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American Morning

Siblings Read Names at 9/11 Site; Will Homeowner's Insurance Pay for Katrina Damage?; Border Patrol Searches for Survivors, Bodies in New Orleans

Aired September 11, 2005 - 08:59   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: 9/11 remembered, the nation pauses to honor the lives of the victims on this, the fourth anniversary of the attacks.
Katrina's aftermath, the search goes on for survivors in New Orleans. Authorities going door-to-door now trying to find people who are alive and who are desperately waiting for help.

And a developing story, Hurricane Ophelia is still hovering offshore, will it make a sharp turn and head for the coast? A state of emergency in North Carolina on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning, welcome back, everybody. You are taking a look at some live pictures from New York City as they have begun the ceremony to honor those who died in the September 11th attacks four years ago today. You can see some of the people who have walked down the long ramp to lay flowers in memory of their loved ones. And we have seen many family members as well clutching pictures of those who they lost on that day.

In addition, it is, this year, you can see here, the brothers and sisters of those who died who are remembering them and reading their names to the crowd assembled, a touching ceremony in hopes that these people will never be forgotten -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Today is the fourth anniversary, almost precisely at this time is when it all unfolded four years ago. And as we remember this year, of course, we are focused on another kind of tragedy, another kind of disaster, another kind of catastrophe. But clearly there -- as we remember 9/11, we're thinking a lot about Katrina and how we responded to both events and how we are responding to the current event much on our mind. And in many cases we have found all kinds of ways that these two tragedies have become connected. Joining us with more on that part of the story is CNN's Allan Chernoff in Biloxi, Mississippi this morning.

Good morning, Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles. There are volunteers here from all over the country who came to lend a hand. And we found one New Yorker here who four years ago was helping out in the aftermath of the World Trade Center destruction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHERNOFF (voice-over): Walking by the rubble in Biloxi brings back memories of 9/11 for New Yorker Alexandra Hampton whose office back home is only two blocks from ground zero.

ALEXANDRA HAMPTON, NYPD INVESTIGATION: The smell is different but otherwise it looks the same. It has that dust everywhere. And it's all over the street.

CHERNOFF: After Hurricane Katrina hit, Hampton got down to Mississippi as fast as she could to check on relatives and volunteer, exactly what she did after 9/11.

HAMPTON: I feel I had to do something. And I just could not sit at home and not do anything.

CHERNOFF: Hampton, an investigator for New York City, is helping Biloxi Police. Saturday she was directing traffic after having worked an overnight shift.

HAMPTON: We're also out there looking for looters. Last night I was with the Mississippi Highway Patrol. We arrested one guy in one night for public drunkenness. The guy was hiding in what was left of a pawnshop with a bunch of machetes.

CHERNOFF: The day after 9/11 she was at ground zero.

HAMPTON: I drove around firefighters because their trucks were gone and they had still work there from the day before and they were just sitting at the corner of streets, just tired and dirty as can be.

CHERNOFF: The devastation of the World Trade Center, Hampton says, is often on her mind.

HAMPTON: I can see the pile burning. And I remember the firefighters sleeping on the couches in the streets and everything is black. And just about every day I see that, you know? I'm still emotional about it.

CHERNOFF: Even so, face to face with another tragedy, Alexandra Hampton also sees another opportunity to help.


CHERNOFF: Today, Alexandra Hampton will be back at ground zero because that's where she wanted to commemorate the anniversary of the Trade Center destruction -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Allan Chernoff, thank you for introducing us to her. We appreciate that -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, Rudy Giuliani was the mayor of New York City four years ago, he was heavily praised for his strength and his effectiveness in responding to that disaster. We asked him about Hurricane Katrina's response as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RUDOLPH GIULIANI, FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: The reason that I was able to do whatever it is I was able to accomplish is I had 41,000 police officers and 11,000 firefighters and 11,000 correction officers and a gigantic EMS and New York City faces a crisis a week.

So I had the benefit of a virtual army of enormously capable people that I could turn to and didn't have to explain to them what had to happen. You know, so New York -- the New York mayor gets a lot of help and I rested on the shoulders of people we're going to remember today, I mean, some of the real giants.

So, you know, I hope the level of preparation all over the country and every mayor had the benefit of these kinds of resources. But I was very, very fortunate. So, it's not about one person. It is about thousands and thousand and thousands of people. And a lot of them we are going to remember today.


S. O'BRIEN: That's the mayor of New York City, the former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, talking about response to -- on 9/11. Let's take you back live now to New York City at ground zero four years after that terrible tragedy.

You're looking at pictures of the end of the ramp and the reflecting pool where family members are laying flowers in honor and in memory of those who died on that day. And you are hearing the voice of a brother, because this year siblings are reading the names of those who died on 9/11.

Three hundred and twenty pairs of brothers and sisters will take their place at the podium over the next hour or so, as family members, as you can see here, make their way down a fairly long ramp at the bottom where that reflecting pool is.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's check the weather. We have our eye on one other potential cause of disaster. We hope not. But Ophelia has that potential right now. Bonnie Schneider at the CNN's Weather Center. And actually Ophelia has weakened somewhat, hasn't it?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now, maximum winds are at 85. I think, Miles, the biggest news with Ophelia is that the track of it has shifted quite a bit, because Ophelia was originally headed straight for South Carolina but it looks like at this point the storm is stationary, meaning it's barely moving, and the track has also changed.

So we have a hurricane watch that will continue further, I would say further in towards North Carolina. That's what we're looking at at this point. So keep that in mind for the forecast.


O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Bonnie. Stay with CNN for complete coverage of Hurricane Ophelia. CNN, of course, your hurricane headquarters. Let's check some other headlines right now, Tony Harris at CNN Center in Atlanta with that.

Good morning, Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, Miles. Good morning, everyone. "Now in the News," U.S. troops on duty in Afghanistan are commemorating the fourth anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks. The 9/11 ceremony starting just about a half hour ago at Camp Eggers (ph) in Kabul. These are new pictures just coming into CNN, some 20,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. At least 189 Americans have been killed there in the past four years.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is heading to Arlington National Cemetery this hour. He will lay a wreath in honor of those who died in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. One hundred eighty-nine people were killed at the site, including five hijackers. The Defense Department opened up the Pentagon Memorial this weekend.

In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is set to deliver remarks within the next hour at the site where 40 people were killed by two hijackers. United Airlines Flight 93 was headed towards an unknown target when passengers overtook the hijackers and crashed into a field.

Eight minutes after the hour now. Now back to Miles and Soledad in New York.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Tony, thanks a lot, appreciate that. In just a moment we're going to turn our attention back to Katrina's aftermath. Insurance claims expected to climb into the billions. That's with a B, billions. Some homeowners though are just finding out that their insurance doesn't cover flooding. We're going to tell you what every homeowner should know in just a few moments. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: What do you do now if your house looks like that or if you lost everything or had any kind of damage from Hurricane Katrina? What kind of insurance should you have, hurricane or flood? Doug Heller is the executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. He is in Los Angeles this morning.

Nice to see you, Mr. Heller. Thanks for talking with us.


S. O'BRIEN: To a large degree, aren't they splitting hairs when they are quibbling over whether people -- and you just saw that picture, whether that was flood damage, because the bottom half of the home is under water, or if it's hurricane damage, the top half has been utterly blown off. I mean, isn't one caused by the other?

HELLER: Well, that's exactly right. And unfortunately, we're already hearing from many Katrina survivors who are being told that they're not going to have insurance coverage because, well, they didn't have the flood insurance. And they're all asking the same question: If I bought hurricane insurance, and in many cases paid thousands of dollars a year for it, and then Katrina ripped through my neighborhood and destroyed my home, why is my insurance company telling me they're going to deny my claim?

And you know it's like telling -- it's like saying that a murderer is going to be let off the hook because, well, it was the bullet that killed the guy, not the murderer himself. Everybody knows that it was Katrina. It was Hurricane Katrina, not flood Katrina that came through. And it just doesn't make any sense. If it wasn't for the hurricane there wouldn't have been a 20-foot storm surge in Biloxi.

S. O'BRIEN: How -- when you say -- I'm going to stop you there, because you say, everybody knows. But I have a feeling that actually this is going to end up in the courts which will ultimately decide whether it was Hurricane Katrina or flood Katrina, so to speak, that did the bulk of the damage.

HELLER: Well, we are really afraid of that. The insurance companies, you know, they take our premiums every year and have no problem with that. But they're very tight with the money when it comes to paying out. And we're concerned that we are going to see Katrina survivors having to get lawyers, having to go into court and fight for their rights to get paid.

And, it's just so many people who know that it was Katrina that pulled the trigger. But the insurance companies are going to point to subsection 3-F or whatever it is in your policy and say, well, there was an exclusion here. But if it wasn't for Hurricane Katrina, there wouldn't have been a levee break, there wouldn't have been a storm surge and all these folks wouldn't have lost their homes, so they should get paid.

S. O'BRIEN: How much money do you think we are talking about at the end of the day in that distinction between the flood and the hurricane? And how much money will potentially homeowners lose out on?

HELLER: Well, it could be -- depending on where you are, I think in the Gulf Coast, it may be that there is a little bit more -- people get a little bit more paid because it looks like the wind was the direct cause of the damage. In Orleans Parish, in the city of New Orleans, it could a whole lot if not virtually all of your claim the insurance companies will fight over and say you are not covered for. And that's a real concern.

And we are really warning and urging people to be assertive policyholders and make sure these insurance companies don't write you off. Because after going through such a tragedy with the natural disaster, they shouldn't be forced through the kind of hoops that the insurance companies want to put them. But we're talking tens of billions of dollars are at stake here.

S. O'BRIEN: How -- isn't FEMA giving money to people who need money and need to rebuild?

HELLER: Well, FEMA will give a little bit of cash upfront. You know, we've heard some problems about the difficulty in getting that money. But when it comes to the bulk of rebuilding, at best most people will only have access to loans. You know, insurance is a much better way to get -- to rebuild your home because the insurance company gives you money.

FEMA and the federal government, we are just going to give loans, you know -- or I should ,say they're just going to just give loans to the public. And that's not the same thing. You are going to have to pay that back. You still have to pay your mortgage. And that's why we have got to make sure that the insurance companies don't let, the taxpayers pick up the tab where they're supposed to. Because they just rebuilt people's homes, it's not a question of loans.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's run through some of your tips. First -- and I want to get to all of them, so let's go pretty quickly. First, should you wait to document your loss? I mean, obviously, a lot of people have trouble getting in, should you wait a little while?

HELLER: Right. No, the first thing that people should do is contact their insurance agent. If they can't find them, call the insurance company and let them know that you have had a loss, that you are going to file a claim. You want to get things started right away.

And as best you can, if you can get back to your homes, document everything. If you have cameras, video cameras, get it all on paper at least. And one thing that we are recommending to people is to sit down and start making the list of what they've lost. Because you are going to have to claim -- you're going to have to document everything. And you will find that you have forgotten an entire room. And so as soon as you think of something, put it down on paper at the least if you can't get back and photograph what you lost.

S. O'BRIEN: You also say, don't sign anything early on, don't sign away any of your rights, and also make sure you are aware of the time line. What do you mean by the time line?

HELLER: Well, there are -- the insurance policy and state laws have different time lines in which you have to file your claim, you have to report your damage. And if, unfortunately, this gets to court, there are going to be deadlines for filing lawsuits. So you just need to talk to the insurance company and find out exactly what time line you have to file everything with them and to inform them about problems you are having.

S. O'BRIEN: Get a second opinion, I know, is some more advice you have. What would you use for the second opinion?

HELLER: Well, first of all, for legal advice, I know there are going to be a lot of lawyers who are giving free legal advice to Katrina survivors. And it's very important, especially before you sign any waiver or any releases, that you get independent advice from an attorney or from some expert, perhaps at the state department of insurance. But also, if you don't feel that the adjuster or the contractor that the insurance company has brought in is doing a fair job, or if you think they are trying to lowball you, you have every right to bring in an independent contractor and it may cost you a couple of hundred dollars to do that, but that could be worth it in the long run to make sure that you get a fair deal from the insurer.

S. O'BRIEN: Some good information. Doug Heller is the executive director for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. Thanks, Doug.

HELLER: Thank you so much, Soledad.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come in the program, a look at flood- ravaged New Orleans through the lens of MTV. A look at a remarkable video diary coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Well, the water is receding despite that picture there. The water is receding in New Orleans. As a matter of fact, what we're told right now is water covers about 40 percent of that city. The first part of the week it was 80 percent. So progress is being made. Nevertheless there is house-to-house search under way, an effort to find quite frankly perhaps some holdouts, but more likely some bodies.

So far, the numbers have been encouraging, not anywhere near the 10,000 dead that the mayor once predicted. CNN's Rusty Dornin went along on one of those missions with the Border Patrol as they engaged in that house-to-house search -- Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, it was more of the people who had called in -- specific addresses of people who called in after the storm and actually over the last four or five days with 911 calls. So they have split the city up into different quadrants, and this Border Patrol had 2nd and the 5th District.

But before we got in there we did take a helicopter ride, a little tour. It was the first one that I had -- time I had seen the city from the air since arriving here. And I have to tell you, Miles, you are saying that the water is receding. Yes, it is receding. But for someone who hasn't seen it and seeing it for the first time, it was amazing, mile after mile after mile of submerged neighborhoods. I mean, it's absolutely incredible. We're still talking about 40 percent of the city.

But by the time we hit the ground with the Border Patrol, their assignment was in a drier part of New Orleans.


DORNIN (voice-over): Even where it is dry in New Orleans, with no phones and no electricity, the only way to find out if somebody is home is the old-fashioned way.


DORNIN: These Border Patrol agents are looking for people who have already called for help. We took a ride with them on a search for people who called 911 in the last four or five days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 69-year-old female. And we are going to check that resident's welfare. See if she is there. If she is not we'll move on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. Border Patrol agents.

DORNIN: They check all windows and doors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one is locked. So we are going to have to either try to determine if anyone in there needs help. If not, if not we're going to have to move on.

DORNIN: But Bob Lindeman (ph), a Border Patrol supervisor, sees something suspicious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not smelling anything stinking, but I am seeing an indication that someone has been in there. They have got money scattered in there.

DORNIN: So Lindeman has one of the agents climb through the window and open the door on the bet there is cash scattered around but no signs of any one or any problems. So it's back in the car and onto the next one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 16-year-old male, appears to be -- he's crippled and his parents had to leave him behind. Haven't heard from him for two days. So we're going to jump on that.

DORNIN: They try to drive there but can't. The streets are still flooded. Even other National Guard troops and giant personnel carriers are having trouble navigating the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) there is people in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think that there are people in there.

DORNIN: The Border Patrol helicopter scouts the streets for the agents, trying to find the boy's house. No luck. They radio back, it looks submerged. So they move on to another area.

(on camera): There has been no flooding and really very little wind damage in this neighborhood. But a 911 call came in three days ago for a medical emergency. But by the time the Border Patrol arrived here it may have been too late. They do believe there is a dead body inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can see it. I just want to make sure it is a dead body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, definitely a dead body.

DORNIN (voice-over): They mark it, and search for the next caller. This time, it is a semi-flooded neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police officer.

DORNIN: But the house is locked up tight.

(on camera): You come to this house, you find it is fortified, but you know there has been a 911 call. You don't kick the door down?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, barring any overriding indication that somebody is in there, it appears that somebody has locked it up on their way out.

DORNIN: The streets in many areas may be dry. But it is like a ghost town, every few blocks troops can be seen patrolling. For this patrol it was frustrating, too much water for them to drive their vehicles to all the addresses on the list. There are 800 addresses. The ones they can't get to, others will. But like many Katrina-driven dilemmas here, no one really has any idea how long that will take.


DORNIN: And, Miles, we went to about 10 different places and it took almost four hours going back and forth, getting lost, you know, having to try to navigate around the water. And really, only searched per se about three or four houses. So you can see it is pretty slow- going.

And I think every agency has a different way of dealing with it. I mean, they decided not to kick down the door. You may have 82nd Airborne deciding to do a different thing. So I think you are going to see them doing different routines for each agency.

M. O'BRIEN: Rusty, why don't they have a boat? I mean, obviously...

DORNIN: I know.

M. O'BRIEN: ... they're in short supply, I'm sure.

DORNIN: I know. They're in short supply. And that particular agency decided they felt that the health risks were too unsafe for their officers because they didn't have the equipment, so they were given the job of doing it by car. And as you said, not everybody has a boat. They have a helicopter and they have vehicles. And that's how they're trying to deal with it. Each one deals with it differently.

M. O'BRIEN: So the handicapped teen, what do we know?

DORNIN: We know nothing. In fact, I am going to try to call them today. I think they were -- we tried to actually fly over the area. They couldn't really see exactly where the house was. It wasn't an area that was completely submerged.

He also said there are problems some times with the addresses of the 911 calls, that that might not have been the right address for that particular call. They also have to deal with that. That happens even when there is not a hurricane. So there were some question about the accuracy of the call. But it -- still, it's very disturbing.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. It is.

DORNIN: The one thing I didn't -- you know, the one thing I didn't say in the piece was the parents had heard from the kid, they said, two days ago.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, wow, wow. Gosh, I hope they can get to him.

DORNIN: It just was -- I know, very disturbing.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, I mean, literally and figuratively, dead ends everywhere, as they continue this effort. And that tells you that this is not just about dead bodies. There are still people there who need help. And there are also people there who would prefer not to be bothered as well. So there's the full range.

Rusty Dornin, thank you, a fascinating peace -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, beneath the floodwaters of New Orleans, as the water recedes, we're getting a firsthand look at what is left behind. We'll take a look at that ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody it's half past the hour on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up a slightly happier story to tell you. We're glad to have a happier story this morning, it's been a tough morning. This is in the wake of Katrina aftermath. We'll tell you about a New Orleans couple whose wedding plans were derailed temporarily by the hurricane. But then, a small Texas town stepped up. And, you know, what would Louisiana do without Texas this morning? You know there's some good people in Texas who have done some great things for a lot of people who've endured some great misfortune.

S. O'BRIEN: Who certainly needed the help. I'm looking forward to talking to the happy newlyweds this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, we're looking for ward to that. We need a jolt of that.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes we do. First though, a look at stories making headlines. Let's get right to Tony Harris at CNN Center.

Hey, Tony. Good morning.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning, Soledad, good morning Miles. Good morning everyone. "Now in the News": North Carolina under a state of emergency this morning. Ophelia is a Category 1 hurricane about 250 miles east-southeast of Charleston. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Ophelia is staying put for now, but could hit land within the next couple days we'll check in with Bonnie Schneider coming up.

President Bush is heading back down to the Gulf Coast. The president marked the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks last hour with a moment of silence outside of the White House. This afternoon he flies to New Orleans for his third visit to the region in the last 10 days. He is expected to meet with evacuees tomorrow in Gulfport, Mississippi.

To Arlington National Cemetery. Right now Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will lay a wreath in honor of those who died in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon 189 people were killed at the site including five hijackers.

And the music world is mourning the loss of Grammy winner Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Brown's career spanned more than five decades. He played the blues, country, jazz and Cajun music. He earned nickname "Gatemouth" for his deep voice. Brown had been battling lung cancer and heart disease for the past year. He died Saturday in Texas he had evacuated thereafter his own home in Slidell, Louisiana was destroyed by Katrina. Clarence Brown was 81.

Thirty-two minutes now after the hour. Soledad back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: All right Tony thanks. Give us a look at what's coming up in the next hour, Tony.

HARRIS: Will do. We'll have the latest on the search for the living and, unfortunately, the dead on the Gulf Coast and show you some of the first signs of recovery in that region. Plus, you'll meet Max. Max the wonder dog who proves that every dog has his day even if it involves a hurricane. Soledad, at the top of the hour.

S. O'BRIEN: And that's quite a tease, looking forward to that story. Tony thanks -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, I'll -- ever since Katrina hit, now, almost two weeks we have borne witness to it though we haven't been there, many of us, through some amazing pictures captured by a team of helicopter pilots.

Pilot Alan Purwin's company, Helinet Aviation Services, largely responsible for the footage we have seen over the last two weeks. Matter of fact, it is where footage comes from. He joins us from New Orleans Airport where he's been launching his operations.

Alan, first of all, how many missions have you flown? Have you tallied it? Have you been able to do that?

ALAN PURWIN, HELINET AVIATION SERVICES: Oh, that's hard to say. Good morning, Miles. We've been flying since, gosh, about two hours after the tail end of the hurricane whipped through the region, two weeks ago, I guess two Mondays -- a week ago Monday. And we have been flying -- literally 10, 12, 14 hours a day ever since. So, I couldn't count the missions. It's been pretty much steady up in the air, 4:30, 5:00 in the morning and then landing back at Baton Rouge Airport where we established our base at nighttime, seven, eight, 9:00 at night. So, that's pretty much our way since day one.

M. O'BRIEN: We're looking at one of the levee breaches, and you've documented all of these. This is a pretty big one here and you can see the flow as it was coming across. This comes from, I believe, it was the 31st of August, so that gives you a sense of how -- the flow there compares to today. As you fly over those levee breaches and the repairs in the levees you're seeing great improvement, I trust?

PURWIN: Oh, absolutely. Miles, I don't have a monitor in front of me now, so I'm not sure what images you're looking at. But we have seen the water recede and work crews, utility companies, just all sorts of different agencies are working very, very hard. I believe 24 hours a day. They're shifting these very dedicated professionals to try to rebuild the infrastructure to get the basics back up on line.

M. O'BRIEN: Yeah, and then, you get the stunning image of that -- that sunset there.

Let's move on to the next set of images. And this is, this is a dramatic set. First of all looks look you had a flight of two going here. Here's one of your helicopters in a formation with you. And take note of what you see on the ground here. Well there is no ground. As you look down here, you're looking at just water, water everywhere and as you go past, there's a pumping station right down there. And as you get past Interstate 10/310 interchange, I believe it is, you'll see coming up here, a line of demarcation. There's a levee there and past that levee everything is dry. Are you struck, Alan by the contrast of, you know, just flying from one end of the levee to the other and everything seems to be, at least to the eye -- to the helicopter eye, normal below you?

PURWIN: Yeah, it is just amazing. One side of the levee in different areas was completely flooded out and the other side of the levee that wasn't breached it was a whole different world. So it was just a lot of unfortunate regions that were affected by the different levees that were impacted.

M. O'BRIEN: Yeah, the way the land lies and where you are means a lot. Now you've documented several rescue efforts. This one, a Blackhawk helicopter got some people. As matter of fact, I saw spray painted on the roof, it said, you know, "diabetic in need of assistance." I assume you saw a lot of those kind of spray painted pleas as you flew overhead. And you've seen countless of these scenes of people being hoisted up into helicopters. That's got to be gratifying when you see that because I know you've helped find people for the guard and so forth?

PURWIN: Oh, absolutely. We were searching really hard, we were trying to find the people that were in the most distress, the olders, the families with young children. And it was very gratifying. And at the same time it was extremely heartbreaking because there were so many people in need and there was just not enough assets out there. It's like, when I was looking at the city on day two, day three it appeared as though nobody left the town. And everybody needed help. I guess that really wasn't the case because a lot of people thought they could ride it out and there are still people there that are trying to survive in this environment that is just not conducive for any kind of, you know, good health. So ...

S. O'BRIEN: You know, yeah.

PURWIN: Go ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: No, you finish up.

PURWIN: I'm sorry?

M. O'BRIEN: You go ahead and finish up. And what I was just going to point out is people, you know, literally bringing trash bags with bare necessities that they could get out, you know, just a few possessions. It's pretty dramatic isn't it?

PURWIN: Oh, it was very dramatic. And it was not hard for me to put myself in their shoes. That's all they had left on this earth was what was in those -- those trash bags. So, I could totally understand why they did not want to let them go. And they wanted to carry them with them. And I, I just can't say enough about our Coast Guard and all levels from the Department of Defense and the local law enforcement agencies that have -- that have streamed into this region from all parts of the country. They just have been really, really doing their best to accommodate all of the different affected people as best they can while not, compromising safety and other elements.

M. O'BRIEN: We're running out of time, Alan, I want to get this last piece of tape in. This is where you actually got involved in a rescue involving some dogs. Tell us this story? This is one of your choppers, I believe, that has landed down on, looks like on the berm of a levee. And you got a happy -- is that the dog owner there in the helicopter with the dog?


M. O'BRIEN: Tell us what happened.

PURWIN: I am not seeing the video, but at our hotel where we're staying out in Baton Rouge, we're over at the Courtyard Marriott and there's three or four people we would run into when we would get back to the hotel late at night. And all three of them would ask is if we could check on their houses if there's anything we can do to get them into the impacted areas to maybe bring out, take out some, some very personal items. And, yesterday, night before last, Charlie Fans actually approached J.T. Alpaugh, who actually went home. And I also want to say, "Hi" to J.T. and thanks for just such an outstanding job. He's taking a couple days off and then hopefully he'll be back with us. But, anyways we decided to -- once we heard the animal story and saw the look and tears coming out of Charlie's eyes, we, we decided to offer one of our helicopters, we brought two other helicopters here. We offered one of our helicopters to Charlie and two other folks that were staying at the hotel that had houses there, brought them out to affected areas. We dropped Charlie off at his trailer park area over in the Toco area, and then Tracy and Tom, two other folks who had houses we flew them over there while Charlie was taking care of his dogs. When we -- when mike Monahan went back to pick up Charlie, the dog, his little dog Whitey jumped in the helicopter with him and we were able to bring Charlie and his family become to Baton Rouge.

M. O'BRIEN: We are glad that Whitey and Charlie, as many people as have been saved are safe and sound. And thank you for your efforts just helping us understand the story and also, little built of your effort on the rescue effort as well. And keep up the good work there in New Orleans. Alan Purwin is the founder of Helinet Aviation Services -- Soledad.

PURWIN: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Well we have heard time and time again and truly no surprise, certainly in the areas that were hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, that some times the only thing that keeps people together and holding it together is their faith. Our new faith and values correspondent is Delia Gallagher; she's covered the Vatican for a long time. She joins us this morning with the story of one man who's helping others.

Good morning Delia.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Yes, let me tell you that first of all this morning we are expecting a papal delegation from the Vatican to arrive to survey some of the damage, to meet with some of the victims, and to discuss the fate of some 50,000 displaced catholic school students in the New Orleans school districts that, of course, will have to begin school in September. As you mentioned, I did have the privilege of meeting with a Southern Baptist chaplain, Larry Chatman, who was visiting some of the relief centers, he came from Tennessee and he was ministering to spiritual and emotional need of some of the evacuees.


GALLAGHER: And when you go into one of these shelters, how do you -- how do you approach the whole thing? How do you approach all these people that are sitting around?

LARRY CHATMAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHAPLAIN: Basically the ones that I -- I just walk up to them and introduce myself and I begin to talk with them and you just hope that they will open up to you and some will, some won't.

Hello, Miss Lady, are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I'll be coming. Just a minute.

CHATMAN: Hello, Miss Lady.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, how are you?

CHATMAN: How you doing today? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

CHATMAN: I seen you come in yesterday.


CHATMAN: Yes, ma'am and they -- how's your feet and leg today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm taking the medicine on them.

CHATMAN: Oh, they give you good stuff?

I try to find out where they are at and just give them comfort, you know, for a few moments and, I tell you, I am like a whipping post sometimes for people to vent, bring out their frustrations.

So, father we lift them to you right now. We praise you and we thank you and we ask that you would help them through this day to make their stay here as comfortable as possible.

All I can do is, is try to give them peace and comfort and pray for them and tell them that I'm sorry.

You got a meal of champions today -- potted mean. You can't get much better than that. You got a good meal in a can. Got your bible. Got you a good bed.

GALLAGHER: You want to take a walk outside?


GALLAGHER: See what's going on?

What makes you do this? Why do you do this?

CHATMAN: The love of Christ. And Jesus Christ died for us and he loves all of us. And I know a circumstance like this people say "Well, that's hard to believe right now when you see all the devastation," but, god is still god. He's in control and he still loves us all.


GALLAGHER: And Soledad, I should say that this is only one man of hundreds here. They are all volunteers, they come on their own dime, he came from Tennessee, and in a sense they pay to come here.

S. O'BRIEN: I think it's fair to say, Delia, it is one of the silver linings in all of this is to see how people respond and give of themselves and give their own hearts and time and money to help other people who are truly in need. Delia Gallagher thanks and welcome to the company. It's nice to have you.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Well how much of a threat is Hurricane Ophelia? Bonnie Schneider is at CNN Center with the latest on that.

Hello, Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Hello, Miles. Right now the biggest threat for the Carolina coastline, even down through Georgia, will be some rough surf. So, not a good day to been in the ocean. The cloud coverage from Ophelia right now is just now starting to make its way across North Carolina, but the bulk of the thunderstorm activity is still couple hundred miles away from the shoreline. The reason we're having so much trouble forecasting exactly where Ophelia will go is because weather patterns that will steer Ophelia have yet to emerge. Low pressure starting to lift off to the north and that'll help us a little bit because then a high pressure will build in and we'll see how far east this high comes in. That means it'll help to steer us in the right direction of where Ophelia is headed, so we'll have a better idea by tonight.

But, what we can tell you is, where our concerns are a little bit further to the north. Cape Lookout to Edisto Beach in South Carolina, and North Carolina, as well, we have a hurricane watch. That means hurricane conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. And as you can see by the track, the storm gets close to the outer banks, is likely to make landfall somewhere in this vicinity, but not until Wednesday. So now we're projecting another couple days ahead into the future.

So, Miles the storm has slowed down and we're tracking it very closely.

M. O'BRIEN: All right Bonnie, we wish you luck trying to figure this one out.


M. O'BRIEN: Good luck there.


M. O'BRIEN: Stay with CNN for complete coverage of Hurricane Ophelia. Your hurricane headquarters is right here.

Still to come, a New Orleans couple wanted to get married, but Katrina kind of got in the way. I don't know is that a good or a bad omen for a marriage do you think?

S. O'BRIEN: How it turned out, it's a very good omen.

M. O'BRIEN: There you go. That's exactly it. That's exactly how we're going to spin that one. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The scope of what's happened to this area is so big. It's hard for you to understand when you go and you see debris and see houses submerged to really feel anything. But when you turn and see some one looking at his sister's house and he realizes it's gone, there's nothing left. That was really tough.


M. O'BRIEN: All right, we've been seeing Katrina through all kinds of eyes. This is a little different perspective. MTV news correspondent, Suchin Pak has been covering the aftermath of Katrina through the eyes of some Louisiana State University students who were affected in so many ways, family members, friends, obviously, they're in Baton Rouge, but nevertheless, Louisiana is a big part of all this. Were you surprised at how connected LSU students were and how much they wanted to do to try to help out?

SUCHIN PAK, MTV NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean. You know, I'm surprised, but also not surprised. I've been doing this long enough for MTV where I know that often the first people that go out to volunteer during these times are young people. And, you know, students all across campus, I think they open up the phone lines at 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. that day they had gotten over 500 student volunteers. And they're doing everything from sorting through clothes, to delivering food go, you know, helping out with medical treatments, you know, unloading evacuees from helicopters that are literally landing on their track and field, you know, their basketball stadium has been turned into a hospital. You know? So, their gym is now a triage center and a shelter for evacuees, so it's quite an incredible sight.

M. O'BRIEN: And I think, pretty much, every open dorm room was spoken for one way or another for evacuees' family members and so forth. One of the people you introduce us to is Carl, an LSU sophomore who said he was kind of a -- well, somewhat apathetic, as some students are entitled to be. I guess. But in the wake of this he and his father volunteered, got an airboat going. Let's listen to a little excerpt.


PAK: Can you tell us what the first days were like when you want out on the boat?

RALPH, CARL'S FATHER: Just gathering people that had medical issues and needed to get out.

CARL, LSU STUDENT: It's amazing how many people you go up to and say, "All right. You want to leave?" They say, "No."

RALPH: It is a death sentence because it's so toxic. The stench is almost unbearable.


M. O'BRIEN: Interesting to hear their response, how they just pitched right in.

PAK: Right, and you know, with no hesitation. Again, you know, Carl and his father, Ralph, aren't ones those people that sign up at local volunteer center and they're not one of those people, but they just couldn't, you know, stand by and watch. And they have a boat and they need boats out there, you know, as you know the waters are flooded. Earlier we saw, you know, cars can't get through to the streets. They know the streets very well. They can't, they just basically go to staging areas, they get their orders for the day and they go out.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk about Jen now. Jen sort of gave up some housing for some family members who are affected. Let's see that clip, briefly.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have two kids that go to school at LSU, thank god, because my son and Jeanne and their other roommate are giving up their apartment for my -- for my family to stay, and that is just awesome and we're not in shelters. I mean, these people that have lost everything and now they have to live in a shelter that's -- you know, I've got to be grateful for that. So, I'm trying to look at my glass half full.


M. O'BRIEN: Well, that is half full, isn't it?

PAK: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, it's three generations of her family are living in a tiny student apartment and this is repeated over and over again. Dorms are overfilling with grandparents, sisters, cousins, you know, nephews, nieces. And, you know, I was talking to Jen's grandfather and grandmother who had celebrated their 50th anniversary. They had settled into their lives, you know, they have daughters and children just all close by. In New Orleans nobody moves out of town, you know, and they all stay very close and so when this happened they thought, well we will just go back in a of couple days or we'll go to our cousin's house down the street they realize the entire family history is gone. And these students dorms and apartments, you can see as you drive down the LSU campus there are cars just parked everywhere. Wherever there's a space, there's a family. And it's going to be like this for a while.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, good for those students and we wish the families well. Because you're right, it's not just a city, it's not just buildings, it's just a whole tapestry of friendships and families that are, that are really, what a city is all about.

Suchin Pak, good work.

PAK: Thank you. Thank you very much.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you for dropping by. Appreciate it. She's with MTV, joining us this morning -- Soledad. S. O'BRIEN: Ahead, a Louisiana couple that felt that Hurricane Katrina put an end to their wedding plans. There's the happy couple right there. The kindness of strangers came through in a huge way. We'll tell their story up next. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Courtney Coubarous and Reggie Fournier had been planning their wedding for nearly a year then came Hurricane Katrina and now they're evacuees. Courtney's wedding dress is underwater, the church is destroyed, but they did get married thanks to the kindness of strangers in Katie, Texas. Let's get to the happy couple.

Courtney and Reggie, nice to see you guys. Joining us from Houston. The November wedding was planned and as we mentioned, obviously, Hurricane Katrina sank the whole thing. Everything was destroyed. Local people, though, stepped in and really hooked you up. What happened?

COURTNEY COURBAROUS, NEWLYWED NEW ORLEANS EVACUEE: Well we were just going to go to the justice of the peace and his sister and brother-in-law had a host family out here in Katie, Texas and they offered their church and it just kind of snowballed from there. Then came the musicians and the flowers and the cake and the reception hall and the catering and the hotel room that night and the limo and everything. Everything was taken care of.

S. O'BRIEN: Just like an actual wedding that you were going to have. This was all, Reggie, based on the generosity of the folks in Katie, right?

REGGIE FOURNIER, NEWLYWED NEW ORLEANS EVACUEE: Yes. Yes. It was very generous to us.

S. O'BRIEN: You know considering that your home, I understand, is a pretty much a total loss and that things are just a wreck back home. I am curious how you feel about this, Courtney, I mean, putting you up alone is kind of a nice thing to do, and maybe a cake or maybe a flowers would be nice, but the whole nine yards. You got to be pretty overwhelmed?

COURBAROUS: Yeah, it was very overwhelming. I'm still in awe of everything that has happened. Like, I just pinch myself every morning, like is it a dream? And we wake up and we look at our hands and we're like, "We're really married. Oh, my god. It really happened." So, it's pretty cool.

S. O'BRIEN: That's a good part. Yeah, that's the good part of getting married. I'm glad to hear that. What is it a day in? You're al ready loving it, that's very good.


S. O'BRIEN: What are your plans now? I would be worried if it were other than that. What are your plans now? Do you go back to New Orleans one day? Do you move on somewhere else? FOURNIER: No, actually, we have plans to move to Catskill, New York, now.

S. O'BRIEN: I know it well.

FOURNIER: I have a job waiting for me out there and for how things looking for us, were our house -- considering where our house was in New Orleans it's not looking too good out there, so we're deciding just to -- since we're a young couple, you know, we're deciding to try to start over at a new place.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, I know the Catskills very well, it's very beautiful and I'm certain you're going to be happy there. Reggie and Courtney, congratulations.

COURBAROUS: Thank you.

FOURNIER: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: And the happy wedding and thanks for talking with us this morning.

A short break, we're back in just a moment.


M. O'BRIEN: That's all the time we have for this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING on this September 11, 2005. Thanks for being with us. Tony Harris takes it away from here.

Good morning, Tony.