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When Journalists Face Risks; The Role of Faith in Tragedy; Newtown Schools Back in Session; Video Game Violence

Aired December 18, 2012 - 12:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: How did you get through that?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With the guys and, you know, talking it through with them and our security guy who was with us that day and basically saved our lives.

We debriefed, extensively, and we mourned. And, you know, you mourn those that you lost and you sort of then move on. But it's always with you. The anniversary's January 27 and I remember it like it was yesterday. It happened in 2004.

So, this'll stay with those guys for a whole. Richard's seen a lot of stuff in his career, but there's something different, as it was with the ambush with, certainly, for me, it was personal. Because I'd been in a bunch of firefight, seen all kinds of things in war. These guys were trying to kill us and that's a personal thing.

These guys were kidnapping them and they didn't know what was happening. It's different to being an observer. So, they're going to have to work through some of this. So, I'm really glad that they're OK. It was worrying when we knew they were missing.

MALVEAUX: What gave you the strength to go back out there after you experienced so much and seeing your colleagues gunned down?

HOLMES: Yeah. For me personally ...


HOLMES: It was respect for our local staff. I didn't want to be the Westerner who, something bad happened, and I ran away. I was back there within six months because I wanted to go back and as sort of a sign of respect and solidarity.

That's just for me. You know, everybody's different and everybody deals with these things differently, too. Some people can handle it better than others and that's a factor of how you're wired. One's not good or bad, whether you can handle it or not. It's just how you're wired.

I wanted to go back and I went back another eight or nine times because I cared about the story and I wanted to go back to see our guys again, the ones that were relatives and friends of (INAUDIBLE) who were killed. MALVEAUX: How did your family deal with that? They must have been really ...

HOLMES: They were a bit annoyed.

MALVEAUX: -- angry with you to go back there.

HOLMES: That's probably why I got -- I'm divorced.

My daughter, particularly, after that incident, she used to hate me going back there, but she realized it's what we do. And you know you have a passion to tell the story and, in many ways, it's a privilege to be able to go to some of these places and tell the story. I mean, it's an honor in a way.

And the risks are there, but you mitigate the risks as best you can. One thing I always tell young journalists who say, oh, it'd be great to be a war correspondent. It's not fun and shoot-ups and firefights and the risk of kidnapping -- it's not a video game and people die and, so, it's not some glorious adventure.

But if you care about the story, you are drawn back to it. And, you know, that's -- and also again, as I say, for me, I needed to get back to that Baghdad bureau to see the guys, our staff. We had a big Iraqi staff at the time.

MALVEAUX: Michael, we're glad you're OK. We respect what you do and, obviously, we are relieved that Richard Engel ...


MALVEAUX: ... is also OK ...

HOLMES: Yeah, they're good guys.

MALVEAUX: ... he and his crew.

HOLMES: And the team.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

HOLMES: Yeah. Yeah.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Iraq's President Jalal Talabani is hospitalized and in Baghdad. Lawmakers tell CNN the 79-year-old leader has suffered a stroke and his health condition is not good, but the president's office has not confirmed that yet. The official line that is he has had a health emergency.

Mr. Talabani was elected president in 2005. He has left the country several times for medical issues.

We want to go back to Ashleigh in Connecticut for the other big story we are following.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, as you drive through or walk through this town, you see churches everywhere. There are a lot of people of faith in this town and their faith has unquestionably been shaken.

How on earth do you answer the question, how can God let something like this happen? Going to talk to a man of faith about dealing with that very question and the question of evil raining down upon Newtown, Connecticut, in a moment.


MALVEAUX: In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, many in the community have been coming together and they are relying on their faith to get through some really dark days.

I want to talk about the role of faith, Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, and you have an amazing, unique background. You were born Roman Catholic and orphaned. You went to Howard University. You majored in political science and history. You were in the Navy search and rescue. You are now a bishop. You have this wonderful, broad life experience.

There are people who look at this tragedy and they ask and they wonder, how does something like this happen? How do you have faith? How does God figure into any of this?

BISHOP ROBERT WRIGHT, EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF ATLANTA: Sure. You know, I mean, the first thing we say, of course, is that our hearts and prayers are with those who are in the midst of this tragic, tragic season.

And we can't begin to put all of the words that are necessary around this. We just simply let people know that, as the president said, you're not alone in this. And we want you to know that our prayers and goodwill are flooding into you in tangible and intangible ways

But at same time, real faith accounts for human tragedy and human loss and grief. I mean, a real God can help us in a real world and I think that, in some of the ways we've heard the conversation framed, it doesn't really adequately get to that.

We believe, at least in the Christian tradition, that God finds us amidst brutality and violence and is that resource in the midst of that. So, the fact that tragedy has visited us is not evidence of the absence of God.

In fact, I think and I'm sure we'll see as the days unfold that there'll be wonderful expressions of grace in the midst of this tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and all over the country. And already people from a lot of different backgrounds and faith traditions are coming together and supporting one another and that's the best of faith.

MALVEAUX: How do you approach people who think that this is a time that has tested their faith and challenged their faith and maybe they are losing faith because they feel such an overwhelming sense of grief?

WRIGHT: Sure. I would say to them -- I would listen to them and I think that those feelings are legitimate, but I would guide them and help them to understand that the best part of our tradition enlarges and deepens our faith in the midst of these occurrences.

We talk about the cross in Christianity. The cross helps us to understand God is with us amidst sorrow and I think that, as we go deeper in our faith, we will find grace in the midst of this.

MALVEAUX: Bishop, I want to play this clip. This is of George Hochsprung. This is the husband of Dawn Hochsprung who was the principal at the school who was killed.



GEORGE HOCHSPRUNG, DAWN HOCHSPRUNG'S HUSBAND: I'm not angry anymore. I'm not angry. I'm not angry anymore. I'm not angry. I'm just very sad.


MALVEAUX: He's not angry. He's not angry anymore. He's just very, very sad.


MALVEAUX: Where does the role of forgiveness play in this? How important is that? Is that something that is going to take a really long time?

WRIGHT: Yes. This is the gift that faith gives us. It allows us process complicated motions like hurt and it allows us and guides us towards forgiveness. We don't forgive others for them. We forgive -- we use forgiveness so that we might be set free. God shows us God's grace towards us and we play that back in our lives and with our -- in our lives with others.

And, so, we will need to forgive, but it is a process and it takes time and it's about prayer and it's about the study of God's goodness towards us, even though we've -- in the midst of our own absence of grace towards others we find that we've been forgiven. And, so, we mirror that back in the world.

And, so, this is a process and I would say that one of the things that we've got to do, we've got to forgive Adam Lanza. We've got find it within our hearts to forgive him. He was a broken young man from what we can tell right now and we've got to find it within the best of our faith tradition to forgive him and to move forward.

MALVEAUX: I want to ask you, too, for those who don't share in the faith tradition, maybe they don't believe in heaven, they don't believe there's a better place for a six-year-old to be except for in their arms, what do you say to those folks who don't necessarily believe in God or have that kind of faith?

WRIGHT: Well, I think that we can go so far and just in our capacity to love and to be with one another. We can go so far, but I think that when we get into processing complex emotions like the need for forgiveness, I think we lack the strength to take us the full way of ourselves, the best of ourselves.

And, so, I think this is where faith is a real resource to us. It moves us beyond ourselves. It enlarges our hearts. It stirs up reservoirs of compassion in us. And that's what I would say. I'd say we need to draw down on that.

MALVEAUX: All right. Bishop Wright, thank you so much for your words and your encouragement, a lot of people listening and a lot of people really need that at this time.

WRIGHT: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: We're going to take a quick break and we'll have more.



BANFIELD: When 20 children are gunned down in their elementary school and six grown-ups are gunned down in an elementary school and a woman is murdered in her own bed by her own son who perpetrated that crime, there is no template for how a town like this copes. There is no template for what becomes their reality.

I wanted to just do something for you and show you what it is like to arrive in this town now that the entire world is watching them. Take a look.


BANFIELD: One of the first things you'll notice as you drive into this beautiful town of Newtown, Connecticut, is some of the old buildings and the lovely, gently rolling hillside and then this extraordinary traffic.

The school buses are now rolling once again as these kids get ready to head back to school in the Newtown district today.

It is not normally like this. The traffic is comprised of people from surrounding counties, contractors who are coming in to help with this emergency, maybe rebuilding in some of the schools, et cetera. And then also an enormous number of media.

Another thing you notice, as you come into town, right away on the left-hand side, is this makeshift memorial that sprung up several days ago and is growing exponentially. People bringing teddy bears and candles and artwork and messages and origami and flowers and you name it. Just about everything. And you see a lot of people with tears as they drop off what they brought. Obviously some of the traffic with people from surrounding communities.

The next thing you notice is this. All of this media. People have come from all over the world to cover this story. And they are set up right in the town square. Right in the center of town. A place that is not used to seeing satellite trucks and this kind of media attention. And, boy, are they getting used to it now.

Another thing that you'll find amidst all the traffic, take a look up here. Police and orange cones and road closed signs. That is the road that leads up to the Sandy Hook Elementary School. They are obviously limiting most of the traffic. Not allowed to go up there at this time. That's the other area where there's a massive, massive memorial. I showed that to you yesterday.

But one of the things that we do hear from people, while everybody around the country and indeed around the world wants to share and wants to know and wants to be a part of this grieving, and they're doing that through us and the window we provide. The people who live here really would like us to leave. They want to return some kind of normalcy. And that begs that question, when we do go, and when we do leave this town, and when our world continues, we leave all these people with a brand-new normal and something that they're going to have to figure out for themselves, what their new normal is going to be like.


And I just want to share an anecdote. Just moments ago a man by the name of Joe Whalen (ph) came down to meet me here beside the creek and said that he had seen that piece run earlier on today on CNN. He lives here in town. Not far away. He's a general contractor. He builds homes in this community. And he was so -- he was so moved by that notion that once we all leave, they will be left alone with their new normal. And he didn't know what to do. He said I want to do something. I don't know what to do.

And ultimately he came up with a plan. And he just shared it with me moments ago. He is going to go around town to all of those affected by this tragedy, and with some of his colleagues in the building business, he's going repair their homes. Whatever he sees needs doing, he's going to do it and he's not going to ask for anything in return. So just perhaps a small example of how this community plans to bind together to try to get through this as a unit. And I was very thankful that he shared that with me.

So, you know, we're all grieving through this terrible tragedy, the media included. And now more than a million people, a million people, have signed an online sympathy card for the people of Newtown, Connecticut. We'll have more on that in a moment.


MALVEAUX: The outpouring of sympathy and support for victims of the Connecticut school shooting sets an online record. More than 1,700,000 people have signed the Sandy Hook Elementary School online sympathy card. It makes it the largest petition ever on the Web site Activist Causes. The founder of 9/11 Day started the e-card as a way for people to express their sorrow over the shooting. At its peak, the card was receiving more than 1,000 signatures per minute. A lot of support there.

BANFIELD: So, Suzanne, beyond the debates over gun control and the discussions over mental illness, there is another big discussion that has come up as well, and it is the question over the possibility that a violent culture may also have something to do with what happened here in Newtown. We are going to take a look at the way movies and video games could be very desensitizing to some people and what affect that has on the rest of us.


MALVEAUX: People who knew the gunman in this massacre say he enjoyed playing violent video games. In particular, they say, he played this game called "Starcraft." You see it right there. And the question, of course, whether or not there's a link between games like this and real-life violence. Want to bring in Elizabeth Cohen to talk about this.

And, Elizabeth, there have been numerous studies that have actually showed that there could be a link in terms of behavior and watching these violent games. What do we know?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They're conflicting. They say different things. So there are some studies that say there isn't a link. You can watch -- you can play these violent video games, there's no indication it's going to make you violent. Then there are other studies that suggest there might be a link. And there was one that was really interesting that I'll just give you as an example.

So this one had a bunch of people watch -- play violent video games and then some people played nonviolent video games. And then the researchers staged a fight. Some guys came in and fought and it looked like it was for real. The kids or the people who had been watching the violent video game, they were less likely to help out. To jump in and try to help out. And then they realized it's because they sort of didn't consider it to be so serious.

MALVEAUX: Yes, desensitized in a way.

COHEN: Right, desensitized, because they'd been watching all this violence. But it's very conflicting. It's really hard to say definitively what the studies say.

MALVEAUX: And, you know, millions of kids, there are millions of adults who, I'm sure, who are playing games and they never go out and kill anybody or shoot anybody. I mean what -- what is the difference? Do they have any idea between somebody who actually watches these violent games and goes out and acts on them?

COHEN: Right. That's the key. That's the key because I know there are parents sitting here watching this saying, well, my child watches these all the time and they're perfectly fine. That may be true. It may be that certain children are more vulnerable. Children with certain behavioral issues, with certain psychiatric issues. The problem is, we just don't know. So all you can do, given this sort of messy situation with conflicting science, is to be an empowered parent. You know, be a smart parent and --

MALVEAUX: So should you be worried? I mean if your kid is out there, and especially with the violent games, should there be some sort of limitation or even, you know, kids who are too young, to ban them from playing those kinds of games early on?

COHEN: If you -- you know, I think some parents would just say no violent video games at all. Forget it, you're not going to do it. Some parents would say, you know, I let them see some violent movies, what's wrong with playing a violent video game every so often? Well, if you want to do that, this is what you have to do. You have to know the rating and watch it yourself. Go online and watch it. Watch what your kids are going to do. It's very easy. Limit the use to common family space. Watch them play it in the living room. Do not put a console in their bedroom. You should see it.

And, also, monitor your child. Are they having problems? Are they fighting in school? Pay attention to your kid.

MALVEAUX: All right, pay attention to your kid.


MALVEAUX: That is a very, very important lesson as we go to Newtown, Connecticut, again, for the very latest. Thank you, Elizabeth.

COHEN: OK. Thanks.

MALVEAUX: We're going to take a quick break.