Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Severe Weather in Texas; Dragster Horror in Tennessee; Romney One-On-One; Seven Children Killed in Afghanistan Airstrike

Aired June 18, 2007 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Chad's monitoring the radar down there in Atlanta.
We've got with us right now, though, live from the scene there is Haltom City, Cynthia Vega from our affiliate WFAA.

We've seen some of the pictures, Cynthia. We've been looking at the radar images.

How bad is it there on the ground?

CYNTHIA VEGA, REPORTER, WFAA: Well, I can tell you this -- it has been a very frantic, frightening night, for what we're now hearing, hundreds of people living in this mobile home park that goes -- abuts a creek just behind me. And as a result of the floodwaters that moved in so quickly here this morning overnight, you can see what's happened behind me, just some of the damage.

It sent cars literally toppling into one another. There are pets missing this morning. Even worse, there are people missing this morning. We now have been told from authorities there is a 4-year-old girl that was swept away in that creek, and also a 3-year-old girl still reported missing at this hour.

Let's take a look from a little earlier. And you can see the overhead video of the aerial video that we have, these rescues that have been going on all morning long. Massive searches for any sign of people who have been stranded in those waters or who may be.

We still don't have accurate numbers of how many people may be affected, but I can tell you the 3-year-old little girl story is especially heart-wrenching. Apparently, she and her mother were rescued by one of the rescue boats out there in the creek this morning, only for that boat to overturn. And that 3-year-old girl swept away. The search for her still continues at this time.

And again, what happened here earlier this morning, middle of the night, basically these floodwaters came in, moving up beyond the tops of these mobile homes, sending people scrambling on to their roofs for up to an hour screaming for help. We've heard from countless stories of all these people here affected. So much still to be pieced together, but that is the very latest.

Reporting live for CNN in Haltom City, I'm Cynthia Vega.

ROBERTS: Hey, Cynthia, just before you go there, we saw what looked like an area that had turned into a river overnight, but there's no water there now. Has all of the water subsided, or are there still areas where the water is deep and they're still affecting rescues?

VEGA: Good question. Basically, the waters here have receded.

To give you some idea where I'm at right now, the waters at one point were waist high. By the time we got here about three hours ago, the waters were long gone. And we see this so often in Texas.

We hear as much as, you know, inches of rain falling fast and furiously, and then they recede just as fast. We have had a tremendous amount of rain, so the water -- the ground especially damp and not ready for any more rain.

But what I am hearing here, still unofficially, though, from one of the residents here, that perhaps down the way from the creek, a levee may have broken. These are preliminary reports, but it may have broken, causing that rush of water, in addition to the heavy rains that came down here overnight.

That may be the source of all these troubles. We still don't know for sure.

ROBERTS: All right. Cynthia Vega for us from our affiliate WFAA in Haltom City.

Cynthia, thanks very much for giving us that perspective from on the ground.

And Deputy Fire Chief Fred Napp joins us on the phone from Haltom City, Texas, where Cynthia was saying a half of a mobile home park was underwater. At least a hundred people displaced.

Deputy Chief Napp, how many people in that whole area do you think are displaced? What are your folks doing right now? Are they still effecting rescues?

FRED NAPP, HALTOM CITY DEPUTY FIRE CHIEF: About half of the mobile home park was under water. We're estimating approximately 100 homes. So if you extrapolate out four people per home, that's 400 people.

We're still trying to account for people who were evacuated by (INAUDIBLE). We're looking for one 4-year-old girl right now that is unaccounted for. She exited the home with her mother, and while she was in the water she was swept away by the floodwaters before we could get rescue boats up to her.


NAPP: So, right now, we have rescue teams that are searching for the person, and we're going to have to search through all of these homes to see if there if there are any more victims that we don't know of.

ROBERTS: Right. Do you have a fatality count at this point?

NAPP: We don't know of any confirmed fatalities right now.

ROBERTS: You may have heard Cynthia Vega from WFAA -- was talking about reports that a levee may have either been breached or broken because of the massive amount of rain that came down, and that potentially is what caused the flooding. Do you have anything for that on us -- or on that for us, Deputy Chief Napp?

NAPP: I haven't heard that report, no.

ROBERTS: All right.

Deputy Chief Fred Napp of the Haltom City Fire Department joining us on the phone.

Chief Napp, thanks very much for being with us. We'll get back to you a little bit later on this morning to talk more about your rescue efforts, but we appreciate you being with us, not that your time is precious right now -- Alina.

CHO: Other stories we're watching today.

At least two people remain in critical condition this morning after a super-charged dragster lost control this weekend in Tennessee. It happened about 80 miles east of Memphis. The car careened into a crowd at a charity event, killing six people. More than a dozen are in the hospital.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Sean Callebs is in Selmer, Tennessee, live this morning with the very latest.

Sean, I understand you're on the street where it actually happened.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. Let me set the scene for you just a bit.

You talked about it being a charitable event. But at the time of the accident, when muscle cars were just coming down this road, there were as many as 40,000 people lining this highway. And to give you an idea of how long this burnout, where the guy just hit the accelerator and smoked the tires, if you look all the way down this road you can see where the skid marks begin.

Now, what investigators have told us and what we're piecing together at this point, if you look here you can see a couple of orange dots. And there's a line of orange dots that lead right down here, Highway 45. This car swerved, lost control, sort of jackknifed a bit, and then slammed into a utility pole.

We have another camera set up at that utility pole there. Look at the base. You see a number of candles, flowers, stuffed animals. That has become a makeshift memorial. And really, this certainly is a town that remains in mourning.



CALLEBS (voice over): Everyone in Selmer, Tennessee, new drag racers were going to burn rubber. It's what they came to see.


CALLEBS: But no one anticipated this: a powerful car lurching out of control into a car, killing six, and injuring more than twice that number.

Thirty-five-year-old Renee Jones caught the whole episode on tape.

RENEE JONES, WITNESS: I just kept following it. And you could just see the car fishtail. And then it hit.

CALLEBS: The dragster was driven by Troy Critchey (ph). He's a 20-year veteran of the sport.

Tennessee authorities spent much of the last two days interviewing Critchey (ph). So far, no criminal charges have been filed.

MAYOR DAVID ROBINSON, SELMER, TENNESSEE: And highway patrol have told us that we should have a full report in about a week. I think the only thing we can do right now is really just kind of grieve together as a community.

CALLEBS: Each June, at least 40,000 people line this four-lane highway to watch event called cars for kids. A weekend that raises about $200,000 for a local children's hospital. This year, the event also raised questions. Why no protective barriers? And why would a muscle car like this that can go from zero to 200 in a matter of seconds be encouraged to go full throttle?

Blake Carroll, a chaplain with the McNairy County Sheriff's Department, spent the weekend consoling families.

CHAPLAIN BLAKE CARROLL, MCNAIRY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: The only thing that you can do basically in those times is just wrap your arms around those people and let them know that you love them and that god loves them, and that you're praying for them, and that you know the lord will help them through times like these.


CALLEBS: We had a chance to speak with the mayor last night, and the city knew, everybody in this area knew that these powerful cars were going to do that so-called burnout. But certainly no one anticipated it sliding out of control.

Understandably, there is a lot of anger in this community this morning. And Alina, there is a news conference scheduled in just about two hours with the Tennessee State Patrol. We know the district attorney is going to be there. And at that point we get some insight as to whether they plan to bring criminal charges in this matter -- Alina.

CHO: Sean Callebs, live for us in Selmer, Tennessee.

Sean, thank you -- John.

ROBERTS: Well, Mondays on AMERICAN MORNING we're taking a special look at the defining moment in each presidential candidate's political career. For Mitt Romney, it's his 180 on abortion and a change of heart that can be traced to one conversation.


ROBERTS: Governor, one of the defining moments of the coverage of your campaign has been your conversion from being "effectively pro- choice" now to pro-life. And it all revolves around a meeting that you had November 9, 2004 with Dr. Douglas Melton (ph), who is a stem cell researcher.

What did he tell you at that meeting?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The meeting is one in which we were talking about embryo cloning and embryo farming. And at one point he described the fact that in his view, there wasn't a moral issue because these embryos were destroyed after 14 days. And I had in my mind's eye -- imagined rack after rack of human embryos growing and then being killed after 14 days.

And it struck be as being a brave new world type of setting, and I said, "We've gone too far." The disrespect for human life with a one size fits all, Roe v. Wade mentality is just wrong.

ROBERTS: But how does it connect to Roe v. Wade?

ROMNEY: Well, the sanctity of life, those -- those of us who are pro-life are concerned about life from the very beginning, from the inception of life, until the very end. And so whether it's abortion or euthanasia, or whether it's cloning to create new embryos, all of these revolve around whether or not the society is going to be respectful of human life.

ROBERTS: You have said or at least intimated that, look, I changed my mind, people should move on. They should allow me to change my mind.

ROMNEY: No. I'm saying, I changed my mind, and you can look at my record as governor, and you can see in my record as governor that I have consistently been pro-life. Every piece of legislation that dealt with life...

ROBERTS: Even though you were effectively pro-choice?

ROMNEY: You know, as governor, all the decisions I made as governor and all the bills that came to my desk were -- I came down on the side of life. So when I ran for office, I was effectively pro- choice. I didn't call myself pro-choice, but I said I would keep the law the way it was. But the first time as governor that I saw a piece of legislation that dealt with life, I came down on the side of life.

ROBERTS: But can you see how people get confused with that?

ROMNEY: You know, if you've never changed your mind on anything, if you've never felt that at some point you learned from experience, and as a result you had changed your mind, if someone's never done that, well, they probably don't understand how it happens.


ROBERTS: And if you want to watch my entire interview with Governor Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate, go to We've got the whole thing there for you.

It's about 20 minutes long. We talked with him about a number of different issues. We talked to him about his faith, we talked to him about the stem cell issue, abortion.

CHO: Well, the abortion issue, I mean, you know, a lot of protesters were calling him "Flipper," wearing dolphin uniforms.

ROBERTS: And there are a lot of conservatives that don't absolutely trust that conversion either. So it's a big issue for him.

CHO: That's right. All right. Well, we look forward to that.



CHO: We've been following breaking news all morning long. Seven children killed in a U.S.-led airstrike on al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan.

CTV's Paul Workman live for us in Kandahar this morning.

So it looks like, Paul, that the U.S. military is doing some damage control.

What are they saying?

PAUL WORKMAN, REPORTER, CTV: Well, NATO forces very quickly put out a couple of statements expressing their sadness as a result of what happened. They say that they had the compound under intelligence, under surveillance most of the day, and that they did not see any children inside. And are now saying of course that if they had observed some children, they would never have ordered an airstrike.

They're obviously trying to deflect or head off any kind of criticism that's going to result as -- will come as a result of this. And there will be criticism, no doubt, from the population, and perhaps even from the government of Hamid Karzai.

CHO: Well, you can bet. And that's beginning already.

Of course, this comes on the heels of a suicide bombing by insurgents that killed 35 people over the weekend. What are you getting in terms of morale by the military there? I mean, are you getting a sense that things are getting worse? Because it certainly appears that way.

WORKMAN: Well, the forces that I talk to down here -- and there are a mixture...

CHO: All right. Well, obviously we're having some technical problems with Paul Workman in Kandahar for us.

But that was CTV's Paul Workman. We're going to check back with him a little bit later if we can -- John.

ROBERTS: President Bush is going to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tomorrow. Both leaders are trying to decide what to do about the violent split between Palestinian factions.

Former U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross was America's Middle East point man for more than a decade in both Democratic and Republican administrations. He is the author of "Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World".

He joins me now live from our Washington bureau.

Dennis, good to see you.

What do you think that Ehud Olmert and President Bush are going to be hatching tomorrow in this meeting?

DENNIS ROSS, FMR. U.S. MIDEAST ENVOY: Well, I think they'll probably be focused, first and foremost, on how they can both be helpful to Abu Mazen and Fatah in the West Bank, how they can do more to isolate Hamas within Gaza. But also, how they're going to have to wrestle with what is increasingly an Islamist enclave in Gaza both from a humanitarian standpoint, on the one hand, but also from it being a sanctuary for radical Islamists on the other.

ROBERTS: Do you think it's possible to defeat Hamas through isolation? You know, they've got a reputation for doing pretty well in hard times.

ROSS: It's true. But now they're in one -- they're in a situation that's a little bit different. There's nobody else to hold responsible in Gaza for governing. The Israelis aren't there, Fatah isn't there. It's only Hamas.

So now Hamas actually has to govern. They can't just be on the outside and not assume responsibility.

That actually creates a kind of leverage on them. Can they really be firing off rockets into Israel if Israel is the source of electricity? Do they really want to put themselves in a position where basically they have nobody else to blame but themselves, and they're making the situation work?

So there is leverage on them even though one has to be worried about the possibility that they could choose to divert attention away from their failings by heating things up with Israel.

ROBERTS: Dennis, when you look across the region, the split in the Palestinians, the growth of Sunni extremism in the northern part of Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Syria, is the whole area on the edge of a conflagration?

ROSS: Well, it certainly is moving in a downward spiral. And we have a real danger right now that you could have things erupt in Gaza, and as we saw with rocket fire Hezbollah has fired -- or not Hezbollah -- at least fired out of Lebanon yesterday, you can have a second front open up. Syria is building up its forces. Everywhere you look things are getting, in a sense, worse.

I would make one point that's worth keeping in mind. If you can make or help Fatah to be successful in the West Bank and you create a model of success for moderates, that could stand in contrast to Islamists who otherwise seem to be on the march.

ROBERTS: You said something about a decade ago that just stuck with me, Dennis. You said once that every breakthrough in the Middle East is preceded by a crisis, but not every crisis precedes a breakthrough.

Where do you see this going?

ROSS: I wish that this could be the moment for a breakthrough. I don't see us on the eve of any kind of breakthrough.

I think now we're in a coping situation. Now we've got to try to contain this.

You've got to prevent Hamas from gaining more weapons in Gaza. That means Egypt has to cut off the smuggling tunnels.

You've got to do more to show that Fatah can be successful, because the struggle between Fatah and Hamas is actually a struggle for the sole of the Palestinians. What will their identity be? Will they be a national movement or a religious movement?

National movements can produce, I think, outcomes. Religious movements are going to produce only harder times.

ROBERTS: All right.

Dennis Ross, former special envoy.

Thanks. Good to see you as a free agent now. Good to have you on our air. Appreciate it.



CHO: Well, we brought you that incredible story in our last hour about a bold identity thief and an even bolder identity thief victim. Here's the bank surveillance photo of the woman posing as Karen Lodrick.

She looted Lodrick's savings account and bought expensive things, including a distinctive coat. Lodrick saw that coat on a woman at a Starbucks and decided to chase her down. She told me what that was like earlier on AMERICAN MORNING.


KAREN LODRICK, CHASED IDENTITY THIEF SUSPECT: One account would get open, I'd have to close something. And then something else she was opening. Because she had just too much of my information.

So it was -- it was pretty bad. And so just the thought of letting her out of my sight when I was chasing her was more terrifying than chasing her. So I just couldn't -- I just did not want to let her out of my sight.


CHO: So how do you protect yourself from having your identity stolen?

Your money saver, Gerri Willis, is here with us.

So, Gerri, it seems like it's pretty easy. We think of it as this high-tech thing on the Internet...


CHO: ... but there's dumpster diving.

WILLIS: Well, that's the big thing. You know, people think, if I go on the Internet I'm at risk. Guess what? In the real world you're at more risk.

What do people do? They dumpster dive. They steal information out of your garbage. They steal information out of your mailbox, like they did in this case with Karen Lodrick.

CHO: Or they steal your wallet.

WILLIS: Or they steal your wallet.

CHO: Really simple.

WILLIS: Or, you know, even doctors offices have your Social Security number on all of your information about you. So you have to be real careful in the real world, not just the virtual world.

CHO: That's right. And you mentioned that Social Security number. I mean, that's a real problem. You have to guard that number.

WILLIS: With your life.

CHO: That's right.

WILLIS: Yes, it is the key to everything about your identity, is your Social Security number.

Look, if you get into a situation where you're worried that maybe your identity might be stolen, you've got to protect yourself obviously. The first thing to do is look at those bank and credit card statements online instead of getting them in the mail.

That's what happened to Karen. She had information stolen out of her mailbox. Be sure to do that. That's a first step.

And then opt out of prescreened credit offers. You know how you get the stuff in the mail that you didn't even ask for.

CHO: Right.

WILLIS: Want to give you a phone number for that. It's 1-888-5- OPT-OUT. You can call that, not get any more of these offers in the mail.

And then one other easy thing to do, when you're mailing in payments to whoever -- you know, the utility company, your car payment, whatever -- send it to the mailbox at the post office. Don't put it out in your front yard.

CHO: I was reading that. That is really good advice. Go to your office mailbox, even, right?

WILLIS: Exactly. Because if you put it in that mailbox out in front of your house with a flag up, it's like an invitation to any thief out there -- hey, hey, there might be some information here you could use.

CHO: And very quickly, if you think that your identity may have been stolen, what you do?

WILLIS: Well -- OK, first of all, you've got to put a fraud alert on your credit account. Now, you know there are credit reporting agencies everywhere out there.

CHO: Right.

WILLIS: There are three major ones. They are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You'll want to make sure that they get this information that you've had a problem.

Get the credit reports from each of these. You can do that free at And scan those things every line, line by line. Do you know every credit card on that list? Is the information accurate about you?

If there's any problem at all, you've got to tell them. You've got to notify them right away. And call the cops.

CHO: That's right. File a police report.

WILLIS: That's right.

CHO: That's an important point.

WILLIS: You absolutely have to tell the authorities and let them know that something terrible has happened to you.

(INSERT 08:00)

CHO: All right, some great advice Gerri. Thank you very much. And don't forget to watch Gerri on Open House -- that's every Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time right here on CNN.


ROBERTS: Quick hits now with a look at some of the stories on

Police in Melbourne, Australia are searching for a gunman who opened fire during the morning rush-hour. One man was killed, two others were shot, including a woman who police believed had been arguing with the gunman before he started shooting.

And one of the more popular stories on, Italian fashion designer Gianfranco Ferre has died. Ferre was the former top designer for the House of Dior. He suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and died yesterday at the age of 62.

We've got our eyes on Texas -- flash flooding, tornado warnings. Chad Meyers has the forecast and we'll hear from rescued home owners next on American Morning, the most news in the morning is on CNN.


ROBERTS: And it's sunrise in the city of Phoenix, Arizona, our thanks to our folks at KNXV-TV for that shot as it looks like it's going to be another scorcher in Phoenix today.

CHO: I think it's safe to say that it's going to be hot in Phoenix right?

ROBERTS: A little bit of haze in there this morning -- is that water or is that smog -- a little early.

CHO: Maybe a little of both.

ROBERTS: And welcome back, thanks for being with us. It's Monday, June the 18th. I'm John Roberts.

CHO: And I'm Alina Cho, Kiran Chetry has the morning off. A lot of stories on our radar this morning, including this John -- incredible really. A boating trip between a grandfather and his 5- year-old granddaughter turns tragic. He drowns, but it's bittersweet -- she miraculously survives after spending two days alone in the woods.

We're going to talk to her -- Hannah, little Hannah. There they are. And her parents in just the next couple of minutes. We're going to hear all about it and hopefully hear from little Hannah.

ROBERTS: A remarkable story of survival there and the presence of mind that she had to even go foraging for food to keep herself alive.

Also help for wounded veterans, including a devastating report just out on mental health treatment. We're going to be talking with the co-chair of the commission that's looking into care for America's wounded warriors all falling out the Walter Reed Medical Center controversy. Donna Shalala, former HHS secretary is there ready to go. We'll be getting to her in just a couple of minutes.

CHO: We'll look forward to that -- thank you John. We begin with some breaking news this half-hour.

Strong storms and flash-flooding overnight in Texas. Reports coming out of the flood-zone that dozens of mobile homes are under water near the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

One person is missing, actually a 4-year-old girl who was swept away by floodwaters. As many as 400 people may be displaced. Last hour, we heard from a woman who had to be saved from the rising waters.


VERONICA MORRIS, MOBILE HOME PARK RESIDENT: We all got on top of the roof and finally about 45 minutes later, the fire team and the cops came and rescued us.


CHO: Rescue workers say this is the worst flooding they've seen in more than a decade. Chad Meyers of course has been following all of this this morning from the CNN Weather Center. Hey Chad, good morning.

MEYERS: Good morning. Haltom City, down here in Ft. Worth -- on a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the areas there in Ft. Worth just hit so hard overnight with about six inches of rain.

Now that water, that rain has moved up to the north and in fact, it's really getting very close to Sherman and Dennison, the area up there. Heavy, heavy rainfall, some spots, almost five inches of rain.

Now let me show you what happened to the Skyline mobile home park because we're going to continue to show you these pictures later in the day.

There's a creek that runs behind the park and these mobile homes that line the creek were the ones that were the most affected. The water didn't really get up into the higher areas here of the mobile home park, but right along the creek, that's where all that damage was taking place.

Look at some of the rainfall totals now. Shaun, go ahead and click that off -- there you go. Here's Sherman, Texas right there. See that white spot that's just growing because it's now still raining -- that was a radar estimates of how much rain has come down in 24 hours, now approaching 10 inches there, so we know there is flooding everywhere.

We're only showing you some small pictures of some small places, but there are floods everywhere going on in North Texas right now. John?

ROBERTS: All right, thank you Chad. Actually, we're just getting a little more breaking news right now. You know that we had reported that a 4-year-old girl had been swept away by those raging floodwaters.

We're getting information from our affiliate WFAA now, and we had Cynthia Vager from WFAA on just a little while ago saying that rescuers believe that they may have been found -- they may have found the 4-year-old missing.

It appears as though, and this is very preliminary, I haven't gotten any official confirmation, it appears that word on this is bad. She was found a few blocks away from her house.

Again, WFAA reporting that that 4-year-old girl has been found and it looks like the outcome was the worst.

It's been three months since a Presidential commission was formed to address problems with veterans health-care -- it was triggered by substandard conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the military's flagship medical facility.

Former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala co-chairs the commission, which holds a hearing in Washington this morning and she joins us now from our D.C. bureau. Secretary Shalala good to see you.

So, why are there so many problems with caring for America's wounded soldiers? What are you finding out.

DONNA SHALALA, PRESIDENT'S COMMISSION ON CARE FOR WOUNDED: Well, we're finding out a number of things, particularly in the mental- health area where we don't do mental health very well in this country, but for soldiers in particular, they need intensive care when they return, if they have a brain injury, or if they are suffering from post-traumatic stress.

So, the intensity of care, making sure that they have first-class professionals working with them, that's simply isn't there in a consistent way. So we're looking at it from the point of view of the patient. We have our second-to-last hearing today in Washington and we'll be reporting, I hope in July.

ROBERTS: The "Washington Post", which was the newspaper that broke the Walter Reed story, has been doing an excellent series, I'm sure you're aware of it, on mental health in the last couple of days. And there was also a report from the Department of Defense task force on mental health from June of 2007, which said, "DOD currently lacks the resources both funding and personnel, to adequately support the psychological health of service members and their families."

Why do they do such a bad job of looking after the mental health of these wounded warriors, particularly when we've known about post- traumatic stress disorder since the Vietnam era.

SHALALA: Well, we certainly have and hiring enough professionals is part of the challenge. Getting geared up when you get into a war -- the most important thing is that if someone gets injured, they get world-class care if it's a physical injury.

If it's a mental injury, so to speak, the care is very spotty and the military is starting to gear up, but the most important thing is that this care ought to be seamless. They ought to get world-class care. We need a strategy in this country and we need to overcome the stigma of mental illness.

This is particularly difficult in the military where everybody thinks of themselves as world class athletes, as warriors and don't want to hear about anyone having trouble psychologically.

ROBERTS: Secretary Shalala, the commission is going to report in July. You've got this hearing today in Washington and your last one on the 29th of June. You've got some idea of the recommendations that the commission will come out with. Give us a preview this morning.

SHALALA: Well, our responsibility was to look at the entire system of health-care, not just at Walter Reed, not just at mental health so we'll have a series of recommendations, which will hopefully break through the complexity of the system.

One of the problems now is the system of healthcare is so complex that very few experts understand all the pieces, including the disability decisions that are made.

ROBERTS: Anything going to happen with the report, or will it just be another one that famously collects dust on a shelf somewhere?

SHALALA: Well, Senator Dole and I are both very pragmatic, so if we're strategic enough in our recommendations, I believe Congress, and certainly the president, are going to be very receptive. The American people want to make sure, no matter what your position on the war, that someone who gets injured in the war is well taken care of. That's our responsibility.

ROBERTS: Secretary Shalala, good to see you again. Thanks for being with us. Just as you go here, we want to put this up on the screen. You want to hear from people and their stories. Here is where you can tell people about what you're gone through. You call toll free 1-877-588-2035, 1-877-588-2035, or e-mail -- not this is a little complicated --


CHO: A grandfather's last act before drowning may have saved his 5-year-old granddaughter's life. How a little girl got to shore and survived two days alone in the woods. There you see little Hanna live. Her mom and her dad will also join us live after the break.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning right here on CNN.



CHO: It was supposed to be a time of bonding, a boating trip with a grandfather and his 5-year-old granddaughter. Instead it turned deadly. Dave Klamecki died, but somehow little Hannah Klamecki survived two days alone in the woods. Incredible story.

Hannah joins us now, along with her parents Carol and Mike Klamecki from their home just outside of Chicago. Thanks for being with us this morning, guys.

I want to begin with Hannah.

You're such a brave little girl and you're so smart. Tell me what you did over those two days that you were alone, Hannah.

HANNAH KLAMECKI, 5 YEARS OLD: Well, I don't really know what I did in the forest.

CHO: Well, you picked up some berries, didn't you?


CHO: Were you scared?


CHO: I bet you were. You are certainly lucky to be alive.

Mom or dad -- Mike, why don't we start with you. What has Hanna told you about exactly what happened over those past couple of days?

MIKE KLAMECKI, HANNAH'S FATHER: She told us that the forest was really scary, like a haunted house, that she heard a lot of like a lot of bugs, and she had a hard time sleeping because it was tough to go to sleep because of the noise of the bugs. So, and she said she didn't really eat or drink anything, so I don't know how she did it. I couldn't have done that.

CHO: It's really incredible. Boy, there's a picture of her in the hospital just after she was found. Carol, tell me about those couple of days during the frantic search, what was going through your mind, and then tell us about how she was found.

CAROL KLAMECKI, HANNAH'S MOTHER: Sure. Well, these were -- those -- I guess day and a half would be the longest days of my life. They were endless, and we felt helpless. We really didn't want to get in the way of an excellent rescue team, so we tried to kind of stay away from the command center, just home back here and wait to hear word. We didn't hear anything for the longest time, and so we just spent a lot of time crying, and praying and hoping, and my other daughter, she would go down to the river and she was calling for Hanna in case -- she was telling her to come home, it was time to eat. She's 3, so we spent a lot of time with them, just trying to help them understand what is happening.

And like I said, every breath out was a prayer; every breath in was a prayer. It was horrible.

CHO: It must have been hard to keep hope alive so to speak.

Mike, tell me about how Hannah wandered toward searchers. She was carrying berries and she didn't have any clothes on, right?

M. KLAMECKI: Yes, she got out. She had her water wings on. Those water wings let her float to a different part of the river, and then she got out. She took off her suit, because it was starting to chafe.

And the only way I could say that she knew how to get to the rescuers was through our prayers, because we were praying to God that he would guide her to somebody and to safety, and if you look at the miles of forest that she could of gone to instead of going in the right direction, the odds are so much against her, and it had to be something that was a supernatural miracle, and we're so happy.

CHO: Well, let's talk a little bit more about that. Hannah is a little tired this morning.

Because those water wings may have saved her, but also it may have been her grandfather's last act to save her life, right? Talk about that.

C. KLAMECKI: Yes, I'll talk about that a little bit. Mike can talk, too. I really believe in the bottom of my heart that grandpa did something that allowed her to get out of that current that might have pulled her more downstream, might have pulled her into a whirlpool. He did something that we have no way of knowing, but I know in the bottom of my heart, he saved her life. He saved her life, because he told me many times he would give his life for my kids. He would not let anything happen to them.


CHO: Well, I know he knew the area very well, and perhaps he did save Hannah. Regardless, we're so happy all three of you are together again this morning.

M. KLAMECKI: Thanks.

CHO: And, Hannah, thanks for being with us and along with Carol and Mike Klamecki, your parents. Thank you so much.

M. KLAMECKI: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

CHO: John.

ROBERTS: Fifty minutes after the hour now.

CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Heidi Collins is at the CNN Center with a look at what lies ahead.

Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, John. That's right.

We have these stories coming up on the NEWSROOM rundown. Texas deluge -- and now reports from our Dallas stations, the death of a 4- year-old girl. Several roads, dozens of roads all underwater in Ft. Worth. Storms dumped torrential rains overnight. We are following this developing story all morning for you.

And drag racing crash. We expect a news conference live this morning from Tennessee. Six people killed when a car slams into a crowd at a charity event.

The U.S. and Europe look ready to resume aid to the Palestinians. That's after the Palestinian president kicks the Islamist Hamas faction out of government. More on that situation as well in the NEWSROOM coming up at the top of the hour on CNN.

ROBERTS: All right, Heidi, thanks very much.


ROBERTS: And talk about your sand art. The world's best sand artists are sculpting in Berlin. We'll show you more.

Stay with us.



CHO: Just a day at the beach for artists in Germany competing for the 2007 Sand Station title. Artists from 11 countries are taking part in Berlin's annual sand sculpture festival. Each 13-foot sculpture represents the artist's vision of paradise. The winner will announced on Thursday.

And, John, I know you're holding your breath on that one.

ROBERTS: It's amazing that they can do that with sand. CHO: It's incredible, it really is.

ROBERTS: Anyone's who's ever tried to build a sand castle on the beach would know that.

CHO: Doesn't look like sand to me.

ROBERTS: It's tough.

Here's a quick look at what the CNN NEWSROOM is working on for the top of the hour.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM: Severe flooding hits the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Dozens of homes deluged.

Drag racing deaths at a charity event in Tennessee. Will the driver face charges?

Missing in Florida. We will talk to the mother of Stepha Henry. The young woman disappeared after a night of partying.

Plus, video games that promote social and political agendas. NEWSROOM just minutes away on CNN.


ROBERTS: Well, that's going to do it for us here on this AMERICAN MORNING. Alina Cho, thank you very much for filling in for Kiran. Good to see you.

CHO: It's been a lot of fun, and Kiran will be back tomorrow.

ROBERTS: Great job this morning.

CHO: Thank you very much.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins begins right now.