary Clinton. That's at 9 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

PAUL: I know you'd remember this. It was an iconic photo that came to symbolize American resilience after 9/11, three firefighters raising an American flag at Ground Zero and then something happened to that flag.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhere between 9/11 and the Yankee Stadium ceremony, the flag went missing.



PAUL: It's an iconic image that I think is wrapped in so much emotion for every individual that looks at it and really takes us back to 9/11.

BLACKWELL: Yes, there are some people who compare this image to the image of the Iwa Jima flag raising. You see here the flag raised that day 15 years ago by three firefighters at Ground Zero. Shortly after that, the flag disappeared. Fifteen years later, it's now back home.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has the incredible story of how the flag was found.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On 9/11 in the burning ashes of the World Trade Center, three firefighters raised an American flag. It was 5:00 p.m. on a day that changed history.

[06:25:08]DAVID FRIEND, "VANITY FAIR": This picture became how we said patriotism post 9/11.

FEYERICK: The flag taken by three firefighters from a yacht in the marina near Ground Zero disappeared hours after the photo was taken. Its fate remained a mystery until now.

About 2,900 miles cross country in Everett, Washington, a stranger identifying himself as a former Marine named Brian turned over the flag to local firefighters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brian was purporting the flag to be the missing 9/11 flag.

FEYERICK: And so began a two-year process to confirm the flag was authentic and get it back home to the original owner.

(on camera): There was a level of secrecy as to what you potentially had. Why?

MARK ST. CLAIR, DEPUTY CHIEF, EVERETT POLICE DEPARTMENT: I was concerned that there was the potential that a lone terrorist if they believed there was an American icon in a city of 110,000 people, they may want to either try to steal it or destroy it.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Police detectives, Jim (inaudible) and Mike Atwood (ph) created a sketch of Brian, hoping to ask him more questions. All they knew was that he was allegedly given the flag on Veterans Day in 2007 by a man who had received it from a 9/11 firefighter's widow.

(on camera): Did you ever generate any satisfying leads?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we did not.

FEYERICK (voice-over): The break came with forensic scientist, William Schneck, who painstakingly analyzed photos, fibers and thousands of particles, comparing them to original Ground Zero dust.

BILL SCHNECK, WASHINGTON STATE PATROL CRIME LABORATORY: The key things would be the composition of the building materials themselves, the concrete, the glass fibers, mineral wall, gypsum, all those were critical.

FEYERICK: Critical and ultimately conclusive. As detectives prepared it for the journey home, they asked a retired NYPD officer to make the final fold.

ST. CLAIR: He actually grabbed on to that flag, held it up to his face and smelled it and turned and looked at me and he said that's the smell that I remember from that day.

FEYERICK: The flag back where it began 15 years ago.


BLACKWELL: Deborah Feyerick reporting there. He can still smell there in the fabric.

PAUL: You wouldn't forget it.

BLACKWELL: For a lot of Muslim-Americans, life after 9/11 is very different than life before 9/11. So we'll examine what it's like to be a Muslim in America 15 years later. We've got that conversation ahead.

PAUL: Also, an architect known around the world makes his mark on Ground Zero with an emotional and architectural tribute to the people who died 15 years ago today.


[06:30:00] PAUL: Mortgage rates were up slightly this week. Here's your look.


PAUL: Welcome back. We're so grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

Today we reflect and remember the lives lost 15 years ago in the September 11th attacks. We've got live pictures now of Lower Manhattan, the skyline there. You see at the top center of your screen One World Trade Center Freedom Tower standing tall in the footprints of the twin towers there at Ground Zero.

PAUL: Those footprints of course now lit up with two columns of light, an annual tradition of remembrance, 8:46 a.m. there's going to be a moment of silence followed by the reading of the names of the victims.

And in Washington President Obama will deliver remarks at the Pentagon where 184 people lost their lives that day. We're going to bring you live coverage throughout the morning of course.

BLACKWELL: But for many Muslim-Americans the attacks on September 11 ushered in a time of suspicion, for some fear, for some hatred. But what's it like to be a Muslim living in America now 15 years later? To discuss I'm joined by Saba Ahmed, president and founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition.

Saba, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: You were 16 years old then and it was 15 years ago so half a lifetime for you. Compare and contrast for us life today after the attacks to life before those attacks.

AHMED: Well, 9/11 changed the lives of Muslims all over the world. It definitely had a huge impact on my life. Growing up, I was 16 at the time. I saw how people changed and how people treated us differently.

Within school, I noticed how people just sort of blamed me for 9/11, even though I had nothing to do with it. I know many Muslims faced a lot of hate crimes. And it continues today, the rhetoric against Islam and Muslims is horrifying. Even though we have nothing to do with the terrorists, they have hijacked our religion. And we hope to take it back from them.

I hope that people will realize that Islam had nothing to do with this. You can't blame 1.7 billion Muslims for the acts of a few terrorists.


AHMED: We need to strongly condemn it and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

BLACKWELL: You know, just on Thursday, Saba, there was a woman arrested in New York for allegedly attacking two Muslim women pushing as they push their children in strollers. Now court documents alleged that the suspect hit the women and yelled, get the blank out of America, you don't belong here.

CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York, noted a spike in anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crimes in recent months, which that group attributes at least in part to Islamophobic rhetoric used by various public figures. When you hear that, these public figures, what runs through your mind?

AHMED: Well, obviously Donald Trump had called for a Muslim ban. And, you know, the rhetoric against Islam and radical Islamic terrorism continues to date.

I think we're missing the point. We've been in wars for the last 15 years and we haven't gotten anymore safer. America is less safe today than it was even on 9/11.


We have huge problems with ISIS and a lot of terrorist groups. But the problem is we're not addressing the root cause and their ideology behind it.


AHMED: And we need to address that. And we need to know that Islam strongly condemns terrorism. And we need to take back the debate.

BLACKWELL: Saba, let me ask you. We are running out of time here but I see you're the founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition. You're a Donald Trump supporter. How do you reconcile that support for Donald Trump and his call for a ban on non-American Muslims coming into the country with your experience?

AHMED: I think he has toned down a lot on his -- you know, it's an unconstitutional and illegal ban he that talked about. He has tone down on his anti-Islamic rhetoric. But at the same time the problems did exist with national security concerns. And the reason I started the Republican Muslim Coalition was to primarily educate Republicans about Islam and Muslims and to take back that debate and own our fate. And I think the best way to defend Islam and the best way to defend our country is for Muslim-Americans to get involved in policy (INAUDIBLE) and change this.

BLACKWELL: All right. Saba Ahmed, thanks so you for being with us this morning.

AHMED: Thanks a lot (INAUDIBLE).


PAUL: Here. When an internationally known architect was asked to build a new train station at Ground Zero, he knew that this was more than just a bunch of materials.


SANTIAGO CALATRAVA, ARCHITECT, WTC TRANSPORTATION HUB: Of course a building like that should be related to the memory of the victims, although in a silent way and probably being more than anything else a monument or remembering how important life is.



BLACKWELL: All right. This is the Pentagon live this morning. There will be a flag soon lowered from the roof to hang over the side of the building. And you will remember that image. It was a tribute that happened on September 12th, 2001. Here's the picture of the beginning of it. It's just a day after 184 people were killed in the attack there.

Firefighters who were working to put out the embers on the roof lowered the flag as President Bush visited the site. Now today the original flag is preserved at the Army Center of Military History. We'll bring in that when it happens later this morning.

Now, for a lot of people September 11th is not a distant memory. It still in fact affects thousands of people every day.

PAUL: CNN's Karin Caifa has a look at how people are remembering the victims. And also let's remember the first responders who died that day to save other people.


KARIN CAIFA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Freedom Tower now stands taller here than the twin towers did. And a memorial glittering monument of resilience the memorial to nearly 3,000 Americans killed in the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil exactly 15 years ago today.

Commemorations of a solemn anniversary began days ago. Friday a parade to honor first responders at a ceremony here in Lower Manhattan.

JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: On each 9/11 of each year we look back and reflect.

CAIFA: In Washington at the justice department --

LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL: A decade and a half has elapsed since 9/11. This is hard to believe but it has.

CAIFA: And on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): God bless America.

CAIFA: Echoing a moment of unity in the wake of tragedy 15 years ago.

A CNN/ORC Poll released Friday finds Americans more angry and more fearful when they reflect on the events of 9/11 now than five years ago, perhaps because of terror attacks like Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando, since then and the quick rise of ISIS.

But this day is defined by remembrance, the somber traditions the same each year. Moments of silence for the minutes al Qaeda hijackers steered each plane into each World Trade Center tower and the Pentagon, and when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, and when each tower collapsed, the south, then the north. And a reading of the names of those lost by the people who loved them, and miss them, 15 years on.

Near Ground Zero I'm Karin Caifa.


PAUL: And I want to introduce you to a gentleman. He's an internationally known architect. Works of his admired all over the world. Well now one of Santiago Calatrava's latest designs is in the heart of New York City. You may see it today at Ground Zero. It's the new World Trade Center transportation hub and it pays tribute to the people who died.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CALATRAVA: The building like that should be related to the memory of the victims, although in a silent way and probably being more than anything else a monument or remembering how important life is.

PAUL: Talk to me about the light, because as I understand it you designed this in such a way that there is light at specific times going to specific places in the building. How did you do that?

CALATRAVA: Yes. One thing from the very beginning I admire in the master plan was a certain point, it got references, the cities, the order of the buildings in the (ph) crescendo creating a beautiful ensemble around the memorial park. And the other side also the fact that there was a marking two directions in (INAUDIBLE) -- it was marking two directions in an item called the wedge of light.

I thought that is an important reference that I have to take. So separating the building and making a single element as I have done and orienting it to the second direction of the wedge of light, I could achieve a gap and transform this beautiful idea of the wedge of light to represent the time, the cosmical time in which the sun is situated in the moment of the collapse of the second tower.


PAUL: Something, the wedge of light is situated there for that light to shine through in the moment of a collapse of that second tower.


PAUL: The work that goes into that is just mind boggling to me. You can watch the rest of the interview with Santiago Calatrava, that's coming up in the next hour here on CNN NEW DAY.

BLACKWELL: Also ahead, the stories from CNN staffers who were there behind the scenes, who were in the control rooms as well, what they saw, what they experienced, the pain of 9/11 from their perspective.



STEVE MACHALEK, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: I just remember having to navigate people who were just walking almost like zombies. You think if you saw a car it wasn't traveling that fast, but coming they would move. But they wouldn't. They were just eyes focused straight ahead just walking



BLACKWELL: All right. This is the Pentagon just moments ago where a flag was unfurled and it now hangs over the side here. You'll remember it was September 12th when this happened the first time. It was a day after 184 people were killed in the attack there. Firefighters who were working there to put out any embers that were left on the roof, they lowered that flag as then President Bush visited the site. And you see this flag now hanging. The original that hung on that day is now at the Army Center of Military History.

We'll bring you these moments across the country as they happen throughout the day.

Now, 15 years ago this morning survivors walked away from Ground Zero. First responders ran toward the site.

PAUL: And some CNN staffers were there like everyone else who witnessed what was happening that day and the horrors. I mean, look at these images. They're still -- they still shake you up and impacted everything that we remember about that day.

CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" Brian Stelter joining us now to talk about the memories of that day and what people were telling him.


Brian, do they -- do they talk about it like it was not quite so long ago?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think it's just beneath the surface for many of the journalists that were in Lower Manhattan and in Washington that day.

You know, 15 years on, some of the images, some of the scenes are still too painful for us to bear. You think about New Yorkers having to choose at the top of those towers between dying from smoke inhalation and fire or dying by jumping. I think (INAUDIBLE) are very judicious about when to show images like that. And images from that day of the towers burning and collapsing.

But for CNN journalists who were there, it's something they will always remember.


MARC HALUALANI, CNN EDITOR PRODUCER: So it's somewhat cliche to say but it was just a normal morning. At that point, terrorism wasn't forefront in our mind. So it was a second thought until the second plane hit. And then we were like, oh, this is definitely a terrorist attack.

TONY UMRANI, CNN SENIOR PHOTOJOURNALIST: I put up a live shot from on top of the roof here at CNN. And they told me to shoot the Capitol. And it was kind of weird, you know, telling me to point the camera at the Capitol and wait for something to hit it, but essentially that's what I was doing.

ASHLEY BATEMAN, CNN EDITOR PRODUCER: At about 2:00 this afternoon, I finally checked my phone and gazillion missed calls. And it turns out that my dad was at the Pentagon that day. I was unaware. So I immediately called my family and he was missing. Thankfully my dad was fine. He was on the other side of the building. MICHAEL CALLOWAY, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: We hopped in our vehicles and drove up to New York from Atlanta all day, all night and leaving our families, which I didn't want to do at the time, because it was such a traumatic story I wanted to be as close to my family as possible. But, you know, duty calls.

MACHALEK: And I was driving by myself over the upper roadway to the 59th Street Bridge and I just remember having to navigate people who were just walking almost like zombies. You think if you saw a car it wasn't traveling that fast, but coming they would move. But they wouldn't. They were just eyes focused straight ahead just walking. And some people you saw covered in dust and debris. And they kind of almost looked like they were in black and white which was kind of odd.

SKIP NOCCIOLO, CNN SENIOR PHOTOJOURNALIST: We then proceeded to the east front of the Capitol we're being told that the leadership was going to come back and make a statement. So we were already there. Boom, we got center position. So we were able to string enough cable to get from our camera position to a live drop. And the leadership comes out, they made a statement and then they sang God Bless America.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP (singing): Land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above.

FRANK BIVONA, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: The armory was the spot where people came to report their deceased or lost. At the time, it was lost. And I was there with Elizabeth Cohen and we were doing live shots. I will never ever forget that day. It was so heartbreaking for me. I did for hours on end shot people's photos.

Finally, at the end of the day, I'll never forget, I walked into this Dunkin Donuts and I just broke down. It was just so stressful for me. I'll never forget that day. The armory was a really, really hard day.


STELTER: It's worth hearing these stories. Not to sow fear or terror it's what terrorist wants but to raise awareness of what happened that day. Because, Victor and Christi, the 15 years going by, there's a whole generation of Americans too young to remember. And oral history is one way to help them learn what happened that day.

PAUL: (INAUDIBLE) a good point. (INAUDIBLE) a good point. And the other thing that strikes me is how together we were.


PAUL: You know, how collectively. You know, we talk about this divided country now, but my goodness, how together we were.

BLACKWELL: There was a time that it was a unifying tragedy. That it was apolitical.

PAUL: Yes.

STELTER: Yes. BLACKWELL: That time has passed.

Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Brian.

Of course our coverage of 9/11 Memorial Events is continuing for you this morning. In fact at the top to have hour New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton is with us. And we're going to talk about the first responders, what they went through, where some of them might be now. We're going to ask them how safe are we 15 years later.



BLACKWELL: The Seattle Seahawks revealing their plans for a demonstration of unity before today's season opener.

PAUL: Andy Scholes has more on this.


There was a lot of talk late in the week about what exactly the Seahawks were going to do as a team during the national anthem. (INAUDIBLE) Doug Baldwin who has been one of the leaders in planning the action says, what they do should not be viewed as a protest but instead of a demonstration of unity.

And yesterday Baldwin revealed the team's plan on Twitter. Take a look.


DOUG BALDWIN JR., WIDE RECEIVER, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: We are a team comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds. And as a team, we have chosen to stand and interlock arms in unity. We honored those who have fought for the freedom we cherish. And we stand to ensure the riches of freedom and the security of justice for all people. Progress can and will be made only if we stand together.


SCHOLES: So according to Baldwin, the team is going to stand together locking arms for the national anthem later today for their game with the Dolphins. This follows the controversy surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem in protest over racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. Now the 49ers will open their session tomorrow night.

The NFL will be holding special 9/11 tributes with a special ceremony before every game today. Both president Obama and President George W. Bush, they recorded special messages that will be played before the national anthem in all the stadiums today and on national broadcast as well.

PAUL: On national broadcast. All right. Thank you so much, Andy.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

PAUL: We appreciate it.

And thank you for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We've got a lot more ahead in the next hour of your NEW DAY that starts right now.