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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

U.S. Military Departs Afghanistan, Ending Longest U.S. War; Widow Of Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss Speaks Out; Hurricane Ida Hits Louisiana On 16th Anniversary Of Katrina; Tied With Two Other Storms As Strongest Ever To Hit State; Picture Of The Last U.S. Soldier Leaving Afghanistan. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 30, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A second chance at life from an eternally grateful family whose hearts may remain in Afghanistan, but whose future now lies a world away.

Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: An incredible story, an awesome story.

Thank you for joining us. "ANDERSON" starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We have two breaking stories tonight, each with considerable impact now and one, almost certainly for years to come.

There is the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and rescue operations underway right now.

First, though, this country's 20-year war in Afghanistan is over. A four-star General making the announcement this afternoon, which came suddenly and sooner than expected with the last C-17 transport lifting off just one minute before the President's self-imposed August 31st deadline arrived in Kabul. He'll be addressing the nation tomorrow.

The Secretary of State spoke just a short time ago and addressed the issue of Americans remaining in Afghanistan.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe there are still a small number of Americans, under 200, and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.

We're trying to determine exactly how many. We are going through manifests and calling and texting through our lists, and we'll have more details to share as soon as possible.

Our commitment to them and to all Americans in Afghanistan and everywhere in the world continues. The protection of welfare of Americans abroad remains the State Department's most vital and enduring mission.


COOPER: He said the State Department would help Americans leave no matter when they decide that they wish to depart. Meantime, celebratory gunfire from the Taliban was heard in parts of Kabul, pointing to a local reporter working with CNN, certainly not the ending anyone anticipated 20 years, $2 trillion and nearly 2,000 American lives ago, including the 13 final American troops who gave their lives helping others get out safely.

It's a lot. It is history and the effects will be felt for generations.

CNN's Clarissa Ward was in Afghanistan throughout the war, including the final American chapter. She joins us now.

So, Clarissa as someone who spent a long time in Afghanistan covering the war, what is it like to know the U.S. has finally left?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it is such a mixture of emotions, and it's such an extraordinary moment to be thinking that 20 years ago today, the Taliban was in control, and all these decades and lives lost and money spent and efforts put in later, the Taliban is back in control.

You heard Secretary of State Blinken talk about tough lessons to be learned, and I definitely think that you can't feel anything other than humbled on a day like today. I think, definitely there are questions about how this can affect America standing in the world.

The fact that even with the world's most powerful army and all that money and all that effort that still, ultimately the U.S. was defeated by an insurgency. That is a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of people.

I know that my phone has been inundated since the news broke that this is really truly over, Anderson, from servicemen, Special Forces, former Intelligence who are heartbroken, who feel angry, who feel that America has betrayed the Afghan people and has abandoned people.

And on the other hand, though, I hear from a lot of Americans who simply say, at least this was done in the most remarkable way it could have been in terms of managing to evacuate well over 100,000 people. And now it's time to draw a line under it.

So, I think the history books will ultimately be the ones to decide which narrative is closer to the truth, but certainly Afghanistan has many challenges ahead.

COOPER: Right now, it seems there is probably no air traffic controllers in the airport in Kabul. We've seen obviously Taliban taking over the airport already, but there is not commercial flights in and out of Afghanistan. Is it clear to you what happens now with Kabul in terms of aid going into the country?

Obviously, the economy is in freefall. So much foreign aid has been propping up the country for the last 20 years, even getting the remaining American citizens out and possibly other allied Afghan citizens who may want to, if the Taliban would allow them to leave, will only be possible if the airport is up and running.

WARD: Right. I mean, Secretary of State Blinken really wanted to emphasize that any Americans will be able to leave even if they decide they want to leave in a month and talked about this agreement that's been hashed out with Turkey and Qatar potentially to allow charter flights in.

But as you say, all of this really will be contingent on a very major factor here, which is whether the Taliban can adequately and sufficiently secure and staff that airport. And I think they are desperate to make it happen, so there is every chance that they will, but there are certain challenges that they will be facing as well, security being a primary one.


WARD: CNN spoke to a Taliban source earlier who said that the problem they have at the moment is that ISIS-K fighters have, quote, "melted into the Taliban," meaning that it's impossible for Taliban leadership and Taliban fighters on the ground to distinguish ISIS-K militants who are perhaps poised to carry out an attack from ordinary Taliban fighters.

So, they have quite a mission on their hand now -- on their hands now to try to, you know, sustain security, not just in Kabul, but across the country, open up a major international airport, get those flights up in the air again. And it just isn't clear to any of us yet, I think Anderson, how quickly they'll be able to pull it off.

COOPER: There had been reported a couple of days ago that the Taliban had perhaps reached back out to Turkey to see if they would once again take over security at the airport or control of the airport. Do you know anything about that, whether that's something Turkey would agree to?

WARD: I think that Turkey and Qatar are -- you know, because they have close relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood or affiliated directly with the Muslim Brotherhood, these are two countries that the Taliban feel that they can work with and that they feel that they understand the Taliban and know how to work with them as well.

So, if anyone is going to be able to do this, then it likely would be a country like Turkey. And of course, they've been running security at that airport in their NATO role for many years now.

But again, there's still so many questions as to like the mechanisms of what that would look like. Perhaps they've hammered out a deal behind the scenes. We've seen the images now of Taliban Special Forces kind of storming into that airport hangar, looking at those U.S. military planes that remain, even though they're not functional anymore. That's a powerful symbolic moment for the Taliban, but now, the really hard work begins -- Anderson.

COOPER: The other thing that seems unclear is whether Taliban will actually help or let American citizens safely leave the country now. I know you've been speaking to two Taliban, individuals. Do you have a sense of how they plan to, you know, rule in Kabul? Maintain security? Especially with threats from ISIS-K and their ideology.

WARD: So they say, and they keep repeating this, particularly to other sort of nations in the international community that all foreign nationals will be allowed to travel freely, will be allowed to leave the country.

I think that probably the sort of between 100 and 200 Americans that Secretary Blinken alluded to, will have an easier time getting out than certainly U.S. allies in the form of Afghan citizens, some of whom may have green cards, some of whom may have those SIV, those Special Immigration Visas, but who have the sort of stigma associated with having worked with the U.S. military or the U.S. Embassy in some capacity.

And while the Taliban has said there's a blanket amnesty here, and no one will be punished, privately, when I talk to people who are sort of ideologically aligned with the Taliban, I hear something very different, which is that people who collaborated with the occupiers and the invaders need to face some kind of punishment.

And it's important to remember that the whole reason the Taliban has really been able to get this far is by the fact that they can create a secure situation through really draconian rule.

And so, in order to continue to secure the country, it follows that they are going to have to implement a pretty draconian rule. And that is why so many people, and we're talking thousands -- tens of thousands potentially, Anderson, are deeply fearful tonight.

Now that those last U.S. planes have left, does that mean that their chance of getting out of the country has now gone forever?

COOPER: Clarissa Ward, I appreciate it. Thank you, from Pakistan tonight.

The end of the war will bring a lot of questions, a lot of study and analysis including what happens to all the U.S. military hardware left behind. Clarissa just mentioned a video that provides a stark answer tonight.

It was shot reportedly just after the last U.S. flight left. "LA Times" journalists Nabih Bulos took the video walking behind Taliban fighters who were wearing clearly what seems to be U.S. supply gear, carrying American M-4 weapons, walking toward what was just before a U.S. helicopter is now in the Taliban hands.

I spoke with Nabih Bulos was just a few minutes before airtime.


COOPER: Explain when you shot this video and what it is we are seeing. What happened here?

NABIH BULOS, "LOS ANGELES TIMES" (via phone): So, we took this video minutes after the last American plane had left, and at that point you had the Taliban sort of amassing around the sides of the airport.


BULOS: And then when they saw that there were no more planes, they waited a bit and then went inside en masse and we were like, with I think the first wave. We were able to go towards the gate and that had been, a few minutes before manned by the Americans. And they went in, they were able to examine the hangars, the tarmac, of course. And they were doing a full sweep of what they had basically been able now to commandeer.

I mean, now the airport is fully in their hands, and you know, you know, they have taken the entire area now.

COOPER: This is a hangar -- is this -- is it your understanding this was a hangar that was up until a short time ago occupied by U.S. forces? That's a Chinook -- it looks like a Chinook helicopter that was used to ferry Embassy employees and others.

BULOS: Exactly. So yes, and those have been have been partially dismantled. But you also add other helicopters as well. And there was even an MRAP, actually. We saw an MRAP as well, though, I think, it probably had been disabled.

A lot of things had been disabled within.

COOPER: So, you think that helicopter has been disabled?

BULOS: I mean, you know, I'm no expert to be clear. So, I don't want to pretend to know what I don't know. But it seems that it was dismantled. So it hasn't been left in a way to be assembled well, and this isn't easy, right? I mean, it's not -- it's not just a matter of grabbing a screwdriver and putting it together, obviously, it's going to -- it does need some skills and knowledge and training of course.

COOPER: The uniforms that the Taliban soldiers appear to be, or that the Taliban soldiers are wearing, I mean, those look like American uniforms. Do you know where they come from?

BULOS: I mean, surely they're U.S. supplied. You know, I can't tell you where they came from, exactly. But I mean, they also have night vision goggles, you know, their rifles, M-4s, M-16s, and all those were supplied by the U.S., and the uniforms, of course, are the same.

COOPER: What's the situation between reporters and the Taliban now? What is the -- what's the feeling like in Kabul?

BULOS: I mean, at the moment, it's been conference reporters. But again, I want to stress that I'm in a very privileged position in the sense that I'm not a local. I mean, I don't want to sort of compare myself to a local journalist who doesn't have the same protection, doesn't have a foreign passport. I mean, it would be perilous to pretend that we are the same. They may

face you know, much higher dangers.

So with that being said, you know, we were able to get the permission to work with the Taliban, you know, and in that area we had weekly visited in the past to basically just see what was going on with the gates. And we got to know this one commander who was able to bring us into the airport when they were able to take it over.

COOPER: I've got to say, it is startling to see Taliban fighters dressed in what seem to be American supplied uniforms, perhaps supplied to the Afghan military with American weapons and night vision goggles. Do you see a lot of that now?

BULOS: Yes, I mean, of course, you know, throughout Kabul, you see the -- I mean, very often, it's just a real sight. You see, you know, Taliban atop, you know, a Hilux, the Ford F150 -- I mean, the Ford Ranger, you know, all these various pickups.

So, I mean, you're talking about, you know, all this stuff is supplied by the U.S. right, it is U.S. material. And, of course, they're carrying an important theme. It's just a surreal sight to see, the Taliban on the streets of Kabul to begin with, and then to see them, you know, with these weapons is also even more surreal.

COOPER: Nabih Bulos, I appreciate you talking with us. Be careful. Thank you.

BULOS: Thank you for having me.


COOPER: Let's get some perspective now on what's a really historic night from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of "Fareed Zakaria, GPS," author of "Ten Lessons for a Post Pandemic World."

Fareed, what do you make of this? I mean, for all what we have witnessed over the last week or more, it was still startling to see the news today that the last plane left.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": It was startling, it was historic, Anderson, and I think all the feelings of frustration and anger all come down to one very simple thing, which is that the United States was not able to achieve its mission in Afghanistan.

The mission in Afghanistan was to defeat the Taliban and to establish a democratic government that could command the legitimacy of the Afghan people and control the country. And I think it would be very hard to make the case on either front.

The Taliban over the last 10 years has kept gaining ground. Even after the surge, you'll remember, you know they were at one point, 130,000 to 140,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan. By 2015, the Taliban had made gains. They were controlling almost 30 to 40 percent of the country. If you look at the government, there were some good things without any

question, but at the end of the day in the last election, 1.8 Afghans voted out of -- that's in a country of 39 million.

COOPER: One point eight million.

ZAKARIA: The army turned out to be nothing like what it had been advertised to be. So, it's really because this you know, this was a failure and it is -- there's no easy way to say that and there's no easy way to lose a war.


COOPER: Is there any way to know what the end of this war, which is America's longest war, means both in the short term and the long term for Afghanistan? I mean, there are so many unknowns of what sort of rule the Taliban will have? Their abilities to actually rule the country, and what happens next?

ZAKARIA: You put it exactly right, Anderson. I think anyone who claims that they can foresee this, it's incredibly complicated.

What we can say is, historically, Afghans have been able to come together or create some sense of national unity only when there is a foreign presence. You know, when there are foreigners there, there is a degree to which you can play with that nationalist feeling.

Left to their own devices, it is a very tribal society, many different ethnic groups, many of them don't like each other much and there have been long periods of either, you know, kind of, you run your part of Afghanistan, we run our part or actual Civil War.

So yes, the Taliban or Pashtuns. Pashtuns make up 50 percent of Afghanistan, but there are a lot of Tajiks and Uzbeks and Hazaras, and they don't like the Pashtuns much. So, history would suggest the Taliban is going to have a tough time, and add to it, the Afghanistan of today is very different from the Afghanistan of 20 years ago.

There were no cell phones in Afghanistan 20 years ago. I think something like 70 percent of the population have cell phones. Women are educated and they've been working. The population is much younger. People have gotten used to a certain level of economic standards of living and activity.

Will they be able to just shut that all back?

Remember, the last time they came in, it was the end of a 10-year Civil War, Soviet withdrawal. It was very different.

This is going to be tougher for the Taliban. They have no money, they have no expertise. They can't pay government salaries.

So, I suspect, we will see a period of a great deal of ambiguity, a certain amount of contestation and all of which, by the way, gives America some leverage in asking the Afghan allies allowed to leave, whatever Americans want to leave, can leave. We have leverage with the Taliban.

COOPER: I mean, this is a country which is -- obviously, there's potential for a huge drug trade. Continuing, there's -- but this is a country which has existed through foreign money for a very long time, and the reason there are mansions that have popped up in Kabul over the last 20 years is because all the U.S. dollars that we import into this country have been, I assume, siphoned off and gone into people's pockets, and they build nice houses or big houses, at the very least.

What does this country do unless they're able to continue to get foreign aid?

ZAKARIA: Another very good question. Afghanistan is one of the rare countries where its defense budget was larger than its GDP. The amount the Americans were putting in was just massive, and what we were doing was we were trying to, you know, win a war. So money was no expense, it went out fast. There was little accountability.

And so as you said, it sloshed around the country. Now, there's none of that. So, what do they do? Well, as you say, opium has been a big, longstanding business. It is mineral rich, and there is one possibility that you end up, you know, Afghanistan through Pakistan, which has essentially become a Chinese satellite state, now moves toward China. The Chinese demand mineral rights and they get some kind of foreign aid in that form.

But again, it won't be -- at least historically, it won't be that easy because one of the reasons the minerals have been tough to extract in Afghanistan is because there's often a lot of political instability. There are often people firing at you while you're trying to mine those minerals.

So, will all that go away? Will the Taliban be able, as Clarissa was saying to you, to impose a kind of draconian rule on Afghanistan? If they can, then this China angle perhaps becomes a viable one.

COOPER: Yes. Fareed Zakaria, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, the wife of one of the 13 Americans who died defending the Kabul Airport died doing what she said that her husband loved the most, which was helping other people, and that he certainly did -- helping others to get out of Kabul.

And later live reports from Louisiana where the Governor says Hurricane Ida's death toll could rise considerably.



COOPER: Repeating our breaking news tonight, America has ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan. The last C-17 left Kabul just before midnight there. One of the last American soldiers to die was the only member of the army to be killed in last week's suicide attack outside the Kabul Airport. Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss was 23 years old when he died, along with

12 other American service members. He was assigned to the Army Special Operations Forces Psychological Operations Unit.

Those barest of brief biographical details of course don't tell you nearly enough about who he was and what he was like. Well, just before airtime, I spoke to his wife, Alena, about Ryan's life and service.


COOPER: Alena, thank you so much for joining us. I'm so sorry for your loss. How are you holding up?

ALENA KNAUSS, WIDOW OF STAFF SERGEANT RYAN KNAUSS, U.S. ARMY: I know grieving is a different process for everyone, so, as well as I can be, at the moment.

COOPER: What was Ryan like?

KNAUSS: I think the word that has been most commonly used these past few days is very charismatic. There's not -- we don't have the time, you know, to talk about every little thing about him and I wish we did because I wish I could give that little bit of him to people because he was just wonderful through and through.

He was one of those people you could not hate. And when you met him, you thought about him until you know, one day you're like, why am I thinking about this person? He was just really one of those people that he could have the smallest interaction with and truly touched them.

COOPER: Now, I understand that you went to -- you kind of went to rival high schools, didn't you?

KNAUSS: In a way yes. It's going to sound bad. But he went to Gibbs, which was like the local high school and I went to -- I didn't want to go to Gibbs. I wanted to go to the Linden STEM Academy, which is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics downtown.

And so he always gave me so much, you know, for not going to the local one. He's like, you just really thought you were above everyone. I am like, no, I just -- I wanted to break out, you know, so -- anyway, yes.

COOPER: But you were high school sweethearts. How did you meet?


KNAUSS: We worked at a very small pizza shop in Fountain City, Tennessee together. His brother was actually the manager at the time, and I'd worked with his brother and we were really good friends.

And then one day, this kid showed up, and I was like, God, he feels -- he thinks he owns the place. Like, who is this guy? And he was just like, who? Like, and he was like, oh, that's my brother. And I was like, oops. Okay, please, give him a hard time. He has the confidence. He needs to be knocked down a little. And I've been doing it ever since.

COOPER: He was obviously -- he was very good looking. I've heard you say that. I've heard -- I've heard that you actually didn't do much work when he was around because you were kind of smitten with him. Is that true?

KNAUSS: Yes, he would get frequently annoyed. I keep telling people I was his PR, because I mean, he would be trying to talk to me or I mean, just even eat in peace, and I would just be over there with like, you know, my phone, like, look that way, look that way. You know, just -- I was smitten.

People say that the cupcake phase or the honeymoon phase ends and it did not for us, which I am so grateful for.

COOPER: October 7th was going to be your fifth wedding anniversary. It is going to be your fifth wedding anniversary.


COOPER: When did you -- when did you know you were going to marry him? When did you know he was the one?

KNAUSS: But also not the second I met him. He was -- I think I told someone else earlier, he really hounded me those first few years for a date. And it's like I knew the second I met him that one, he drove me crazy, and two, I was going to marry him.

COOPER: I heard your mom is the one who actually got you to go on a date with him.

KNAUSS: She did. She would come in for pizzas, because you know, we worked there, so we had a discount. And he was just so nice. That's who he was. And it was genuine, you know, but of course, my mom was like, oh, this nice young man.

So she was like Alena, if you do not, you know, at least give him a chance, he will be the one you always wonder about. And she just -- she hounded me just as much as he did, and finally, I gave him the chance. And I was like, okay, so we're getting married. I get it. Yes.

COOPER: Moms always now. And he was -- and Ryan always wanted to be in the military.

KNAUSS: Absolutely. I mean, I think something recently surfaced wherein second grade, he had written, "I want to be a Marine." Poorly, you know, he had written it, and --

COOPER: I love that you point out "poorly."

KNAUSS: Like I said, I've always -- it's been my job to keep him humble, just as much as it was to be smitten with him. That was our dynamic.

COOPER: So he was living his dream, not only his dream with you, but also being in the military. KNAUSS: A hundred percent. I thought he should have been a History

Professor. I thought he should have done you know -- he could -- he was one of those people. He was just so brilliant.

He could have done whatever he wanted, but he wanted to serve his country. And he did and it was self-fulfilling for him. And you know, he went through so many different MOS changes and finding out his niche and he really did end in with Psy-Ops, and, you know, Psychological Operations because he was fulfilling his role in its fullest capacity.

He was brilliant, and he was using every capability he had to help people.

COOPER: When you heard that there had been an attack. Initially, the reporting was that it was Marines and Navy Corpsman. Did you feel -- you didn't know initially that he had been in the attack?

KNAUSS: Correct. His mom called. And she said Alena, you know, I'm worried about Ryan. Have you heard anything from him? And I was like, no, I haven't, you know, but he's working and I will reach out to him. But I was like, you know, don't be worried because, you know, we'll know before the media, God forbid anything happened.

And so I sent him a text and it was the last text I sent him, and it was along the lines of you know, hey, I love you. I know you're busy. But when you get the chance, everybody's worried. So, just let me know you're okay, and we know now he wasn't okay, unfortunately.

COOPER: What do you -- what do you want people to know about him? I read an article, I think, I don't know if it was you or your mom, but this is what he -- this is what he loved to do, and I mean, service was something that was that the need to serve run or deepen him.

KNAUSS: It did, and I think it takes very unique people to do something in that field, something very, very selfless. You know, you serve regardless of the president who's in position you do it not for politics, but for helping people, you know. And I want people to know that he was doing what he wanted to be doing. And I keep saying it, and I will always say it. But you know, if it had been one person over there, who needed him, he would have been there. And if he would have known the outcome, he would have still done it. Because it was the ultimate sacrifice that he could give for his country.

COOPER: He sounds like just a really remarkable guy. And I think we're all poor for not having -- for not having known him and for not having him still with us. Thank you so much --

KNAUSS: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- for talking to us about him and letting us know him a little bit.

KNAUSS: Of course, thank you for having me. And thank you for letting me give you all a little bit about him.

COOPER: Just sounds remarkable.

Coming up next, the very latest live reporting from southeastern Louisiana, we're full accounting of Hurricane Ida's destruction might not be known for days.


COOPER: As of now two people are known to have lost their lives in the wake of Hurricane Ida. No one pretends that that will be the final number. Louisiana's governor saying he expects it to rise quote considerably. When it came ashore yesterday as a strong category form storm -- four storm, Ida tide Hurricane Laura last year and another storm is the strongest hurricane ever hit the state. Which means the damage is extensive. Powers out for about 1.1 million people across the area. The trees are down, roads, blocked access obviously difficult.


In Lafayette, west of New Orleans and elsewhere outside the city members of the volunteer Cajun Navy are conducting rescue operations long other with other volunteer and other official agencies. When fleet captain telling us he believes there are hundreds of people possibly more stranded in their homes, but again hard numbers are still very difficult to come by. And lower Lafayette south of New Orleans flooding reportedly sent some people to their rooftops, same in another town nearby levee overtopping being blamed for some of it as well.

However, unlike during Katrina, which hit 16 years ago to the day before hurricane Ida, the big levees protecting New Orleans did not give way. So there's a lot to be thankful for not seeing anything like what transpired back then.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): There's been a preliminary damage assessment of levees today, people getting eyes on those levees. We don't believe there was a single levee anywhere now that actually breached that failed.


COOPER: And that is no small things. CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now from Gonzales, Louisiana on the road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. What kind of damage have you seen Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the amount of damage we've seen this far inland from where Hurricane Ida came ashore is rather quite impressive, a decent amount of structural damage down power lines everywhere we've been and people having to be rescued and taken out of neighborhoods, all through this region, essentially the eye of the storm thread the needle coming ashore between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and we saw, you know, dozens of people being rescued from a residential neighborhoods in the town of LaPlace just west of New Orleans throughout much of the day today. COOPER: And how resonance in the air describing what it was like?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): You know, it was really staggering to see people coming out of these neighborhoods after they had just been pulled out. You know, this day's kind of bewildered look on their face. And these are people who to a person told us we are used to dealing with storms living through storms all the time. It's just the way of life down here. But they all felt like this one was different, the intensity of this hurricane and its ability to withhold and withstand the intensity of the storm this far inland really rattled a lot of people they described their walls shaking.

That one woman said she was sleeping on her kitchen island, as floodwaters were coming into their home other people escaping into their attics. They knew it was going to be bad, but they didn't think it was going to be this bad.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): What was it like for you last night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A nightmare. It was horrible. It was the way I've never had wind shake the house the way it did. The only way we survived the night was we went upstairs on the landing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In between two bedrooms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because that was -- in the between the two bedrooms, because that was the only place that didn't have where the ceiling look like it was weak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked at all my lives. We've been through all the storms. And I say they expected it to come and be bad. But we didn't expect it to get this close to LaPlace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had no idea would be this bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was supposed to be this close, you know. And so, I'm not going to take that chance again, now with a family.


LAVANDERA: And Anderson one family was we talked to said that last night, they described it as enduring hours of agony living through all of this and this far inland is really in the amount of roof top structural damage that we've seen in various communities. It really stands out in this storm.

COOPER: And are search and rescue efforts going on throughout the night?

LAVANDERA: It's hard to say and I think it kind of depends on where you are. For example, we spent the day in LaPlace and that is St. John the Baptist Parish. There were 800 people were told by parish officials there that were rescued out of neighborhood. Then officials there now say that into the evening hours, it's going into more of a recovery mode. That kind of depends on where you are in terms of just how much access crews were able to get to various neighborhoods.

You know, I think the further south you are, it's become much -- it's been much more treacherous throughout the day. Up here along Interstate 10, they've been able to clear out some roads and they've made I think, a pretty decent amount of progress in terms of search and rescue efforts throughout the day today.

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining us now is in Lafayette, Mike Foster, president of the nonprofit search and rescue team Tidewater Disaster Response.

Mike, appreciate you being with us. I know you've been out in boats and 6:00 a.m. What's it been like?

MIKE FOSTER, PRESIDENT, TIDEWATER DISASTER RESPONSE: You know, when we started this morning, we actually got the call last night to head down to Lafayette around 4:30 in the morning, we were up in Playa Del trying to ride the storm out. Once we got the call we started heading that way once weather allowed. Arrived there around 2:30 in the morning and had a few other guys there that were kind of given us what info they had on Lafayette. And they said, all they know is they were guessing upwards of 50 to 100 people trapped. We assessed the situation and decided that with the wind still going on, we couldn't get boats in the water quite yet. So we waited it out until sunrise came.


And right around 6:00 a.m. we got boats in the water and working with the Jefferson Parish (ph) there, Sheriff's Office in the Lafayette Fire Department as well with National Guard started working into the area.

COOPER: And what did you see? I mean, we're seeing some video that that you took, obviously there's an extensive, extensive flooding. Did a lot of folks need to be brought out of their homes?

FOSTER: Yes. So when we got there, there was flooding up to windows and houses. We had some areas down there. It was all the way up to the roof. It was mostly a lot of the folks that had come out already. And they were making their way down to the fire department when we got there. There was a lot of people on their upper balconies, at their front doors, just hollering asking for help. So we kind of worked our way through street by street and pick them up as they came.

And then once all that kind of wrapped up, it was a lot of wellness checks in the area of people that hadn't heard from. But it was it was pretty bad down there. I mean, the wind damage was like nothing I've ever seen. And the flooding was unreal.

COOPER: What's been the biggest, the biggest challenge? I mean, first of all, you all got to be exhausted. But what's been the biggest challenge so far?

FOSTER: Oh, the biggest challenge for this was really access. When we got there, we were still probably around six or seven miles from Lafayette from the first drop in point that we could even get close to. So in the morning, once we kind of figured a game plan out we actually had to go I would think around five, six miles through the highways, taking the boats on highways, side roads, through the marshes there and then had to cross over the river to Lafayette to finally get into the area and start working our way through the neighborhood.

COOPER: Yes. Mike Foster, I appreciate talking to you and I appreciate all you're doing and thank you so much.

FOSTER: Yes, definitely thank you for having me on.

COOPER: Coming up next, we'll meet a remarkably optimistic man who survived Ida even though his house did not fare so well. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Before the break, we got to see a small sampling But hurricane Ida has done to sell southeastern Louisiana, now closer look at why we're so destructive there and why others elsewhere could still be in harm's way.

Joining us now with that, CNN meteorologist Tom Sater. So what kind of danger do the storm still pose?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Mainly it's flooding Anderson but there's two types. There's flash flooding, and then river flooding. I mean, this looks a lot different than it did yesterday, when it was a giant basalt, calm shape dryer moving in the center's north of Jackson. It'll leave the state of Mississippi by morning. But the brighter colors and infrared tell us where the flash flooding problems are. And again, it's been these bands throughout the day. We have a couple of warnings here for flooding. It was peppered earlier today even tornadoes, numerous tornado warnings and small spin ups.

But for the most part, we're watching the river flooding. Everything in red is eight to 10 inches of rain. But you get into purple areas, this is 10 to 17. It takes a while for all this water to get into the tributaries, larger tributaries, rivers and then the Mississippi so that could pose a threat for even rescue. And again crews that are trying to get those boats and the barges that become unmoored.

So again, that's going to be a problem for days ahead could cause some big problems for again, those recovery crews.

COOPER: And in terms of the hardest hit areas I'm wondering what do you make of the damage we've seen so far?

SATER: Well, if you go back and look at the forecast, this is amazing. I mean, the men and women of the National Hurricane Center nailed this, 72 hours out had a beat on it. They knew what was going to be in Louisiana. They even had the intensity up to a major hurricane and a Category 4. But look into areas of red, this is the track it made a turn to the east. That's good news for Baton Rouge, but it was terrible for Houma put them pretty much in the eyewall. They were expecting the eye to move over them that would have given them a lightened winds for several hours. But unfortunately, they were into the winds. It's also bad news for New Orleans and points to the west.

That's why we had those flash flood emergencies, which is a big concern without power for the 30 hospitals or so running on generator power, wondering if those kind of floodwaters would, you know, kind of hamper that and shut them down with that as well.

COOPER: So what happens now going forward?

SATER: Well, now what we have is more flood problems. We've got a swath of three to five inches that will make its way into the Tennessee Valley, we're really worried west of Tennessee where we had those problems unwaverly, and then up into areas in New England. Nineteen states under flood watches right now, this won't be moving off the northeastern coast on Thursday. The other concern with over a million customers without power that's actually millions of people, a customer as a home or it's a business.

Now Anderson, take a look at this, day after day temperatures are going to be near 90. But with all of this water on the ground, the humidity levels will be through the roof that gives us heat index values in the upper 90s near 100 day after day after day. That itself is going to be a life threatening situation.


SATER: So again, it's unfortunately this is still unfolding. And it's just going to get worse for some until we can get power restored and we can get some supplies and you know the help that they need.

COOPER: Yes, Tom Sater, appreciate it. Tom, thanks.

I want to go next to CNN's Gary Tuchman in New Orleans with two people who he has met. Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, first what I'll tell you is what happened to this house in uptown New Orleans exactly 25 hours ago. It's a very sad story. But it's also an incredible and amazing story. Forty nine-year-old Dart Stovall lives here and Dart was inside the house when it was destroyed, when it collapsed. He was on the second floor the house and plunged 10 feet into the bottom of the house. He wasn't seriously hurt. He hurt his ankle. He hurt his hand. He hurt his foot but he will be OK. But this very same house he lived in 2005 when Katrina came. The roof was damaged back then. He wasn't in the house back then he was out of town. But he came back and over the last 16 years, he's been fixing up this house, that's why there's scaffolding here. He's been rebuilding things. He just got new lighting system a couple of weeks ago.


And this is the man right here. This is Dart Stovall. And next door, I want to tell you, is Daniel Tan. Daniel's a neighbor. I'm going to tell you why Daniel's with us in a minute, because that's an amazing story in itself.

First of all, I want to ask you Dart, and tell you that I'm very sorry for what's happened to you that you've lost your home. I want to ask how you're feeling physically and mentally.

DART STOVALL, HURRICANE IDA SURVIVOR: My ankles a little sore. I have a pinched nerve in my back that bothers me from time to time. It flares up, kind of bugs me. But other than that, like, the worst feeling that I have is probably a splinter in my finger.

TUCHMAN: You in the second floor.


TUCHMAN: Did you hear something or see something first that made you know something terrible was about to happen?

STOVALL: Should I turn --

TUCHMAN: Yes, you can turn, sure.

STOVALL: The fireplace completely, the storms ruin off. And so, there was a hole in the house where the fireplace was. And then I went over to see it because I had decided to hunker down in the hallway. I came over to see it. And the wind was blowing, I thought maybe OK, maybe I better get away from here. So I walked back toward the hallway. And I felt myself drop. I had no idea I had dropped to what was the ground.

TUCHMAN: You landed on your feet?

STOVALL: Yes. Yes. So I just thought --

TUCHMAN: Like a cat. Nine legs.

STOVALL: Well, hopefully I've only used one of them so far. But yes, so I felt that and then I just went and sat in the hallway. And Daniel text me --

TUCHMAN: Your neighbor.


TUCHMAN: Yes. Well, I'm going to ask Dan about that really quickly. But you were in the house, firefighters came to see what and they were amazed you were alive, right?

STOVALL: They didn't actually come until after I sat and talked via texted Daniel, I dialed 911. They couldn't -- I didn't have bad reception. So they couldn't hear me. And so I gave up on that. And I looked back and I realized that that I would come down the stairs and come out the front door. Again, I had no idea how far I had fallen. I looked up and I realized I can see the roof. So I realized the attic wasn't there. So I thought, OK, this is more serious than I'm thinking. And then I could see the brown outside. And I thought OK, that is how I'm going down. Right.

And so, I sat for a second to kind of gather myself and I responded that when it was safe when it was weather led down a little bit, I'd come out. And --

TUCHMAN: I mean, let me ask you this, can you believe now, now that you're thinking about you fell from the second storey to the first, your house is destroyed sadly Any of these things landed on your head and killed you and you're major OK?

STOVALL: Yes, absolutely. But with a bee in my house, you just, I felt at home. I just felt like, sure looking at it from outside and seeing the damage. Yes.

TUCHMAN: And it is your home. And that's why I wanted to leave the surprise about the story to Daniel over here. Daniel is in his house right next door with his wife, or girlfriend. I'm sorry. Are you ready to propose?

STOVALL: You really get it.


TUCHMAN: I got him there. See, we're trying to have a good time over here to because we're grateful for you. But here's what I asked me. He saw his house collapse. You texted him. He didn't think he was home, you said what in the text.

TAN: I sent him a picture and I'm like, hey, man, I got some bad news. Your house got some pretty serious damage.

TUCHMAN: And then you got a text back.

TAN: He responded with, I'm in the house and --

TUCHMAN: And did you freak?

TAN: Well, dude. He's in the house like me, my girlfriend heard the sound of scraping metal. Right? And then I find out he's in the house. And I'm asking if he's OK. And instead of actually being like, I'm fine. You know, but I can come over, he tells me to stay in my house, because there's a hurricane outside. He actually was worried about me.

TUCHMAN: You're good man. The final thing I want to ask is this. Do you have insurance for your home?

STOVALL: Unfortunately, I don't. I was paying for repairs out of pocket. And it put me in a position where I couldn't afford it. Quite honestly, I'm up for a promotion at work that's really significant. I've been under employed because the house was in code enforcement with the city as in fines and fees to take care of, some back taxes. So I figured if my house is in code enforcement, I'll go work and code enforcement and be there with it. And to answer your question, no. So.

TUCHMAN: All right. I'm sorry about that, but --

STOVALL: More to that story, but sure.

TUCHMAN: I'm sorry about that. But I want to wish you the best. We are all grateful, you're OK.

STOVALL: Absolutely appreciate it.

TUCHMAN: And we're grateful you have a good friend next door Daniel who may propose to his girlfriend soon, right? Put him on the spot. But we're happy that this man is doing OK.

STOVALL: You can edit that part out.

TUCHMAN: We can edit this part out, but we are live gentlemen.

STOVALL: OK. You can't edit that part out.

TUCHMAN: You see has a good sense of humor this guy despite what he went through. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Gary, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Still to come, the last U.S. soldier to leave Afghanistan. More in this photo, when we continue.



COOPER: We end tonight with this image, the last American soldier leaving Afghanistan. He was tweeted out by the Defense Department a few minutes ago. It shows Major General Chris Donahue, commanding general the 82nd Airborne America's Division, the last soldier of boarding the last C-17 departing Kabul, which again took off one minute before midnight on August 30th. It is mean striking image America leaving Afghanistan after two decades, four presidents and 2,461 U.S. service members died.

Let me say that again, because tonight we also want to remember the soldiers and their families and the Marines who gave more than anyone during this war, including the 13 service members who gave their lives last week so that more Americans and Afghans could leave. This war across the United States 2,461 American lives. More than 20,000 Americans wounded in the fight. Tonight, we remember their sacrifice.

The news continues. Want to handover Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "PRIMETIME."

Let's look again at that picture of the last service member to leave Afghanistan earlier today. This will be in history books. Pentagon just put it out, they say the war has ended.