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American Morning

Nine Firefighters Killed in Furniture Store Fire; Deadly Floods: Hundreds Homeless in North Texas; Deadly Truck Bomb in Iraq

Aired June 19, 2007 - 07:59   ET



MAYOR JOE RILEY, CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: Nine brave firefighters to parish...

CHETRY: A tragic morning in Charleston, South Carolina. Fire roars through a furniture factory, trapping and killing the firefighters inside.

RILEY: They were in the building to make sure that no else was in there.

CHETRY: The devastating pictures and the somber salute to fallen heroes on this AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back. Thanks so much for being with us on this Tuesday, June 19th.

I'm Kiran Chetry.


Also "On Our Radar" this morning, in addition to that tragic fire in Charleston, we're following breaking news out of the Iraq.

Ten thousand U.S. and Iraqi troops on the move in Diyalah province in a major air and ground assault on al Qaeda networks up there. Al Qaeda has really established a very strong base up there. The U.S. and Iraqi forces trying to break its back.

And video just into us this morning. A deadly bombing in Iraq in al- Khalani Square, which is in downtown Baghdad. Sixty-one people dead there. The death toll goes up quickly every hour. It started off at 41, now it's 61. It could go higher because this was just a massive, massive bomb.

CHETRY: In the meantime, imagine the impact of one inch of water coming down every 15 minutes. Well, that was a reality for folks in north Texas, where hundreds are out of their homes right now.

Rivers overflowed, sweeping mobile homes and cars away. People were killed in that, as Rob Marciano pointed out. Flash flooding, the deadliest of any weather phenomenon, kills more people than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning.

We're going to have much more on the aftermath in Texas, and a look ahead to the forecast today.

But we start off with breaking news out of South Carolina this morning, and new details on what may have happened leading to the deaths of nine firefighters who were fighting a fire in a furniture warehouse when the roof collapsed.

Two employees were able to get out. The firefighters, though, who died were not.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said that he didn't want to comment yet on a cause. They do not though think arson was involved.

Alina Cho joins me now with some of the other details that we're getting this morning.

And when he was holding the press conference, I mean, a lot of the reporters just kept asking the same question, what started this? How did it happen?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And it's simply too early to tell, Kiran. Obviously, federal officials are on the scene now.

You know, the city of Charleston has not lost a firefighter since 1969. So you can imagine what this community is going through this morning.

Nine firefighters dead. And all of them lost in the line of duty.

Now, according to one official, the fire burned very hot and very fast. It broke out at about 7:00 last night at the Sofa Super Store and warehouse in Charleston.

Rescuers recovered all of the bodies from the tall one-story warehouse in the back. The roof collapsed there. And we learned there was no sprinkler system in place there. There are a lot of questions about that this morning, especially since furniture is highly flammable.

Now, just moments ago, Charleston's mayor said this tragedy is a reminder of just how dangerous the job of firefighting can be.


RILEY: This is a tragic event for our community, the magnitude of which is difficult to fathom or quantify. And to all of their loved ones, our heart goes out to them, our efforts of consolation and assistance will not stop.


CHO: A lot of tears in Charleston this morning. The mayor described the victims as real heroes who sacrificed their own lives to save others. He said they even tore a hole through the back of the building to save one of the employees. It's believed all of the bodies have been recovered.

Meanwhile, the cause, as we mentioned, still under investigation. Federal officials are on the scene now, but as the mayor pointed out, he does not suspect foul play.

Now, one witness said it was like a 30-foot tornado of flames. It moved very hot, very fast.

And the community really came together, Kiran. Even salesmen from a nearby car dealership were carrying fire hoses, they were handing out towels.

You know, I know you spoke to a witness earlier this morning. You could hear his voice cracking. And as bad as this was, you know, this was next to a gas station. So it could have been far worse.

CHETRY: That's right. And a quote from the mayor this morning is "The assistance will not stop," as he referred to the families left behind from those nine firefighters who passed away in that fire.

Alina, thank you.

CHO: Sure.

ROBERTS: People in north Texas mourning lives lost. We watched it unfold here on AMERICAN MORNING this time yesterday.

This morning, hundreds are out of their homes after devastating storms. There are reports that at least five people were killed in flash flooding that swept away mobile homes, cars and lives.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano is in the flood zone, live in Gainesville, Texas, joins us now.

Rob, how is it looking on the ground today? Obviously, not as much water as there was roaring through that area yesterday.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Certainly much drier. Flash floods, the water rises very quickly, but it recedes just as quickly. But the damage that's left behind is certainly evident.

We are standing on one of the many bridges that crosses Pecan Creek. It's the main little creek that meanders through town, but yesterday, with rainfall rates upwards of four inches per hour in the middle of the night, this creek raised quickly into a raging river.

Over this bridge is where the water came. Lots of debris -- trees, lumber. This is a metal -- a heavy, heavy metal roof that is just twisted over the top of this railing.

But now look at how low the water has come. I mean, it has really dropped down tremendously, but you see how this riverbed or creek bed is littered with all sorts of debris.

You've got water tanks, oil tanks. It looks like a freezer or refrigerator. And also, there's personal items that really bring it home as to, you know, people's lives were turned upside down. There's a child's toy carriage of some sort over there as well.

Want to bring in Anita Foster, who is with the American Red Cross here in Dallas, dealing obviously more with the personal and emotional issues.

How are people holding up that you've seen?

ANITA FOSTER, RED CROSS SPOKESWOMAN: People have had a very traumatic experience. And that's understandable.

They were on their rooftops, water just racing at them. Many of them children trying to make decisions on how to survive within seconds.

You had to make these snap decisions whether you live or whether you don't. And so people were pretty traumatized yesterday.

Some good things that we saw, though, were the sound of chainsaws, we saw machinery starting to move about. These are signs of people recovering and beginning to rebuild. It just will not be a short process.

MARCIANO: And how do things stand emotionally today? What is the plan of attack from the American Red Cross with your shelters?

FOSTER: We're going to bring out another team of crisis counselors that volunteer with us, because people are obviously emotionally distraught. We can talk about this disaster in numbers, more than 430 homes. But the real story is told in the people affected.

We lost children in this disaster, people of all ages. So those that are not only clearing away debris and trying to figure out what to do are also grieving the loss of someone that they love. That's a pretty tough situation for anyone to bear.

MARCIANO: Anita Foster with the American Red Cross.

Thanks for coming by and good luck with the rest of your work here.

There are five still missing this morning. The sun is now coming up in Gainesville, Texas. The rescue and search efforts will be ongoing throughout the day today.

One of those five missing is a 2-year-old girl who is related to the family that lost their lives in the trailer that was floated down this creek and slammed into yet another bridge down that way. It's hard to believe how quickly the waters can rise with a flash flood and just how powerful that moving water is. And the cold, hard facts are, excluding heat and hot spells, flash flooding is the number one killer in weather-related accidents across the U.S. year after year. And we're seeing it again today.

The good news here from Gainesville, Texas is that drier weather is in the forecast for the next several days. So there is no more threat for flooding, at least for now.

Back to you in New York.

ROBERTS: Rob Marciano for us in Gainesville, Texas.

Rob, thanks to that.

CHETRY: And there is breaking news out of Iraq right now. In fact, new details are just crossing on our wires.

A truck bomb went off near a Shiite mosque in central Baghdad. And there are varying reports of the number killed. Some saying 60. Reuters reporting it could be as high as 75, with another nearly 140 injured.

CNN's Hala Gorani is live in Baghdad with more for us -- Hala.


Well, that period of relative calm that followed the bombing of that Shiite shrine in Samarra last week shattered to pieces just about two hours. You mentioned casualty figures in a truck bomb against a Shiite mosque and shrine here in central Baghdad.

We've been able to confirm 61 killed, 138 wounded, after these four days of curfew where we had seen a down tick in the violence. Well, this is a toll in human life that is going to definitely put some pressure there on security forces in order to try to limit sectarian reprisals. It wouldn't be surprising if another curfew came into effect if there is a feeling that sectarian reprisals were going to take place.

Now, we understand that this was a truck bomb, that it was parked, that it also damaged this very important mosque. The name of it is Khalani Mosque in central Baghdad that is very important, a holy site for the Shias of Iraq.

Now, this is happening in parallel to a massive U.S. troop offensive in Diyala province -- that's east of Baghdad -- code named Operation Arrowhead Ripper, involving 10,000 U.S. military service personnel. They're trying to root out insurgents and al Qaeda bases in that part of the country.

But this kind of truck bomb is going to definitely have people asking questions regarding the Baghdad security plan. How secure can you make this capital when a truck bomb can kill so many people just in one attack?

Kiran. CHETRY: Yes. Especially when these religious areas like the area outside of a mosque are targeted, as we've seen in the past. And it looks like that was the case here as well, that this truck bomb was parked right outside of this mosque in central Baghdad.

GORANI: Yes, absolutely. And the big fear now is the fear that everyone had after the Samarra bombing that took out the two minarets of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra. Will we see increased sectarian reprisals?

Just a note. After the curfew was lifted, 33 unidentified bodies were found across the Iraqi capital. That is a good indicator of sectarian violence. And that is at the same level as before the Samarra attacks.

So sectarian killings are still ongoing in the Iraqi capital. The fear, of course, is that they will increase even further -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Hala Gorani live for us in Baghdad this morning.

Thank you.

ROBERTS: Within the next couple of hours, President Bush meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Israel right now is between two warring Palestinian territories -- Hamas in control of Gaza, Fatah and the new emergency government led by Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. The U.S. is now stepping in with support and cash for the Abbas government.

CNN's Zain Verjee is live at the State Department for us this morning.

Zain, a real reversal of policy for the United States.

Where is the money going?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, millions of U.S. dollars are essentially going to go directly to empty coffers in the West Bank. Now, that money had stopped after Hamas had won Palestinian elections last year. The money is now going to go directly to the emergency government of President Mahmoud Abbas.

John, here is what is going to happen.

The U.S. is going to firstly allow American companies and banks to do business in the West Bank. They're going to help Palestinians deliver basic needs like roads and clean water. They are also going to make good on an $86 million pledge to boost President Abbas' security forces.

This is a shift in gear. The reason, John, is that unlike Hamas, Abbas' government rejects violence. It says it will recognize Israeli and it will recognize past agreements with Israel -- John.

ROBERTS: So, one administration official characterized it as trying to push the restart button there in the Palestinian territory. What is the ultimate goal here? Is it just to show Palestinians in Gaza that that is what happens when you cast your lot in with a radical faction, or does the United States actually want to get the peace process going again?

VERJEE: Well, U.S. officials have told us this: what the U.S. is trying to do here really is give a big boost to President Mahmoud Abbas. And what they want to do is paint a clear choice for the Palestinian people.

They can say, look, you know, on the one hand, you can have the chaos under Hamas and Gaza, isolation. You've got a boycott going on. Or you can support Abbas with a relative calm in the West Bank. You've got international support, money, and maybe the potential for a peace process and negotiation with Israel.

Now, John, a lot of critics have said that, look, you can't just throw money here and that will solve anything. Nobody really believes that that is going to be the case, but many say it is a boost. We spoke to Arab diplomats who say money isn't the obstacle here. The issue is Israeli occupation -- John.


Zain Verjee for us live from the State Department.

Zain, thanks.

We'll be keeping a close eye on that meeting today between President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.


CHETRY: "Quick Hits" now.

And police are searching for new leads in the case of a missing pregnant woman in Ohio. The FBI searched the home of a Canton, Ohio, officer. He is the father of the missing woman's young son and possibly her unborn child. Again, she was nine months pregnant, due to deliver any day. He is not being called a suspect.

Jessie Davis, again, due to give birth any day, vanished from her home last week. Police say her 2-year-old son told them, "Mommy is crying, mommy is in the rug." They also found broken furniture and a pool of bleach on the floor.

Again, the 2-year-old continuing to repeat that disturbing couple of words there. The only witness in this disappearance.

Police officers in New York City who were involved in shootings will now face mandatory breathalyzer tests. This starts in September. The NYPD announcing the new policy after the shooting of a groom on his wedding day last year by undercover police officers.

The FBI putting America's institutions of higher learning are on high alert. We're going to tell you about the new G-men on campus next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Following breaking news all morning. Your "Quick Hits" now.

Nine firefighters are dead after a fire in a furniture warehouse in Charleston, South Carolina. Two employees were able to get out, but the firefighters who died were in the building when the roof collapsed. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

A ground and air search resumes this morning for a hiker missing on Mt. Rainier in Washington State. Forty-seven-year-old Jeff Graves of Minneapolis was last seen on Saturday on a trail near the summit. Graves had been hiking alone.

And the University of Notre Dame is changing its security policies in response to the shootings at Virginia Tech. The school is installing an emergency communications system that would let school officials quickly contact large numbers of students in case of an emergency.

CHETRY: Seventeen past the hour now. We check in with Chad Myers.


CHETRY: Well, the FBI believes America's colleges are inviting targets for terrorists, so they've established a presence at some campuses.

But as CNN Homeland Security Department Correspondent Jeanne Meserve reports, not everyone is happy about it.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Science, engineering, technology, the very things that put Worcester Polytechnic Institute on the map, might make it a target of espionage by foreign governments or terrorists.

JOHN SLATTERY, FMR. DEP. ASSIST. DIR. OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: If a country or a collector is focused on a particular technology, they will stop at nothing to get that technology. That means targeting an institution or an individual that goes with it.

MESERVE: So the FBI is giving pointers to 200 top research universities like this one on how to protect projects with military or other sensitive applications.

DENNIS BERKEY, PRESIDENT, WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INST.: How to be more aware of folks around you, how to take certain precautions with your information and your data.

MESERVE: The FBI is urging schools to take note of unusual questions, especially from international students and faculty, and to safeguard sensitive information when traveling aboard. (on camera): But critics fear the FBI could create an unhealthy level of suspicion on college campuses that could thwart learning.

MELISSA GOODMAN, ACLU, NATIONAL SECURITY DIVISION: If you know that the FBI is training your professors or your colleagues to look out for suspicious behavior, are you going to think about that before you ask a particular question?

MESERVE (voice over): In the 1960s and '70s, government agencies like the FBI were unwelcome on most campuses. Today, student Nick Pelletier is comfortable with their outreach if there is balance.

NICK PELLETIER, STUDENT: Finding the in between, where we're staying vigilant but at the same time we're not making mistakes that are going to deter learning.

MESERVE: The FBI insists it is not trying to squelch academic debate, but protect sensitive information, information that could ultimately come back and hurt us.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Worcester, Massachusetts.


ROBERTS: Counting down to a homecoming tops your "Quick Hits" now.

The space shuttle Atlantis is expected to undock from the International Space Station at 10:42 a.m. Eastern this morning, getting ready for the trip home. That landing set for 1:54 p.m. on Thursday. That is if the weather cooperates.

The search goes on for a passenger missing from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The man was last seen on a balcony in his room yesterday morning. He was traveling with his family. Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas was headed to San Juan from Miami before it had to turn around.

The first panda may have lived two million years ago. Veronica de la Cruz is back with the top stories from That's coming up next.


CHETRY: Some "Quick Hits" now.

Why stock is up on oil when the prices are high. North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan is fighting the administration by proposing that they stop adding to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for one year.

Well, it was just a day after Father's Day and Tiger Woods became a daddy. Sam Alexis Woods (ph) was born early Monday just hours after Tiger finished second in the U.S. Open.

And this next "Quick Hit" involves a Blackberry, toilet and a bowl of rice. That's right, a Blackberry, a toilet and a bowl of rice.

A "Washington Post" reporter says that he accidentally dropped his Blackberry in the toilet. It's happened to some people I know from time to time.


CHETRY: And him.

Well, he got it to work again he said by putting it in a bowl of uncooked rice. It seems that the rice sucked out the moisture. He says it's probably only a matter of time, though, before the thing dies, but, you know, these things are pretty sturdy.


CHETRY: They've lived through a lot. How about that, John?

I thought that the rice was only for the -- they put it in the salt shakers at Chinese restaurants as well. I guess that's the same reason.

ROBERTS: Some people have used hair dryers as well. As long as it's not on when it goes into the water, you might actually be able to resurrect it. But if it's on, forget it, because it shorts out.

The panda bear may date back two million years. Stuff you got to know this morning.


CHETRY: All right. So, yes, these can survive pre-used toilet. Do you know what I mean? Not after.


CHETRY: Depending on when it falls in, if you know what I mean.

VELSHI: Yes, it's got to be one of those five-second rule things.

CHETRY: Right.

And they actually have indicators, though. You can tell...


VELSHI: Well, people go to the store and say, "I don't know, it just stopped working." And then they open it up and there is this little spot that goes red when it is exposed to the water. And the guy at the store says to you, "No, it didn't just stop working, you dropped it."

CHETRY: Busted.

VELSHI: Yes, exactly. What else you got going, Ali?

VELSHI: A very interesting story.

At noon Eastern today there's going to be a Web site going up. It's called It's always hard to find out whether the companies you do business with are actually environmentally friendly.

This group is actually coming up with a Web site that's going to rate companies. In fact, we've already seen the ratings at the top of the list.

Check this out -- Canon, Nike, Unilever, IBM and Toshiba.

By the way, no company scores a perfect 100. And six companies scored zero.

At the bottom of the list you've got Jones Apparel, Burger King, Darden Restaurants -- which is Olive Garden -- and Red Lobster -- some of my favorites -- Wendy's and

Now, we've not talked to these companies. scored zero because this company, Climate Counts, the people who are putting up this Web site, say that they couldn't find any information on it.

Amazon has responded by saying they obviously didn't look very hard.

They are judging companies on how they measure their emissions, their plans to reduce them, whether or not they support or oppose regulation, and how much disclosure there is.

It's a good starting point. We will follow up and see what some of these companies have so to say about it.

CHETRY: It's pretty interesting. In the days of the Internet you can find out...

VELSHI: You can find out. That's what it's about.

CHETRY: ... so much. And the info is at your fingertips.

Ali, thanks so much.


ROBERTS: A $1.5 million fine tops our "Quick Hits" now.

The cruise line whose ship sank off the coast of Greece two months ago has to pay that fine for polluting the Aegean Sea. Nearly 1,600 passengers were rescued from the sinking ship. Two people are missing and presumed dead.

A YMCA director is resigning after complaints that she took middle school kids on a tour of a Planned Parenthood office. The Manchester, New Hampshire, school district says from now on after- school programs will list the itinerary of field trips so parents can weigh in first.

And some breaking news that we've been following all morning long -- a deadly fire at a furniture store in Charleston, South Carolina. We will talk with one of the men who fought that fire coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: And there it is, sunrise over beautiful Seattle, Washington, courtesy of our affiliate KING TV -- K-I-N-G. One of those rare days when it's not raining Seattle.

CHETRY: Not bad. Fifty degrees right now, and it's shaping up to be 75 degrees with sunshine and a little bit of a mix of clouds.

ROBERTS: Nice. I love Seattle. I've spent lots of time there. It's a great place.

Welcome back. It's Tuesday, June 19th. I'm John Roberts on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry.

We've been following a story for you all morning out of South Carolina. A brutal fire at a furniture warehouse there ended up killing nine firefighters who raced inside to try to put it out, and to rescue some of the people that were inside. There were two employees in the building when it started. They were able to get out.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley says that the nine firefighters killed were all in the building when the roof collapsed. He says he thinks the fire was just too big and it spread too quickly.


MYR. JOE RILEY, CHARLESTON, S.C.: I think eventually the thorough investigation, will, I don't think, show that the deaths were all caused by building being collapsed. I was here. The fire was intense. The smoke was, you know, was intense. It was a huge fire.


CHETRY: Mayor Riley does not want to speculate as to how the fire started, but he says he does not believe it was arson. We also spoke with a witness a few minutes ago who was helping out, helping bring wet towels to the firefighters and hoses. He said the building was up, and then in five seconds, it seemed, the roof collapsed.

ROBERTS: Eric Glover is one of the firefighters who worked that fire. He joins us now on the telephone from Charleston, South Carolina.

Eric, our condolences this morning. I know that you were close to the men who died there. What are your thoughts now as you consider their sacrifice during this fire?

ERIC GLOVER, CHARLESTON, S.C. FIRE DEPT.: I don't know. Go ahead.

ROBERTS: I was going to say it's got to be a real tough morning for you, the rest of the people in the fire department, the entire town, in fact.

GLOVER: Well, yes. Because we lost a whole crew. There's nine guys who died.

ROBERTS: Unbelievable. When did you arrive at the fire?

GLOVER: I'm not sure exactly what time I arrived. Me, and a good bit of other firemen were at a golf tournament benefiting a fireman who passed in a car wreck a couple of months back, and one of the guys had a scanner radio, and we heard the call go out, so, you know, we went over.

ROBERTS: And what stage was the fire at when you arrived on scene?

GLOVER: Well, when we got there, the whole building was ablaze, and we pretty much, you know, just tried to do what we could do to put it out and get everything under control.

ROBERTS: So you were operating from the outside. Was going inside even an option at that point?

GLOVER: No. Everybody backed us out, you know, Backed the guys that were around out, and we just tried to stay back and put it out. There's not much you could do at that point.

ROBERTS: And were you aware that some of your colleagues were inside the building?

GLOVER: No, sir, I wasn't. No, sir.

ROBERTS: What happened? I mean, we hear about this collapse. Can you describe that for us?

GLOVER: I'm not sure, because I wasn't there when that part happened. You know, I showed up shortly after that. And you know, we just fought the fire, and later I find out.

ROBERTS: So the collapse was fairly early on in the fire, was it?

GLOVER: Yes, sir. From what I heard, it moved pretty fast. It at all happened pretty fast. They didn't really have a chance.

ROBERTS: In your experience, what causes a building like that to collapse so quickly?

GLOVER: Well, the fire. You know, once it moved through so quickly, it weakened the building and, you know, so.

ROBERTS: So it's a truss construction, has long spans of metal trusses? Is that your understanding of the way that this building was built some.

GLOVER: That's what I think, yes, from what I could tell. When I got there, it was pretty much all flames, and then once it was out, it was just, I mean, destruction.

ROBERTS: So how close are the members of the fire department? What is the loss of these nine brave heroes going to do to the department?

GLOVER: Well, I mean, you're always close to the guys because you spend a third of your life with these guys. Every third day you spend 24 hours there, so you get real close. Then, you know, you work outside of the job with guys, and you know, you spend time outside with them. So, you know, you're pretty close.

ROBERTS: As you said, you were at a golf tournament earlier in the day raising funds for the family of a firefighter that died in a car crash. Do you expect that you're going to be doing the same thing or something similar for the families of these nine brave firefighters who perished in this fire?

GLOVER: I would think so, yes, sir.

ROBERTS: Right. Eric Glover from the City of Charleston Fire Department, one of the people who was fighting that blaze all evening long. joining us this morning on the phone from Charleston.

Eric, thanks very much. And again, our thoughts and prayers go out to you this morning.

Just incredible. Look at the way that the building came down like that.

CHETRY: As you said, they spend a third of their lives, every three days, 24 hours, very close. And they were at a benefit for another fallen firefighter when they heard it on the scanner. And that's what happens, people drop everything if this is what their career and profession is and head to the danger zone. Our thoughts are certainly with them today, and we'll continue to follow the latest developments and if we hear more from South Carolina.

But meanwhile, there's breaking news out of Iraq as well, 75 people in Iraq are dead now and more than 200 injured after a truck bomb was detonated. It happened near a mosque in central Baghdad, a Shiite mosque. These were the pictures from that.

Also today, U.S. troops launched a massive operation against al Qaeda, dubbed Operation Arrowhead Ripper. Here you see some of the pictures of insurgents that have been arrested or detained being watched over by Iraqi police, as well as some U.S. forces. The military sent these pictures in the last hour to us. The troops are also targeting multiple targets simultaneously, trying to clear militants from Baghdad and Diyalah process, which is north of the city. Twenty-two insurgents killed in the early hours of the operation around Baqubah.

The Pentagon released video from a gunship battle. There you see some of the suspected al Qaeda insurgents running down there, and there you see the aftermath, the gunship firing on the men and firing on the building they were trying to hide in. Four suspected insurgents killed and four were wounded.


ROBERTS: And a middle school principal caught on tape making a drug deal right in his office. When he gets out of jail, he plans to start a whole new career. We'll talk to him about it next. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning.



CHETRY: A Florida middle school principal is caught on tape buying crack-cocaine right at school. We're about to show you the surveillance tape. Listen carefully as he sets up the deal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys can come over and do this in my office. That's no problem.


CHETRY: Well, Anthony Giancola ended up being sentenced to a year in jail, three years probation. He lost his teaching license, obviously. And he needs to complete an 8 1/2 week drug treatment program in prison, as well.

Anthony Giancola joins us now from Tampa, Florida.

Thanks for being with us to tell us your story. And we just saw the video. You're buying crack cocaine and ended up being from undercover police officers right in your principal's office at the middle school.

How did you get to that point?

ANTHONY GIANCOLA, FMR. MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: Well, Kiran, that's a very good question. That's a question I've been asking myself every day since February 22nd.

I'm not going to sit here and insult anyone by offering excuses or making excuses. There is no excuse for my behavior.

When I look back, not just during my period of active addiction, but the years leading up to that, I see some things that I should have done very differently. I began ignoring my own personal and mental health. ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you this -- you talk about just how quickly this addiction happened. You tried crack-cocaine, and within months spending $500 to $600 a day getting your hands on it?

GIANCOLA: Yes. It -- you know, everything kind of spiralled downhill for me probably starting back in November. It started with alcohol use, excessive alcohol use, spiralled into drug use, and once I tried cocaine, that was the beginning of the end.

ROBERTS: You were such a beloved principal. You received so many accolades. There were so many in the community that really thought you did a great job with the kids. How did it go from that to what you're going through now, which is jail time and being considered a convicted felon for life?

GIANCOLA: Well, you know, that was one of the most painful aspects of everything. You know, my students, my teachers have always meant the world to me, and one of the worst parts of all this, even more so than going to jail or being a felon, was the fact that I let down so many people.

ROBERTS: And you want to make that up, though, because you want to become a drug counselor after you're done serving your time. How can people trust that you can work with children again?

GIANCOLA: Well, at my sentencing, the judge asked me if I had any comments to make, and I apologized to everyone. And the judge responded by saying, well, apologizing is the least you can do. And those words cut like a knife, but they're absolutely true.

Before I could ever hope to go on and help anyone again, I need to help myself, and I'm very, very thankful that I was arrested. I know that sounds crazy. I'm very thankful I was arrested, and it kind of brought that crazy train to an end. And I'm also very thankful that I've had family and friends to support me to get me through the initial three months, and I'm very fortunate the district attorney's office and the judge have seen fit to not only punish me, as I deserve to be punished, but also to offer me a treatment program, which I'm very anxious to participate in, and honestly participate in.

ROBERTS: And a cautionary tale, no doubt. Tony Giancola, we wish you luck with that, and thanks for speaking with us this morning about it.

GIANCOLA: Thank you, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Forty-six minutes after the hour. CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away now. There he is, smiling again, Tony Harris at with a look what is ahead.

Good morning to you, Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And, John, good morning to you.

We have got these stories on the NEWSROOM rundown for you: Charleston, South Carolina, a town in shock this morning. Nine firefighters are killed while trying to knock down flames at a furniture warehouse.

The U.S. military going after al Qaeda fighters in a new crackdown; some 10,000 troops are taking part. Plenty of medical info online. How do you know if medical info online is real? We will point you to a site from AOL founder Steve Case. He talks about his latest project live. You are in the NEWSROOM for Tuesday morning, top of the hour right here on CNN.

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: We will see you soon, Tony. Always good to see you, my friend.

HARRIS: Good to see you, man.


ROBERTS: Michael Moore's "Sicko" makes it American debut, and he's talked to our own Lola Ogunnaike. She's coming up next.


CHETRY: We have the latest on a breaking story we've been following all morning: A fire at a furniture store in Charleston, South Carolina has left nine firefighters dead. There were two employees in the building when it started. They were able to get out in time. Mayor Joe Riley says the firefighters were all in the building when the roof collapsed on top of them.


ROBERTS: Some well-known faces were on the red carpet last night for the New York premiere of "Sicko," Michael Moore's latest documentary about the health care industry.

AMERICAN MORNING's Lola Ogunnaike spoke to Michael Moore, and she was at the premier last night.

It only got one start in "The New York Post." I'm shocked. I'm shocked.

So what did Moore have to say for himself?

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what Moore had to say was this, he enjoyed making this film. This film was really important to him, because he wants to talk about the pharmaceutical industry and the health care industry and how he feels like it is not working for Americans right now. The film looked at all of these other socialized health care systems around the world, looked at England, looked at Paris, looked at Cuba, and in his estimation, they all measured up far better than our system.

ROBERTS: Now, this film is going to premiere in a week or two, I think?

OGUNNAIKE: Uh-huh. ROBERTS: But it's already out on YouTube?

OGUNNAIKE: It got leaked to YouTube this weekend, and he was not happy about that. He's in favor of file sharing. He's not really in support of the copyright laws that we have on file right now. But he did say that he wants his film to be seen on the wider screen. It was not intended to be seen on the little computer screen. So let's check out what he had to say about that.


MICHAEL MOORE, DIRECTOR: I made this film so people could see it on a big screen, so I hope people come to the theater and see it on a big screen.


ROBERTS: As opposed to the little...

OGUNNAIKE: Short and sweet, yes, exactly.

ROBERTS: Does he have any idea how it got leaked?

OGUNNAIKE: He has no idea how it got leaked, in fact. No, he doesn't. But I know you're the pessimist. You think...

ROBERTS: I'm not a pessimist.

OGUNNAIKE: You are. You think that there was some sort of...

ROBERTS: I'm just a healthy dose of skepticism.

OGUNNAIKE: ... publicity stunt here.

ROBERTS: Well, I mean, add it up -- here he is, he's out there blasting the broadcasting, that I'm afraid that the U.S. government is going to confiscate this film, and that creates a buzz. It leaks on YouTube -- that creates a buzz. I'm not saying he did it.

OGUNNAIKE: But what are you saying exactly?

ROBERTS: Just creates a buzz. And who benefits from the creation of a buzz?

OGUNNAIKE: He created -- there is a buzz out there, but I will tell you that this will be one of the most buzzed-about films this summer. People will be talking about it. And this -- actually, there was a standing ovation last night in the theater.

ROBERTS: Right. I was in "Fahrenheit 9/11."

OGUNNAIKE: You were?

ROBERTS: Well, not intentionally. They took a piece out of a broadcast that I was doing and threw it in there.

Lola Ogunnaike, thanks very much.

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

HARRIS See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM: Nine firefighters killed while fighting a furniture store fire in South Carolina.

Texas cleans up after severe flooding in the Fort Worth area.

U.S. troops in Iraq target al Qaeda in a new crackdown.

With the Palestinian territories in turmoil, President Bush hosts the Israeli leader this morning.

And Shuttle Atlantis says goodbye to the International Space Station this morning.

NEWSROOM just minutes away, top of the hour on CNN.


CHETRY: All this year, CNN is introducing you to people who are making a difference in the world. Today, we meet a man from Rwanda, Africa, who is fighting to protect the global population of the rare mountain gorilla. Eugene Rutagarama is today's CNN hero.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Start off anyway.

EUGENE RUTAGARAMA, CNN HERO: When you approach a group of gorillas, it's the first feeling that you are approaching a relative, a human being. In this region, we have been able to bring conservationists from the three governments together to sign an agreement to protect these mountain gorillas. Having rangers to cover the park with their patrol means that we keep the poaching at the lowest level, but the poaching is still there.

My name is Eugene Rutagarama, my work is to protect mountain gorillas in their habitat.

When I came back from Burundi, Rwanda was devastated by the genocide. You would see the bodies of dead people, thousands of people. The whole country had to resume from scratch. My attention went to the national parks. If these parks were not protected, it means that we'd have lost the mountain gorillas, which is a hobby for many tourists, it (ph) brings foreign currency for this country which helps to conserve this park.

Gorillas can't really do much if a human being has decided to decimate or to kill the gorillas. They need to be protected by human beings.


CHETRY: Yes, and there's a lot more about Eugene Rutagarama and his efforts on our Web site where you can also nominate your hero for special recognition this year. All the details are on

We're back in a moment.