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New Day Saturday

NASA Launches World's Most Powerful Telescope; Airlines Cancel Hundreds of Flights Due To Staffing Shortages; Biden Plans To Make 500 Million At-Home COVID Test Available; Newly Released Video Shows New Angle On Jan. 6 Riot; Seattle Declares Emergency As It Prepares For Bitter Winter Weather; Pope Francis Delivers Annual "Urbi et Orbi" Blessing; Rookie TSA Officer Saves Choking Baby At Newark Airport. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 25, 2021 - 08:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas. Feliz Navidad. And welcome to this special holiday edition of New Day. I'm Boris Sanchez.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And Merry Christmas to all of you as well. It is a magical morning. I'm Amara Walker in for Christi Paul.

Coming up this half hour, just as it seemed like the country was opening up again and businesses were starting to recover, concerns over emerging variants could spell troubling news for the economy heading into next year.

SANCHEZ: Plus, a veteran still serving, still making a difference after her time in the military gets the surprise of a lifetime just in time for Christmas morning. She'll join us later this hour.

WALKER: And we'll hear from one woman whose inspiring work with the homeless and less fortunate has earned her the title CNN Hero of the Year.

SANCHEZ: All that and more is coming up this Christmas morning, but first, let's get a check of your news headline.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris and Merry Christmas to all of you. I'm Jessica Dean in Washington and we begin this morning with a major moment for NASA.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Engine start. And liftoff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Decker large (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Decker large (ph) liftoff from a tropical rainforest to the edge of time itself. James Webb begins a voyage back to the birth of the universe.


DEAN: The $10 billion James Webb Telescope lifted off from the European Space Agency's launch site just minutes ago. The telescope which is being called the most powerful ever will take one month to complete its orbit around the Sun which is just under a million miles away. And because it will be so far away. It won't be able to be serviced or repaired should anything go wrong. The $10 billion telescope will be able to observe the atmosphere of planets outside of our solar system as never before potentially finding which planets might sustain life.

For the second year, COVID is shaping even disrupting holiday plans. Airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights today. Delta, United and JetBlue all reporting triple-digit cancellations, and the busiest day for air travel is yet to come. CNN's Pete Muntean has more.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, airlines say that as these Omicron cases went up, it caused their staffing levels to go down, leading them to cancel some flights. In fact, most of the flights according to FlightAware cancellations on Friday were at United Airlines and Delta Airlines but also Allegiant and JetBlue. We obtained a United Airlines memo to its staff in which it said these Omicron cases are primarily impacting its flight crews and its operations folks, those behind the scenes.

Now the airline industry says there is a fix for all of this. They want the isolation period required for somebody who gets a breakthrough coronavirus case slashed in half. Right now, it is set at 10 days. The airline industry is pleading with the CDC to set that at five days even though some airline worker unions oppose that. Even still, the number of travelers is very high.

2.19 million people screened at airports across the country on Thursday. That was expected to be one of the busiest days for travel. Although, still many more busy days ahead. The TSA anticipates another 20 million people will travel between now and January 3rd. That's when they expect everybody to come home all at once. Jessica?

DEAN: All right, Pete Muntean for us. Thanks so much.

And the surge in COVID cases from the Omicron variant is fueling a high demand for testing but test locations and test kits are in short supply as people begin to gather for the holidays. Epidemiologist and CNN Contributor Dr. Abdul El-Sayed calls that a perfect storm this holiday season.


DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The holidays have the potential to be a spreader event. Now, the most important thing is that people are vigilant. And the unfortunate reality is that one of the most important things that you can do, of course, is to get boosted. And only about 30 percent of Americans have done that.

And then there's the access to testing and it's too hard to get that right now. And, unfortunately, given what we understand about how best to use it, oftentimes, to test you're going to need multiple tests. And that's even harder to get.

And then right now, unfortunately, as we're watching, people's holiday travels get flummoxed by this virus that then leads them to have to stay together in circumstances that they didn't plan for. And so, you look at this and, unfortunately, it is the perfect storm happening at the worst possible time for many people.


DEAN: And the White House is taking steps to stop the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus all across the U.S. White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond joining us now live. Jeremy, good morning to you. What more can you tell us about the administration's response to this latest surge?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, we're seeing Omicron cases skyrocketing across the country and those long testing lines snaking around the country on Christmas Eve.


The White House, though, doesn't have a plan to immediately ramp up testing right now. Their plan though is to get those 500 million at- home test kits beginning next month. Those will be delivered to Americans who request them via a website.

We've also seen President Biden take steps to increase surge medical capacity to hospitals around the country that are dealing with these skyrocketing cases. So far, though, hospitalizations have not risen at the same rates as cases which is good news so far. The White House also yesterday, taking steps to finally reverse that travel ban that President Biden had put in place about a month ago as it relates to South Africa and seven other countries in southern Africa that -- those travel restrictions will be lifted beginning December 31st.

Now, the President is spending the weekend here at -- in Washington at the White House for this Christmas. Yesterday on Christmas Eve, we saw the President's going to Children's National Hospital, joined by First Lady Jill Biden, where they spent some time with kids there. They then went back to the White House where they phoned into NORAD, which was tracking Santa spoke with several kids asking them what they wanted for Christmas.

And we also saw the President stop by a Christmas tree at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. The President was asked what his messages to Americans this holiday season. And he said, keep the faith. Jessica?

DEAN: All right, a classic Bidenism there, keep the faith. Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much.

Pope Francis is calling for dialogue as the world copes with the COVID pandemic. In his Christmas message from the Vatican, the Pope warned against the tendency to withdraw during a crisis. He says in social relationships and also on the international level, dialogue is essential.

CNN's Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen has more.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Hi there, Jessica, and a very Merry Christmas to you from the Eternal City. Yes, this was very much a COVID-scarred Pope Francis, I think we heard from this morning. Of course, the Pope celebrates his big public mass for Christmas the night before on Christmas Eve. He participated in a private mass this morning.

Then at noon today, Rome time, delivered his annual Urbi et Orbi message to the city in the world. And in it, he very much stressed his repeated calls for justice and global access to the vaccines, but beyond that, express deep alarm over the social impact of everything that's going on. So, women trapped at home who were suffering additional abuse, children who were being bullied, elderly people who were isolated, alone and afraid.

And in response to all of that, he called for a culture of dialogue and encounter that is reaching out to meet people and then engaging them in dialogue, finding out what's on their hearts and minds and trying to be present to them. So all in all, a very pastoral but also hope, Jessica, a very topical message from the Pope during this, unfortunately, COVID-encumbered Christmas.

DEAN: All right, John Allen for us. Thanks so much.

A spokesman for Donald Trump is suing the January 6 Committee in an attempt to block access to his financial records. Taylor Budowich is trying to keep the committee from getting his records from J.P. Morgan. His lawsuit says he's turned over more than 1,700 pages of documents that has provided four hours of sworn testimony. The committee says Budowich solicited money from a nonprofit organization to conduct a social media and radio campaign encouraging people to attend the January 6th rally at the Capitol.

Just this morning, as COVID cases surge around the country, will the economic rebound stall? That's after a quick break.



SANCHEZ: So the coronavirus pandemic weighed heavily on the economy for much of the last two years. And with the rise of the Omicron variant, it appears that the economic recovery in 2022 might be impacted as well.

WALKER: Joining us now to discuss this is Rana Foroohar, Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor of the Financial Times. She's also a CNN Global Economic Analyst. Great to see you. Merry Christmas, Rana.


WALKER: Thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

WALKER: So let's start with this letter to the clients that J.P. Morgan Chase sent. And it predicted, "2022 will be the year of a full global recovery and end of the global pandemic and a return to normal conditions we had prior to the COVID-19 outbreak." I think this letter was sent a few weeks ago.

So now it's a very different situation, right, because we're talking about Omicron as a dominant variant and of course, Manchin torpedoing the Build Back Better bill. What are your thoughts on this prediction not happening?

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, I don't want to be gloomy on Christmas, but I think it's a little overly optimistic. You know, I think there's not too much question that growth is probably going to be slower this coming year than it was last year. And part of that is the fact that we had such a robust recovery from those initial couple of rebounds from COVID, you know, beginning over the last couple of years.

This year, the rubber is really going to hit the road. I mean, we've got not only this new variant to deal with, we've got supply chain shortages. And we have rising wages, which on the one hand is good for people in terms of the amount of money they have in their pockets to spend. But it's going to make things tougher for businesses, and that could put some dents in hiring.

The final wrinkle in the puzzle here is the Fed and the Fed raising rates. The Fed has said that it wants to get inflation under control. And we might be looking at three interest rate hikes in the New Year. And markets never like interest rates going up. That's always a delicate balancing act. So there's a lot to juggle here.

SANCHEZ: Yes, you're absolutely right about inflation. In November, prices rose at their fastest pace in nearly 40 years. Do you think the Fed sort of pumping the brakes on that aspect of the economy by hiking interest rates might have an unintended consequence, though, and might ultimately further complicate the sort of weird version of inflation that the United States is dealing with?

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, you've really hit it on the head there, weird version inflation. This is not '70s-style inflation. You know, there's a lot of variables in play, we've just come out of a pandemic. On the one hand, some countries are recovering, on the other, some are really being hard-hit Europe, in particular, being hard-hit by this new variant.

So, there's not one picture in the economy right now. Whenever you get an interest rate hike, the market tends to dip, it tends to get a little volatile. A lot of people are looking at their 401(k) and saying, OK, we've done pretty well over the last year or two. If markets start to dip, then does that hit consumer spending.

On the other hand, you don't want to let inflation get out of control. And so, you know, the upside to this could be that if the Fed gets out ahead of inflation, you know, even if we see some inflation in the coming year that you could set the stage for a healthier recovery and a period that could be maybe like the '80s where, you know, you started the decade with high inflation but you ended up with really high growth because the Fed did a good job.


WALKER: And back to the job market that you were mentioning, and you're saying this might be difficult time for businesses because wages are up. But, you know, with the great resignation, millions of people leaving their jobs, retiring early. What does this mean for the regular person who is looking to get more money in their pocket?

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, I think it's never been a better time, certainly in my memory to be a worker. You know, we've come through four decades in which labor didn't have a lot of bargaining power. That's really changed now in the last couple of years.

So it's a good time to be looking for a job and you're seeing people say, you know, what, I'm not willing to work for $15, $20 an hour even. I want more and I want better benefits. And I want more freedom. You know, younger people, in particular, saying, we want to live differently.

And I think we're at the beginning of an entirely new era for work- life balance, and even the geography of work. You know, people moving out of cities and into different parts of the country.

SANCHEZ: And Rana, I'm curious because you alluded to the supply chain issues earlier, how do you think they're going to shake out especially in the early part of 2022?

FOROOHAR: Well, I think the early -- the first quarter two are going to be volatile, I would say. You are still going to see some of those supply chain issues coming through. But I'm optimistic, by the second half of the year, you could see technology actually really helping companies to start to balance that.

Already big companies, Walmart, Costco, Target, are saying we want to own more of our supply chain. We want to control that, we want to use technology to smooth out the cycle. So, you know, Christmas hasn't been canceled. And I think that things will get better in this way in the New Year.

WALKER: What a way to end the conversation with optimism. And I have to say, I know there were so many concerns about the supply chain, and perhaps it's because I bought my Christmas presents early. But they all --


WALKER: -- paying on time and early. So Christmas is not canceled (ph) for my family. Good for you, Rana. Great to see you. Thank you so much for the conversation.

FOROOHAR: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: So from COVID concerns to economic instability, it's understandable that a lot of people feel stressed out and overwhelmed. So after a quick break, we're going to talk to an expert about how to cope during these uncertain times. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: So it's been a hard year or two, global pandemic with new variants. And as we've been talking about this morning, resurgent waves, the economic upheaval that comes with that, plus, political battles that strain the very foundation of the Republic. There's a lot to be stressed about.

Fortunately, though, this morning, we have an expert on how to cope with this increasingly stressful world. Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Dr. Gail Saltz joins us now. She's also the host of the "How Can I Help" podcast.

Doctor, thank you so much for sharing part of your weekend with us. Given that we're apparently on the cusp of this new wave of coronavirus cases, almost inevitably followed by death, what kind of an impact do you expect that's going to have on a population that's already been through so much?

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST & PSYCHOANALYST: Well, unfortunately, we, as you mentioned earlier, already had all of these issues going on. And we're really in a wave already, a pandemic, if you will, of mental health issues, people who were already struggling or struggling more, new people that weren't having mental health issues before are now. We've seen a tremendous rise in the numbers in terms of people with clinical depression, anxiety, disorders, overdoses, lots of issues that are about our mental health.

And the only good news I could say is that has really risen the awareness of mental health issues, which I think is decreasing stigma and allowing more people to seek treatment. So we have huge numbers of people. I said, most of my colleagues, everybody has waiting lists.

People have discovered in this time period that telehealth teletherapy actually is every bit as effective as in person. And that is also good news so that people can seek it, even while not exposing themselves, they can seek it. Even if they don't have somebody close to them that does therapy, they can reach out to somebody at a further distance.

But the reality is that here we are again with a new wave and people's willpower is on the wane. This is just a tremendous amount of stress. And things that we normally cope with, like being able to be with people and talk to them is being compromised by this new waves. So that is making it very difficult. These are the kinds of things that create the perfect storm to create more mental health issues.

SANCHEZ: And you've previously mentioned that even mental health professionals are feeling a sense of fatigue because their services, as you noted, have been in such high demand over the past two years. I'm curious what you might have experienced and what trends you're noticing among your colleagues. SALTZ: Well, I'm definitely -- and I think people are aware of this health professionals of all kinds who are dealing with the COVID are actually overwhelmed, burnt out. And some are thinking about leaving, but certainly many are struggling with mental health issues.

And you know, I'm a psychiatrist, but mental health professionals, we have brains too and that means we could have mental health issues too. It's extremely stressful because the work doesn't stop coming. And because these are real things that we can't point out to people, hey, this is just your perception. Let's look at this, maybe you're viewing this too negatively. A lot of negative and difficult things are going on.

So the -- actually it's been a real onslaught. And I would say myself, my colleagues, a lot of us are struggling. It's definitely a very difficult time.

SANCHEZ: And it has been so especially in younger people. The pandemic is having a pronounced effect on the mental health of children. Notably, the number of suicide attempts have increased at an alarming rate in young people.

We don't know the extent of how this pandemic might affect children until they get older. So what would you tell parents who are worried about the toll that the pandemic is having on their kids right now?

SALTZ: Well, generally speaking, I would tell people a lot of things and those are for children and for adults to implement as many coping strategies as you can at this point in time. There are coping strategies that I would consider to be preventive mental health care.

So those are regular aerobic exercise three to four times a week. Those are utilizing techniques like paced breathing, deep paced breathing which you can easily look up online, how you do that, how to inhale and exhale that decreases your anxiety and stress level. You can do it as a family. You can teach your children how to do this.


Progressive muscle relaxation. Another way to de-stress, remove the anxiety from your body. Make sure that your children and yourself have people that they can talk to about how they're feeling. Just being able to emote and connect with someone and be understood is very important in terms of mental health.

Practices like meditation, mindfulness. There are lots of practices one can incorporate into their day that actually really diminish stress, which diminishes anxiety, which helps in terms of preventing issues like depression.

However, I also think it's important for parents to know that if your child is visibly having signs that they are struggling, what are those, maybe they have trouble sleeping, they're expressing a lot of anxiety, they're starting to withdraw, you're seeing their academic performance go down. If you start to see signs of that, talk to them about it, and consider getting therapy. Because the fact is, you can use teletherapy, you don't have to expose yourself in terms of COVID. It's very available. You can look to apps to do this, you can look to your local community center for referrals, your primary care physician for referrals. But basically, even in a small number of sessions, eight to 10 sessions, can really make a difference for both adults and for children.

SANCHEZ: Our thanks again to Gail Saltz for her time.

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, Help is available. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

WALKER: Still ahead, we will have a check of your Christmas morning forecast and a Navy veteran gets the surprise of a lifetime just in time for the holidays. We'll be right back.



WALKER: Welcome back everyone to this special Christmas morning edition of New Day. Merry Christmas. I'm Amara Walker.

SANCHEZ: Merry Christmas, Amara. Great to be with you. I'm Boris Sanchez.

Coming up. Regina served this country in the military. And now as a Navy veteran, she continues to be a positive role model making an impact in her local community. Now, her community is repaying her just in time for Christmas.

WALKER: And we'll introduce you to this year's CNN Hero of the Year Shirley Raines, how she plans to continue her important work with the homeless and less fortunate in the year ahead.

SANCHEZ: All that and more, but first, let's get you caught up on this morning's top stories.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Boris and Amara, good morning and Merry Christmas to you. I'm Jessica Dean in Washington.

And for the second year, COVID is shaping, even disrupting holiday plans. Airlines have canceled hundreds of flights today. Delta, United and JetBlue, all reporting triple-digit cancelations and the busiest day for air travel still yet to come. The surge in COVID cases from the Omicron variant is fueling a high demand for testing but test locations and kits are in short supply as people gather for the holidays. The Biden administration plans to make 500 million at-home test kits available starting next month.

Some newly released video providing an in-depth look at the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol from different vantage points. CNN's Jessica Schneider walks us through the pictures. JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This is a three-hour long video that CNN actually had to sue to obtain from the Justice Department. And it is the most in-depth look so far that we've seen from this location on the Lower West Terrace at the Capitol.

So, taking a look at this, you can see the battle began to unfold between the rioters and Capitol Police. This first clip, it shows the crowd making their way toward the tunnel and police beginning to block the tunnel. And what's key here is that Capitol Police actually succeeded in holding that line until the building was cleared hours later. No rioters made it inside the Capitol from this entry point.

And we've heard from some officers in the past year, they said they didn't even know that the Capitol had already been breached in other spots. They were so busy trying to keep this -- these rioters from getting in. But soon in another clip, you can see the crowd turn on police. One man at this point even hung -- hangs from the top of the tunnel, kicking his legs out at police.

And then it turns even more confrontational and violent. Rioters, they start spraying cops who stood guard with pepper spray. They started pointing strobe flashlights at them, even striking them with batons. You can see flag poles.

And then more than an hour in, police push back again. You can even see at one point the helmet getting knocked off one of the officer's head. There's also video of cracked glass and a lot of fighting.

This is a three-hour long video. It's all taken from Capitol Police surveillance video, and that's why there's no sound. But this is video that is just been presented by prosecutors in court. Media outlets had to sue to make it public. And they've been using this video from -- the more than 700 people who have now been charged, dozens of them appearing in court at one time.

Jess, back to you.

DEAN: All right, Jessica Schneider for us. Thanks so much.

And let's get a check of your Christmas morning forecast. Now, Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin joining us from the CNN Weather Center. Good morning and Merry Christmas, Tyler.

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, Jessica and Merry Christmas to you and all of you at home as well.

It's not feeling like Christmas across the Deep South where temperatures are going to be 20 to 30 degrees above average this afternoon. Temperatures should be in the 50s this time of the year but there'll be the 70s and 80s later today. That trend continues on into Sunday and the beginning of next week as well.

So, with that kind of heat in place, we are looking at records from the Southern Plains all the way up into the mid-Atlantic. Then you get into the Northeast a little bit of a different story. We're dealing with temperatures below average here. Winter Weather Advisory also in effect as a system approaches, it's going to bring a cold rain to the region. Also, a little bit of ice as well. We could see about a quarter inch of ice and portions of Northeast -- of the Northeast and New England too.

On its heels, another system which will be moving over the Northern Plains and the Great Lakes as we get into tomorrow. That's going to give way to about a foot of snow across portions of the Dakotas on into Minnesota.


And we're also going to be dealing with not just wind and cold air across the West but yes, really heavy snow here as well where we'll be measuring the snow and feet across the mountains out west. Lower elevations, we'll be seeing a lot of rainfall about 1 to 3 inches. That's why we have a winter weather alerts up for about 30 million people across the country.

Notice that the Sierra Nevada could see up to 6 feet, would not be surprised if some areas in the Sierra Nevada actually pick up close to 10 feet but that will be very isolated. Really need this rainfall in the snow across the West even though it will be disrupting travel this weekend as folks start to head back home, Jessica, but we really need that rain and snow because it is parched out west.

DEAN: Yes, it certainly is. All right, Tyler Mauldin for us, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

Pope Francis is calling for dialogue as the world copes with the COVID pandemic. And his Christmas message from the Vatican, the Pope warned against the tendency to withdraw during a crisis. He says in social relationships and internationally, dialogue is essential.

CNN's Senior Vatican Analyst, John Allen has more.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Hi there, Jessica, and a very Merry Christmas to you from the Eternal City. Yes, this was very much a COVID-scarred Pope Francis, I think we heard from this morning. Of course, the Pope celebrates his big public mass for Christmas the night before on Christmas Eve. He participated in a private mass this morning.

Then at noon today, Rome time, delivered his annual Urbi et Orbi message to the city in the world. And in it, he very much stressed his repeated calls for justice and global access to the vaccines, but beyond that, express deep alarm over the social impact of everything that's going on. So, women trapped at home who were suffering additional abuse, children who were being bullied, elderly people who were isolated, alone and afraid.

And in response to all of that, he called for a culture of dialogue and encounter that is reaching out to meet people and then engaging them in dialogue, finding out what's on their hearts and minds and trying to be present to them. So all in all, a very pastoral but also hope, Jessica, a very topical message from the Pope during this, unfortunately, COVID-encumbered Christmas.

DEAN: All right, John Allen for us, thanks so much.

Now on to an incredible story of a TSA officer saving a baby's life. Take a look at this security video from Newark Airport showing Officer Cecilia Morales jumping over the conveyor belt to help a two-month old boy who was choking. You see she performed the Heimlich maneuver. Thankfully, that little boy is OK. Turns out Morales served as an EMT for 10 years before joining TSA.

Coming up, you'll meet a Navy veteran who just had her entire mortgage paid off. Stay with us for this special story. But first, you won't want to miss a new CNN film highlighting the special relationship between James Taylor and Carole King. Here's a quick preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Friends, collaborators, legends, the music shaped a generation. They came together for the tour of a lifetime.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His songs were amazing. His voice is amazing and his demeanor.




JAMES TAYLOR, MUSICAL ARTIST: Carole King, one of the greatest songwriters of all time, asked to be a part of my band.

40 years have passed since the first time we played.

KING: I love every experience we have had together.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Just Call Out My Name", Sunday, January 2nd at 9:00 on CNN.




SANCHEZ: A few military veterans are spending the holidays enjoying a really special gift, a home that's fully paid for. WALKER: Regina is a Navy veteran honored by the "Thanks to Veterans" program. She's still serving her community as a volunteer and she includes her three children in the service. She's team mom for her son's football team and was, let's say surprised, with the news after one of their games.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you guys know Regina is a veteran.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you guys also know she just got a new house, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How important is this house to you?



REGINA W.: Because it gives my children a stable place to live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you feel if I told you Veterans United is going to buy your house in full and it's now yours?

REGINA W.: What? My goodness (ph). Whatever. Are you serious? Are you serious? Oh my God.


WALKER: My goodness. Regina, it's emotional for me watching. Also joining us is Pam Swan, Vice President for Military Relations at Veterans United Home Loans. Welcome to you both.

Regina, let's start with you. Replay that moment for us and what it was like.

REGINA W.: Just hearing it gave me emotional every time. It was -- I'm at a loss of words still. All I can think about was, are they playing with me? Is this a joke? And I've seen everybody is jumping in.

When I see my dad cry, I knew it was real because my dad was there and my daughter was jumping up and down. And I was like, oh my gosh, this is real. They just paid off my house. No mortgage payment. It was just so many emotions -- I was going through so many emotions at the time. Even now listening to it.

SANCHEZ: I can tell that that it makes you really emotional, Regina. Obviously, it means a lot for your kids too and the foundation of generational wealth and all the opportunities that come with homeownership. Talk to us about how your kids are feeling, do they realize how big a deal this is?


REGINA W.: My daughter, she's 15, she does, but my son, they're eight and nine, I don't think they really know. Because a couple of days ago, they were like, mom -- talking about my bills, because I always go over like bills with them. And you know, they were like, OK, what about the mortgage?

So it's like they forget, they know, but they forget. And I'm like, Mom don't have a mortgage. So, if, you know, if getting some -- if -- we're just trying to get used to it. They don't fully understand, but they will when they get older.

WALKER: It's just such a beautiful story and moment that we got to share with you there on video. Pam, can you tell us a little bit more about this program and also how it started?

PAM SWAN, VETERANS UNITED HOME LOANS, VICE PRESIDENT OF MILITARY RELATIONS: Absolutely. First, Regina, I want to say Merry Christmas to you and your family. You have become part of our family at Veterans United, so we're so excited to see you again today this Christmas. And Merry Christmas to you, Boris and Amara as well.

So Veterans United, we have a lifestyle and a business model of enhancing veterans and their families' lives and the communities as well. And as we moved into the holiday season, particularly Veterans Day last month, and thinking about how could we enhance the lives of our veterans and show the enhancement that they give to communities, and Regina is a prime example of that.

And we selected, methodically, looking at veterans and telling the story of how veterans serve after service. So really focusing on those individuals that have given back to their communities and the things that you just saw in the videos and have talked about Regina. And she is a prime example of that.

People that serve in the military, they have a mindset and a focus to give back and to help others and that they only bring that back into their communities. And with the housing market, the way it has been through this pandemic, we saw a lot of our clients make offer after offer and be taken -- a seller would take another offer. And they would have to go out and look for that search again.

And so when we selected those individuals, we kept that in mind, and we reserved one sweepstakes that we will be giving away and announcing on New Year's Eve, is the last day that you can register to be the 11th home recipient, just like Regina, and still have that advantage of this year. And as we look at how 2021 has unfolded in the housing market and be able to affect yet another life, another family and another community, just like we did with Regina.

SANCHEZ: Pam, you talked about giving back to those who give so much to our nation and helping out these veterans, tell us about some of these recipients and also how does someone enter to receive that 11th home?

SWAN: Absolutely, Boris. So the other recipients are varied (ph) across the country. And it is exciting to see all of them and we've gotten close to every one of them. I think Regina probably has gotten a phone call from somebody at Veterans United every few days. She has become family and the other recipients the same way.

So they they have -- we have former army, we have a Vietnam veteran, we have Marines, we have male and female alike service members. As, again, it's as varied as the military is. So the way that you can be one of these individuals and be the 11th home recipient is go to It's a very easily -- easy sweepstakes submission, and try to be that 11th home owner.

But also, even if you're not get the education, look at the program that's out there and make sure that if you know a veteran, you're telling them to go to this site and maybe change their life forever. And as you said, Boris, I think was the generational change. And that's what really mortgage free home does for people like Regina and the other recipients out there.

It is a generational change and encourages all of us to give back more to our communities, whether we're veterans, veterans' families, or we're just part of our community. Let's give back, let's show that service.

WALKER: What an incredible organization. Pam, thank you for that.


And Regina, lastly to you, I mean, tell us a little bit about how this has changed your life. What kind of freedom it's going to allow you and how you'll be spending your Christmas Day today?

REGINA W.: The way it has changed my life is we're able to -- my family and I were able to give more to the community. My children opted out of Christmas gifts this year, and instead they decided to donate Christmas gifts to needy children. So that's, in itself, a blessing where we're able to give more.

It's just -- it's an amazing feeling moving forward. My children, they're -- they'll be able to have opportunities that I didn't have growing up because we are mortgage free. I'm able to do more as far as their education and extracurricular activities because of it. So, yes, this is a big deal for us in our family.

SANCHEZ: Using this opportunity to continue helping others, Regina, you are so inspiring and impressive. Thank you so much for your service. Congratulations on the home.

REGINA W.: My pleasure.

SANCHEZ: Pam, thanks for all your hard work helping folks like Regina and giving back to them for so much that they've done for us. Merry Christmas to you both and thank you for the time. Have a Happy Christmas.

REGINA W.: Merry Christmas.

SWAN: Thank you. Merry Christmas to you.

WALKER: Merry Christmas. The best story on Christmas Day. Thank you so much.

Coming up, we're going to introduce you to the 2021 CNN Hero of the Year and her inspiring work with California's homeless.


SANCHEZ: Time now for the good stuff. This month, CNN named its Hero of the Year and she is impressive. Kaitlan Collins has more.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The 2021 CNN Hero of the Year is Shirley Raines.




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Shirley Raines runs a nonprofit called "Beauty 2 the Streetz", transforming part of Skid Row into an outdoor beauty salon, offering haircuts, facials, meals, and hugs to the homeless.

CNN Hero Shirley Raines joins me now. Hey, I loved your outfit last night so much.

SHIRLEY RAINES, CNN HERO OF THE YEAR WINNER: Oh Perry Meek, girl. He did that, did he not?

COLLINS: That was the perfect outfit --

RAINES: I love Perry.

COLLINS: -- to win and awarding. But, obviously, there's so much behind this. So how did you start this project? What really helped you get this started?

RAINES: I think everybody knows at this point my, you know, my son passed away many, many years ago. And I broke, you know, emotionally, spiritually, and I had so much pain. And, you know, later his dad lost the battle with cancer. And I was just trying to make some sense of the pain in my life, you know what I mean?

And though trying to find something to do with that pain, I found the homeless. A friend of mine, Yuri (ph) asked me if I would like to come out with him to feed the homeless one day with another nonprofit.


RAINES: And I went out there, and I fell in love with the community like from day one. I was just like, wow, you all are broken. You're just like me, let's go, you know?

COLLINS: And so you're out there, and did you -- did the idea come to you then or how did you kind of get the idea? Because there are so many ways to be able to help homeless, but what made you think that this was a something that they needed, and something that could help them?

RAINES: You know, let's be clear, this is what the community wanted from me. I went out there to do just what everybody does when they feed the homeless, give them their needs. They came to me with their wants. They kept saying, we love your hair, we love your lashes, we love your makeup. I'm like, oh, queen, I can get you some of this if you want. They were like, would you? And it started very organically. It was something that they wanted.

And I think that the narrative that's been attached to homeless makes us forget that they still want to feel inherently beautiful. So they came to me with this. And I was more than happy to do it, because that's something I had to offer. And I felt like I had a lot to offer, but that I did.

COLLINS: Clearly, you do have a lot to offer.

RAINES: Oh thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: But do you think, to them to a degree, it's about a sense of dignity because, you know, it's not just about meeting their needs of eating and having somewhere to stay and blankets and clothing. But this is a sense of dignity when it comes to a haircut or facial or something like this.

RAINES: I think it's that and I also think this being seen and being touched. You know what I mean? Like the thing, the work that we do, we physically touch their hair, we scrub their hair, we put hot water on their head. So part of me thinks it's the desire to feel beautiful, but it's also the desire to feel seen. You know what I mean?

For 30 minutes, someone is calling their name. My team is washing their hair. We're catering to them, and we're making life about them. And I think that they've just been neglected for so very long, that this attention makes them feel good. So I think it's a double-edged sword. I think it's also the beauty as well as just feeling good.

COLLINS: And what is the power of physical touch, of something like that to the people that you meet every day?

RAINES: I think that that's spiritual CPR. You know, I think a lot of times we fight to save the body. Let's give them food, let's give them shelter, let's give them clothing. But I think physical touch is that spiritual CPR that revives the spirit inside.


RAINES: That says, you know what, someone cares about me. That says, despite where I am and how I look, people love me. And I think that that's something that I wasn't feeling, you know, when I was going through my hard times.

And one of the things that helped me was makeup. It was an adult game of make believe, you know what I mean? And I feel like that sometimes what we do with the community, like, you know, pretend. You know, there's nothing wrong with pretending. We do it as kids all the time.

COLLINS: We do, and as adults maybe.

RAINES: And as adults, yes.

COLLINS: Well, you talked about, you know, the loss of your son and what this meant for you and where you were in that place when you went out with your friend that day, just to feed people and to be there for them. What was it like being on that stage last night when you heard Anderson and Kelly say your name?

RAINES: It was so surreal, but, you know, more than anything, I'm just excited for the community. I'm just a messenger. You know, I work at the pleasure of the homeless, you know? I serve at their pleasure. I'm just a messenger.

And it was just so amazing to know that the world cares. You know, I think we feel like they're forgotten community. And there's so many amazing people on that stage with me.


RAINES: And the fact that, you know, social media and the world chose us, they chose that community. They didn't choose me. They didn't choose me. They chose that community. You know what I mean? And that was heart-warming.

I can't wait to go back home. I can't wait to tell them that people see them and love them and care about them.

COLLINS: Well, and so with this, you get $100,000 --

RAINES: Yes, we do.

COLLINS: -- as part of this prize --

RAINES: We do.

COLLINS: -- to expand your work. And so yes, your group. So, what are your -- what -- do you have any idea? What are you thinking? What's your vision for? What do you want to do with this?

RAINES: Well, you know, I go out on Tuesdays and I feed them out of my -- out of the van and I always wanted like an ice cream truck kind of thing to make it easier. But right now, unfortunately, we're at a time where we're struggling to feed them. So that money is going to go towards food.

So, one thing I can say for certain is that Skid Row will be fed from "Beauty 2 the Streetz" for the rest of 2022. I'm a mom, we have to be practical. As much as I'd love to be frivolous, we want to make sure that these people get warm meals every day as much as we can get out there. So that money is going to go toward food, nurturing them.