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Abdullah Withdraws from Presidential Runoff; Family of Slain Soldier Speaks to President; President Stumps for Corzine; 6 Bodies Found in Cleveland House; Mafia Hit Caught on Tape; A New Day in Atlanta; New Documentary on Troop Greeters

Aired November 01, 2009 - 22:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight Afghanistan's road to democracy takes an unusual detour that could change the mission for our men and women in uniform.

New details surfacing about a house of horrors in Cleveland, Ohio. Police tell how and where they found the remains of six women who may have been there for years.

Election Day 2009 is days away. The president on the campaign trail. Tuesday's results could mean more to him than the candidates on the ballot.

What Atlanta's mayoral race means for the president and the rest of the country? The city could elect its first white mayor in decades.

A mafia hitman rubs out a rival and it's all caught on tape.

Plus, a warm embrace.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home, heroes.



LEMON: The people who send our men and women off to war, and welcome them back. Tonight, we honor hometown heroes.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.

What happens in the next few days and weeks in Afghanistan could have a major impact on the stability of the Afghan government. The future of the Afghan people, and the lives of our men and women fighting to bring democracy to the country. But tonight one man has thrown a wrench into the possibility of democracy for Afghanistan. Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah was the only remaining challenger to incumbent President Hamid Karzai. Abdullah says he is dropping out of next Saturday's presidential runoff. He says it's concerned it would be just as corrupt as the general election.

Here's what he told Christian Amanpour about his decision. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I took too many things into consideration. First of all, the electoral process in itself is under a big question of what we went through in the last round of elections. That was the main issue. And apart from that, looking at this situation, security and many challenges which are ahead of us. So I thought that this was in the best interests of my supporters, the people of Afghanistan for me not to participate in the November 7th elections.


LEMON: And CNN Sarah Sidner is in Kabul tonight with reaction from Afghan voters on what is now a one-man presidential runoff.



SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The announcement made by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday that he will be withdrawing from the runoff election did not come as a huge surprise to many, but it certainly garnered attention and reaction from the Afghan people, from the international community, and from the Karzai administration.

We went out to the streets, for example, of Kabul today to speak with average citizens, some of them threw up their hands in excitement saying that Dr. Abdullah only left this race because he was not going to win anyway and they were happy and believe that Mr. Karzai is the right person to run the country, but there was a complete opposite reaction from others who said that they were distraught about all of this, and that they believe that Dr. Abdullah was the right man for the job and they're sad that there's only one game in town, so to speak, with it comes to what would be a possible runoff election with only one candidate.


LEMON: And the reaction from Washington somewhat muted as President Obama mulls over how developments or deployments may affect his decision to send more U.S. troops there.

CNN's Elaine Quijano has the very latest for us from the White House - Elaine.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, despite questions about Afghanistan's runoff election, White House officials are down playing any impact.

Mr. President, any reaction to Abdullah, sir?

(voice-over): As President Obama grapples with the high stakes decision on Afghanistan, his top advisers insist Abdullah Abdullah's withdrawal from Afghanistan's runoff election doesn't change the president's approach.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: Every poll that had been taken there suggested that he was likely to be defeated anyway. So, we are going to deal with the government that is there. And, obviously, there are issues we need to discuss such as reducing the high level of corruption there. These are issues we'll take up with President Karzai.

QUIJANO: In a statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "It is now a matter for the Afghan authorities to decide on a way ahead that brings this electoral process to a conclusion in line with the Afghan constitution. We will support the next president and the people of Afghanistan."

President Obama is considering whether to fulfill a request by top U.S. Commander General Stanley McChrystal for 40,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan to reinforce the 68,000 already there.

AXELROD: I expect the president will make a decision within weeks. The goal here is not just to make an arithmetic judgment about the number of troops but to make sure we have the right strategy to reach our goal.

QUIJANO: But on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING," House Republican Leader John Boehner warned the president against further delay.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: The longer this decision hangs, the more jeopardy and the more danger our troops on the ground there are in the middle of.


QUIJANO: The White House is watching the political situation in Afghanistan closely. Sunday morning, President Obama got an update from his national security adviser, retired Marine Corps General Jim Jones. A spokesman says Jones has been in touch with the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan as well as military and State Department officials - Don.


LEMON: Elaine, thank you.

LEMON: A State Department employee who recently resigned his post in Afghanistan is speaking out about his decision. Matthew Hoh tells CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is only fueling the insurgency. The former Marine Corps captain who was a civilian representative in Afghanistan says he does not support General Stanley McChrystal's request to send as many as 40,000 more troops to that region.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": The top military brass have all endorsed General McChrystal's report and request. Do you think that down on the ground there's a very different feeling?

MATTHEW HOH, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh, yes. Yes, there is. I think on the ground the perspective is what is the strategic value of what we're doing here? Why are we doing this? What are we getting out of it? It's not going to defeat al Qaeda.


LEMON: Hoh says since quitting his job, he's received an outpouring of support from Afghan Americans and active duty military personnel. So we want to get an up close and personal look at the mission in Afghanistan. So we asked CNN's Michael Ware who has covered the war there extensively if more troops are the answer.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It depends upon how President Obama decides what his goals in Afghanistan in this war really, really are. I mean, if you want to apply the military pressure to put a clamp, to seriously undermine the Taliban, then yes, you need more troops. But if his military goals are less than that, then perhaps he can get away with fewer troops.

Certainly I know the commanders on the ground want to fight this war. And they say they need 40,000 more. Now, that will still only be a small number of what's actually required, but as it stands right now, in the battle in Afghanistan, the U.S. effort is barely touching the Taliban's war machine. It's disrupting it, but it's done nothing to dismantle it. So if you want to put pressure on that organization, you need more boots on the ground.


LEMON: So now the personal toll of war. Their son paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and received a presidential salute as his body arrived at Dover Air Force Base. The parents of Army Sgt. Dale Griffin say they have a special request for President Obama.

Reporter Jane Santucci of affiliate WTHI spoke with the Griffin Family in Terre Haute, Indiana.


JANE SANTUCCI, WTHI-TV CORRESPONDENT: A knock on the door changed the lives of Gene and Donna Griffin forever.

GENE GRIFFIN, FATHER: And I went --well, I ask him what they want, you know, through the door. And then she looked back through the peephole and saw that they were military. And she said they are Army. We knew.

SANTUCCI: They knew their son, Sergeant Dale Griffin, was gone. Griffin died with six other soldiers as they traveled with an Afghan interpreter. Gene and Donna flew to Dover Delaware on Wednesday as their son was brought home in a flag-draped casket.

President Obama saluted as Griffin's body was taken out of a military plane.

The president met with the Griffins afterwards, offering his condolences.

DONNA GRIFFIN, MOTHER: And I leaned up to his ear and I -- I said, Mr. President, don't leave our troops hanging.

SANTUCCI: The Griffins returned to Terre Haute Thursday without their son's body.

GENE GRIFFIN: As challenging as it is to do what we did and to leave there, we carry him in our hearts and we know that it is not just a memory of a picture or video, that he truly lives and that he's with his father.

SANTUCCI: The war in Afghanistan, measured in casualties, now has a face, a name, and a family.

DONNA GRIFFIN: When you don't have someone in your family that is in the military, it is very easy to forget the sacrifices that are made.


LEMON: And, again, that was Jane Santucci of CNN affiliate WTHI.

A community in shock over the discovery of six bodies in a neighbor's home. A daughter wonders if one of those killed is her missing mother.

Also, a ship built with the steel from the rubble of 9/11, you'll hear from the crew.

And Mark Preston and April Ryan, both join us tonight. Their topic is a big test for the president's political clout. Of course, we are taking your feedback tonight here on CNN.


LEMON: New Jersey voters choose a governor on Tuesday. Well, today the president went to Camden and Newark to try to give incumbent Jon Corzine a bump in the final days. Corzine is virtually tied in the polls with Republican challenger Chris Christie. Independent Chris Daggett could play the spoiler there. The president said New Jersey voters had every right to be upset over the economy, but he said it was bad even before the Democrats came to power.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Listening to Jon's opponent you'd think New Jersey was the only state going through a tough time right now. I have something to report. We had the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. By the way, that didn't start under Jon's watch. That didn't start under my watch. I wasn't sworn in yet.


LEMON: All right. So will Tuesday offer the first indication of the president's political clout? Let's bring in now two of our favorites, Mark Preston and April Ryan.

April, of course, is a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network. And Mark, of course, is part of the Best Political Team on Television, CNN's political editor.

OK, Mark, so 11th hour really for Jon Corzine. We saw that in New Jersey and this governor's race in Virginia as well. Is this a referendum really on the president's policies? Is it a test really of his political clout?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, you know, Don, oftentimes these gubernatorial races are really about the candidates and they are about the people and about the problems going on in the states, but the fact is the economy is tied into all of these states. So I think that Republicans, no matter what happens, are going to look at Virginia and New Jersey and they're going to say that this is a referendum on President Obama's time in office, his short time in office.

In Virginia, Republicans are expected to win that seat. They're going to say that, look, this clearly shows that people are upset. They don't think that President Obama is delivering in Washington and in New Jersey, even if Jon Corzine wins and yet Chris Christie is close, they're still going to say that, look, obviously, he doesn't have that momentum, and President Obama doesn't have the magic that he had 10, 11 months ago.

LEMON: Yes. April, we know, we can bet at least the administration says it's not a reflection on this president, but if they didn't care, if he didn't care especially about 2010 and 2012, he wouldn't be out there.

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Well, Don, your bet is right. The White House is saying, look, this is not going to be either way however these races go a reflection on the president. But, of course, they want a democratic win.

And talking to Michael Steele, the head of the Republican National Committee, he says, of course, no matter what the outcome it's a reflection of the president. And he said, you know, if there is indeed all of these Republican wins on Tuesday, it's definitely showing that the president is overexposed especially on issues of health care.

LEMON: Yes. And, you know, this one, Mark, I want to bring to you. I don't know if you can qualify this one as a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party because big news out of New York, the 23rd congressional district there. The Republican nominee basically suspended her campaign, and then she said she's going to vote for the democratic -- the person on the democratic ticket. What's up with that? PRESTON: Yes. Really a complicated situation going on there in Upstate New York. Look, bottom line is that what we saw is that party leaders in New York chose this candidate, Dede Scozzafava, to be their nominee. It wasn't a primary. Republican voters weren't able to choose her. She was chosen by leaders. And what happened was there was a backlash because a lot of conservatives said that she didn't represent their values and in fact got behind the conservative party candidate.

And what we saw over the past two, three, four months, Don, is that the conservative party candidate actually gained a lot of ground and polling showed that this nominee, Dede Scozzafava, wasn't going to win. Yesterday she suspends her campaign. Today, she backs the Democratic Party. And what this is, Don, is that it has emboldened conservatives around the country who want to take back control of the party during this rebuilding stage, and say, look, you know, we might have lost in 2008 but we didn't lose because of anything other than we lost our conviction on spending, we lost our values. So, yes, there is a big fight in the Republican Party, and right now, I think you have to say that the conservatives, the real ones to the right of the party, are in control.

LEMON: Mark Preston, April Ryan, thank you very much. This is going to have to be what we know. Behind the scenes, beyond this, beyond Tuesday, Election Day, they're working on health care, and Democrats want to have something at least by Veterans Day that they can at least try to vote on in the House.

Thank you very much. We really appreciate both of you this evening.

RYAN: Thank you.

LEMON: Now if you enjoy the give-and-take of the political arena, you're in luck. At the bottom of the hour, we're going to take a close look at the Atlanta mayoral race. For the first time in decades, the city could elect a white mayor.

When the remains of six people were found at the home in Cleveland, it brought both pain and relief to the suspect's neighbors, one of them looking for her missing mother.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to thank to get some closure to this, because it's been over so many months, but I do not know.


LEMON: We're going to follow that one.

And caught on camera. We want to warn you. An Italian hitman takes out a rival and bystanders don't even bat an eye.

We're giving you a warning now on this. Again, the video you will see is very disturbing. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The details surfacing from that house of horrors in Ohio are stunning. The coroner says some of the murder victims found in and near the home of a convicted rapist may have been dead for years.

Late last week police began finding the decomposing bodies of six women at the home of 50-year-old Anthony Sowell. Some were in a crawl space, one in a freshly dug grave in the basement and another in a shallow grave outside the home. Neighbors were shocked at the gruesome discovery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A sigh of relief. I said the street is now safe again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm glad he's off the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just thankful that they got him.


LEMON: Officials made more than just the discovery of those six bodies. Reporter Ed Gallek of our affiliate WOIO shows us what Cleveland police found and didn't find.


ED GALLEK, WOIO-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've learned virtually everything is covered with a layer of grime. The floor is covered with lots of trash. The first floor some furniture, the second basically empty just one chair, the third more furniture, a bed, plus some food. But that food included rotten meat. Sources also tell us they saw piles of clothing, even a lot of women's clothing. In fact, this woman says she survived an attack there, says Anthony Sowell ripped her shirt, then he offered her a woman's shirt that he had downstairs.

So what about any clues that this is more than just a messy house? Cops found two shovels, one on the third floor, another downstairs and the smell, the stench of death.

What didn't investigators find? They didn't find any porn or anything special taken from the victims and kept like trophies.


LEMON: That was Ed Gallek of WOIO, and there's much, much more to this story. It keeps unfolding. Family members of a missing Cleveland woman spent time outside Sowell's home this weekend. Emotions are high as they fear the worst, but they're holding out hope that their mother's body, their loved one is still alive.

Reporter Blake Chenault of affiliate WOIO has their story.


BLAKE CHENAULT, WOIO-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kyana Hunt has not seen her mom Nancy Cobbs in six months.

KYANA HUNT, MISSING WOMAN'S DAUGHTER: I have no words to describe how I feel.

CHENAULT: She thinks there's a chance her mom was one of the two bodies found in this house last night.

HUNT: I want her to come home and then whoever's family that this is, that I am...

CHENAULT: The family is fearful because Nancy Cobbs lived on the next street over. One day late in April, she just never came home. They tell me that was completely unlike her.

The family hasn't heard a word. Now, they worry the convicted rapist Anthony Sowell, who lives here, may have abducted her and killed her.

Kyana Hunt can barely get her mind around the fact that she almost hopes that her mom was one of the victims.

HUNT: I want to think that to get some closure to this because it's been over so many months, but I do not know.

CHENAULT: Kyana Hunt and her family stood outside and stared at the home for most of the morning, watching, wondering and waiting for any news about who exactly it was who was found inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don't know if it is her for sure. But she hasn't been home. It could be a possibility, but we're hoping for the best.


LEMON: That was reporter Blake Chenault of our affiliate WOIO. None of the bodies found in and around Mr. Sowell's home have been identified. Police are asking people who are concern about the missing friends or relatives to come forward.

Authorities in Louisiana have raised reward from 35 to $85,000 for information on who killed eight women. Their bodies have been dumped in rural Jefferson Davis Parish since 2005. The sheriff's office thinks all eight women may have been killed by the same person, but they are still not calling them a serial killing. At one point officials thought they had a person of interest, but Sheriff Ricky Edwards told me earlier that did not pan out.


SHERIFF RICKY EDWARDS, JEFFERSON DAVIS PARISH: We had a couple of people who were persons of interest. One was arrested, and then the witness who came forward later recanted the story completely, and therefore we were not able to hold them on the information that we had received at that time.

LEMON: This has been going on for a long time. You can understand why people are so frustrated and they don't feel like any headway is being made. And also, investigators are not calling it a serial killing and some of the families are upset by that. If you have eight women who are dead, why wouldn't you call it a serial killer, and you believe it's one person who is doing this?

EDWARDS: Well, we do believe that we have one person who is responsible. For that reason it may be applicable to say serial killings. However, we don't use that terminology because it's a label and it does not benefit us in any way to -- in our goals to identify and apprehend an offender. Nor does it prevent any further loss of life.


LEMON: If you have any information, go to the Web site, JeffDavisCrimes.Net. JeffDavisCrimes.Net.

It's not just hugs and handshakes at the Bangor International Airport.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home, heroes.



LEMON: There's a new documentary that reveals how troop greeting has changed the lives of the Mainers who volunteer.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Plus, October is over, but it will be remembered. Lots of wet and cold and snowy records. We'll tell you about them, plus your Monday back-to-work forecast. That's coming up next.


LEMON: We want to give you some other stories happening. After six hours of searching the Southern California coast, rescue teams have given up looking for survivors from Thursday's mid-air collision between a Coast Guard plane and Marine helicopter. Nine people were aboard the two aircraft, and this afternoon a Coast Guard spokesman explained the decision to call off the search.


CAPT. THOMAS FARRIS, U.S. COAST GUARD: We looked at the time that was involved. We looked at the nature of the collision itself. We exhaustively searched the area where we would have found them, if there was anybody who could have survived it. We look at the cold water exposure models as far as the time goes, and when you put all those pieces together, we no longer believe that there's any chance somebody could still be alive.


LEMON: All right. At the Box Office, the late King of Pop Michael Jackson's "This is It" has taken in $100 million worldwide in just five days. Sony pictures paid $60 million for the rights to distribute Jackson's behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage shot in the weeks before his death. The film was supposed to have a two-week run, but that has since been extended.

CNN's Jacqui Jeras standing by for us.

Jacqui, tomorrow's commute a bit of delays for some folks, right?


LEMON: All right, Jacqui, thank you very much.

Some history today at the 40th New York City marathon. For the first time in 27 years, an American man was the first to cross the finish line. 34-year-old Meb Keflezighi won the 26 mile race in a time of two hours, nine minutes and 15 seconds. Meantime, Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia was the women's winner, crossing the finish line in two hours, 28 minutes, 52 seconds.

Congrats to both of them. They top a field of some 40,000 runners. They beat 40,000 people. Amazing.

We have some incredible video to show you tonight. An Italian gunman carries out a hit in broad daylight. Bystanders look and just walk away.

And it could be an historic election for the city of Atlanta. It has not happened in 36 years. Find out what I'm talking about.


LEMON: We warned you at the beginning of the show. We're going to warn you again. This next story is graphic. It shows a mafia hit in Naples, Italy. An Italian news agency says it has identified the trigger man in this video, but it is not made his name public.

CNN's Rosemary Church has our report. Again, the video is disturbing.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An execution-style killing outside a store in Naples Italy by the camorra or local mafia. The incident took place in May this year, but surveillance video of the hit is only now being released by police in an effort to track down the killers.

The victim on the left stands in front of the store. Another man moves into shot on the right. After a couple of minutes he checks his watch and leaves the scene. Moments later watch as a man in a baseball cap enters the store, he's inside for just a moment and then he turned around and heads out. He pulls out a pistol and shoots the victim. After the man falls to the ground, the killer fires a second round into the back of his head. A woman right there sees what happens and walks away. The assassin leaving as calmly behind her.

The deputy editor of an Italian online newspaper says it's a scene that's become all too commonplace in this Italian city.

RAFFAELLA MENICHINI, DEP. ED. LA REPUBLICA (via telephone): These kinds of killings are part of the camorra or mafia war. And unfortunately people know that it can happen, and it can happen near them and they try to step away as far as they can in order not to be recognized.

CHURCH: And that is what is so shocking about this video. The apparent indifference of the people at the scene of the crime. Passers-by unphased. In the lower right, a cigarette vendor quietly gathers up his wares, a man holding a child and walks away.

MENICHINI: The rest of Italy is shocked because we're not used to see this on TV.

CHURCH: But fear is at the core of this apparent difference, and that's why the anti-mafia prosecutor has for the first time released this six and a half minutes video in the hopes someone will recognize the killer and his apparent accomplice and come forward. Police say no motive has been determined, but they do know who the victim was.

MENICHINI: He was a little what we say, what we call -- a little buff from local community of Naples, and he was notorious robber.

CHURCH: According to police, the camorra has been blamed for about 60 killings this year in Naples and its surrounding county.

Rosemary Church, CNN, Atlanta.


LEMON: The Monday morning commute in San Francisco is going to be a mess. We'll tell you why the bay bridge is still shut down for repairs.

Plus, the Atlanta mayoral race comes to a close this Tuesday, and the city could get it's first white mayor in decades. We're going to talk to a political strategist about it.


LEMON: All right. We know Election Day is on Tuesday, and Atlanta could make history in two days. A white woman could become the city's new mayor. That would be the first time the city has elected a white mayor since 1974. Tonight, the candidates met for their final debate before the election on Tuesday. Fiscal conservative Mary Norwood is leading the pack and tonight she defended her electability.


MARY NORWOOD, ATLANTA MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a republican. We know that that is a way to just divide the city and that is very saddening to me. I think it's really important for the voters to know that this is distracting and dividing us from the true issues.


LEMON: In the meantime the two African-American candidates who are also at the top of the their tickets are saying that this is not about race.


LISA BORDERS, ATLANTA MAYORAL CANDIDATE: The only color that's important in the city of Atlanta right this minute is green. We need great jobs here. We need people back to work. We need real estate back online.

KASIM REED, ATLANTA MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that people are voting based upon racial lines. I think at the end of the day, they'll vote for the person that they feel is the most qualified.


LEMON: And what is interesting right there -- first I want to bring in Tom Baxter. He's the editor of the "Southern Political Report," and senior vice president of Insider Advantage Media and Polling Firm.

Tom, this is a very important race, but you saw Kasim Reed there, and Kasim Reed has really come up in the polls lately. Lisa Borders was the odds on favorite in the beginning. But the mayor -- the daughter of the first African-American mayor of Atlanta Maynard Jackson's daughter is supporting him, has endorsed him. And that has helped him the polls. I said earlier that she supported Mary Norwood. She did not.

But Mary Norwood is getting lots of support from African- American, and she could have this high polling if she didn't get that support from African-Americans.

TOM BAXTER, POLITICAL COLUMNIST AND EDITOR, SOUTHERN POLITICAL REPORT: In our polling she's still getting a week out from the election. She was still getting a plurality of the African-American vote. A little bit over a third of the African-American vote was going to her.

LEMON: So what is so important about this race then for the country?

BAXTER: I think for the country perhaps the importance is going to be that it will be a milestone if she becomes the first white mayor in 36 years. But maybe the important thing for the country is that it just wasn't such a big deal to voters here. Race really hasn't been the driving factor in this election. LEMON: And in this city, as we said, we were talking about the African-American support. There are some who say you can't believe the polling because they believe that even though, you know, Lisa Borders is the city council president that African-Americans will see this and realize this, and at some last minute she'll be able to bring all those people in and possibly win. You as a political that's not so. And I've heard that a lot and I've actually read it as well.

BAXTER: I tend to think not. I think if there were some big move in that direction, it would probably benefit Reed more than Borders. That's just my hunch. In our polling last week, we had Norwood at 45, Reed at 25, and Borders at 15. I don't think there's too much --

LEMON: It says something about the changing demographics of the city and economy. Does that say anything about the former mayor of the city, Shirley Franklin.

BAXTER: You know, Shirley Franklin is still popular. Not as popular as she was in her first term. But I think the big, driving factor in this race, bad economic times create a climate for change in politics. And Atlanta has been affected by this recession, and I think that's caused a lot of people to say, hey, we need to see some changes in city hall.

LEMON: Yes. And I asked you what was important about it. And I think what's important, too, is that Atlanta is an iconic civil rights city.

BAXTER: That's right.

LEMON: Ebenezer Baptist Church here. And that Reverenced Martin Luther King Jr. also being here and having had, you know, an African- American mayor since 1974. It's just -- I think people are amazing and the country is paying attention to it.

I appreciate you joining us.

BAXTER: You bet.

LEMON: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

It is a story about precious steel, a ship made from the rubble of 9/11.

Plus, a friendly face, a hug and a handshake. They are called troop greeters, and you're going to meet. And you will hear their personal stories as well.


LEMON: More of our top stories right now. Checking in Afghanistan.

Abdullah Abdullah has pulled out of the runoff election against President Hamid Karzai, all but guaranteeing Karzai a second term. Abdullah said the upcoming election would be, in his words, as fraudulent as the first one. White House aides say the runoff results will not affect the president's upcoming decision about U.S. military strategy in that region.

A very bizarre story tonight out of Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Police say four men were gathered in a parking lot and shot to death. They don't believe the crime was random, either. Police have issued an arrest warrant but so far they have no suspect in custody.

Back here in the U.S. tonight. Of course, we want to tell you about this. This is happening in the Bay Bridge. It will not re-open in San Francisco, but it definitely won't be there tomorrow. They're a little bit concerned about what happened. Of course, a rod broke and they tried to repair it earlier in the week, a connecting rod. So it will be closed for emergency repairs tomorrow. So commuters may want to take another route there.

Craven and contemptible. That's what New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg calls a suspected arsonist who set fire to a memorial park chapel Saturday. It is a temporary site where the remains of some 9/11 victims are held. Police have arrested 26-year-old Brian Schroeder charging him with arson and criminal mischief.

They're often the last people American troops see before they are shipped overseas to Afghanistan.


JERRY MUNDY, MAINE TROOP GREETER: I read the casualty list every day in the paper, and I say to myself, I wonder if I shook that guy's hand.


LEMON: A new documentary reveals how the loss of U.S. service members affects these troop greeters.


LEMON: Thousands of miles from home, some U.S. troops in Iraq celebrated Halloween. They held a costume party at Camp Prosperity in Baghdad, dressing up, among other things like pirates, zombies and characters from the move "The Wizard of Oz."

You know, troop greeters have a profound impact on service men and women as they pass through U.S. airports on their way to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. And many of these greeters are senior citizens. And many say they get as much out of the experience as the troops.

A new documentary focuses on the greeters at the Bangor International Airport, and they're called appropriately the Maine Troop Greeters.


LEMON (voice-over): Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy, Joan Gaudet. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home, heroes.


LEMON: Since 2003, these seniors have sent nearly 1 million U.S. service men and women off to war and welcomed them back. Why do they do it?

JOAN GAUDET, MAINE TROOP GREETER: It's just such a good feeling to see them coming home. I love to see it when they come down and some of the guys run up and hug each other like we made it, we're back.

LEMON: Joan's son, Aron Gaudet, has made a documentary film about the Maine Troop Greeters called "The Way We Get By."

ARON GAUDET, DIRECTOR, "THE WAY WE GET BY": I didn't understand why suddenly she was out at 11:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m. And, you know, talking to my brothers and sisters, they'll say, oh, she goes to the airport and greets troops. And I didn't quite understand what that meant until I went there and saw it myself.


LEMON: In making the film, what he saw was that his mom, Bill, and Jerry were fighting their own private wars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody has got to die sometime. Nobody can get out of this world alive -- yes.

LEMON: Bill is 87, a World War II veteran, now battling prostate cancer.

BILL KNIGHT, MAINE TROOP GREETER: It's not a very good thought. I think that something is eating your body right out from under you, you know. My life don't mean a hell of a lot to me, but if I can make it mean something for somebody else, that's my endeavour.

LEMON: Jerry has a bad heart, but his biggest enemy is loneliness after losing his dog, Flanagan.

JERRY MUNDY, MAIN TROOP GREETER: I'm very gregarious when I'm around people, but I'm along, always had been alone. And the dog has always compensated for that. I love doing it. I love the men. That's the best part of it all, is just telling them thank you and wishing them luck when they leave.

LEMON: Joan's knees are wracked with constant pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten pills I take in the morning and seven pills at night.

LEMON: So she does whatever it takes to get to the airport as often as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of times you go out when everything hurts. You get out and you get down there, and you are around people and you get to talk to the soldiers. You kind of forget.

GAUDET: I feel like I'm letting them down when there's flights I can't go to. It's really an addicting thing.

LEMON: In her son's film, Joan, describes a proud but difficult day when she had to send her own granddaughter off to Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes it's safer above the ground than it is on it.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're in the middle of a war. How can you be safe? It's not like being home. I can't do this.

A. GAUDET: I'm sitting behind the camera on deployment day when my niece is deploying and my whole family is breaking down if front of me, and you know, I'm trying to watch it through this lens and not break down.

LEMON: The Maine Troop Greeters also pay tribute to those killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The minute they get down there where we are waiting for them, they go over to the wall where we have all the pictures of the fallen.

MUNDY: I read the casualty lists every day in the paper. And I say to myself, I wonder if I shook that guy's hand. I think of how hard it's going to be on his family.

LEMON: All of the troops who pass through Bangor International Airport leave a little of themselves behind, coins, patches, plaques, pins, some left in the care the of Joan, bill, and Jerry.

MUNDY: I carry one with me that a marine gave me. He said hang onto this until I get back. I told him when he gave it to me, I said how am I going to remember you? He said I'll remember you. And he hasn't claimed it. And I hope the movie, if he sees it, he'll come get his coin, because I have it here.

LEMON: Sloan Gibson with the USO says people like Jerry, Joan, and Bill are unsung American heroes and he hopes the film will inspires others.

SLOAN GIBSON, PRESIDENT/CEO, USO: I think one of the most important messages in the movie is the power of one individual to make a profound difference in another person's life.

LEMON: Making a difference through one handshake, one hug, and one well wish at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's cell phones and there's radio, talk all you want. Call somebody up, make them happy, ugly or horny. There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, captain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for being here. I appreciate it very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for everything you've done for us.


LEMON: If you want to catch that documentary, "The Way We Get By" will air on every PVS station nationwide on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11th. So check your listings.

Tomorrow live on the scene in NEWSROOM, an incredible sight in the waters off New York City. The USS New York, a ship made using steel from ruins of the World Trade Center sails in for a special homecoming. And our Heidi Collins is there. She spoke to some of those closest to the attacks.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How does it make you feel as someone who's going to serve on that ship?

ENSIGN TIMOTHY GORMAN, USS NEW YORK: I'd say it makes me, you know, a little more mindful. I'm a little prouder that I'm specifically representing 9/11 and the families of the people who lost their lives that day.


LEMON: Honoring the men and women lost on 9/11. That's beginning at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. CNN's Heidi Collins has that story for you.

The first Halloween in the White House for the Obamas. Lots of treats, but were there any tricks? An update from the executive mansion is straight ahead.


LEMON: We have a quick Olympic update for you. They're counting down to 2012 in Britain.


LEMON: That was a really nice sight to see. The tower is lit and London's on the fast track. It's 1,000 days until the games begin in London. The city won its bid for the Olympics back in 2005.

You know, it was all treats and no tricks at the White House Halloween celebration last night. More than 2,000 kids got the ultimate treasure, look, from the president and the first lady. President and Mrs. Obama chatted and passed out goody backs to the children dressed as superheroes, pirates, fairies, all kinds of things there last night. Mr. Obama even got into the one furry cat ears. Mrs. Obama, I should say, not Mr. Obama -- Mrs. Obama wearing a furry cat ears.

The bags were loaded with M&Ms with president's signature and a butter cookie made by the White House pastry chef.

Pretty nice. Looks like a fun, fun time.

It was interesting. We did a thing last night called "Black Men in the Age of President Obama." And people were tweeting saying, I was out in Chicago, I was out in other major cities, and I saw more men, especially African-American men taking their kid for a trick-or- treat. And so that was interesting to see. So thank you for all of your responses here. We got a bunch of them. I'm not going to read all of them tonight.

What I'm going to tell you that, we're glad that you watched this weekend, and thank you for watching. We're going to see you here next weekend. And I'm Don Lemon at the CNN center in Atlanta. Again, see you back here next weekend. And we'll leave with a look at the USS New York, a ship made using steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center. It sails in for a very special homecoming. Heidi Collins will have that for you tomorrow morning.

Good night.