Thursday, August 09, 2007
Nervewracking journey into collapsed mine
HUNTINGTON, Utah -- Ever since the Crandall Canyon Mine collapsed Monday, reporters had been kept some distance from it as we covered the story. We asked the owner for closer access; he said no.

But something changed Wednesday, and mine owner Bob Murray told five of us that we could go into the mine as far as we wanted and provide information, video and photographs for all the news media present. This was noteworthy, considering that mines are incredibly difficult places for reporters to get access to, even in normal circumstances.

Twenty minutes after he told us this, we were off. Transported in a van to the mine, we were given coveralls, boots, helmets, a light and oxygen. We were required to take a mine safety course taught by one of the mine employees to make sure we could operate our oxygen canisters quickly in the dark if necessary. We also learned about how to evacuate if there was another collapse. Our course done, we were ready to go in, right up to the collapse site where the rescue workers were drilling to find the six miners.

The mine is huge; you realize that right away when you're put into a small truck to be driven through it. And it's not a short drive in what is in effect an underground city. For nearly 30 minutes, we motor in the darkness at depths close to 2,000 feet under the earth. It is cold and windy. We hear creaks and groans in the coal walls. We see solemn rescue workers arriving at the scene. And then the mine owner tells us, "Right here is where the rescue effort is going on."

We had arrived at the point of no return....Click here to read the rest of this post

-- By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 8:55 PM ET
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007
When it rains...
Strong storms brought down a tree onto an SUV in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday morning.
The "360" newsroom is buzzing now. But it was mostly empty for much of the morning.

Earlier today, violent thunderstorms pulverized the New York region with torrential rains that flooded roads, subways, and the elevators at the Time Warner Center (that's where we work).

It was a mess getting into the office. And for some folks here, it was a nightmare.

One producer rode (very slowly) in a packed subway car for more than two hours with her two-year-old and six-month-old sons. She had it bad.

So did our executive administrative assistant. He spent three hours driving to the city. It's usually a quick commute. By the way, he says he saw a funnel cloud crossing over from Staten Island to Brooklyn this morning. Forecasters are looking at reports of a tornado.

And pity our poor copy editor. She's stranded in Jersey, getting the water out of her apartment.

While it was frustrating for many of us, it was downright dangerous for others. Thousands are still without power. Hopefully, it will be back on soon.

As for me, well, the only bright spot of a dismal day may be the fact that I had to climb seven flights of stairs to get to work. I sure can use the exercise.

-- By Gabe Falcon, "360" Writer
Posted By CNN: 3:45 PM ET
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Execution-style slaying rocks Newark
A photo of victim Dashon Harvey is left at a makeshift memorial on the schoolyard.
NEWARK, New Jersey -- It's a crime that stunned even this community -- Newark, New Jersey -- where murders are all too common. Already this year, 60 people have been murdered.

This past Saturday night, four teenagers were killed execution-style, lined up against a wall and shot in the head. Three are dead and one is clinging to life at a nearby hospital.

Natasha Aerial, 19, is the lone survivor of this senseless attack that took place behind Mt. Vernon Elementary School Saturday night. Her brother, Terrence, and her friends, Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, are dead.

Family members of the victims are heartbroken. Dashon's father, James Harvey, spoke at a press conference on Monday saying, "Innocent people are dying needlessly, unnecessarily."

Hightower's Great Uncle, John McClain, a pastor and a police chaplain, compares the grisly murders to terrorism.

"The government of the United States is fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we have terrorists right here. Every week someone is shot and killed. What happened Saturday night, if that wasn't a terrorist act, you have to tell me what was," McClain said.

Everyone I've talked to in this city says these were good kids. Three were enrolled at Delaware State University.

Essex County Prosecutor Paul Dow said they are "the best Newark had to offer." She calls the crime a horrible robbery that went terribly wrong. "We're not ruling out gangs or any other theory in this case."

A makeshift memorial is getting bigger as mourners visit the crime scene throughout the day. One group placed balloons. A note was left by a friend, saying "I miss you."

Wanda Slater came to the memorial with her fiance. Her daughter knew Iofemi Hightower. Slater is frustrated by the violence in her community and feels very strongly that members of a local gang committed these murders.

The football team from West Side High, wearing their white and green jerseys, came to mourn their classmates. One team member said he's lost ten friends in the last two years -- all were shot and killed.

-- By Laura Dolan, CNN Producer
Posted By CNN: 12:04 PM ET
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Spaceflight elicits a little jealousy
Christa McAuliffe's understudy, Barbara Morgan, has waited 22 years to go to space; she will get her chance on Wednesday.
I must admit it, I am watching Barbara Morgan's space shuttle mission with a healthy dose of envy.

In the many years I spent pushing NASA to select me as the first journalist to fly on the shuttle, Barbara's name came up a lot.

Ideally, I had hoped that she would be on the crew that I would join on a flight to the International Space Station. I felt the combination of a seasoned reporter and a gifted teacher would make for compelling, unprecedented insight into the world of spaceflight. (After 22-year wait, teacher gets ready for flight)

Whether that would have happened is hard to know for certain. But the loss of Columbia on February 1, 2003, permanently grounded my dreams of transmitting live reports from space. I and others at CNN had been negotiating with NASA for several years before that fateful day to secure me a seat on the shuttle. At long last, we were on the cusp of an agreement.

Like Barbara Morgan, I would move to Houston and go through the entire training program for a shuttle "mission specialist". The process would take at least a year, maybe longer. The entire experience was to be grist for a series of special reports on CNN culminating with my reports from the shuttle and the space station during the mission.

We were set to make an announcement after Columbia came home safe and sound. But the loss of the shuttle and her crew put the idea on the shelf, probably for good.

The shuttle fleet is slated for retirement. The last flight is set for the end of 2010. Fourteen more launches (give or take) to go and seven seats on the shuttle and at least 50 astronauts in Houston who have never had a flight. I will let you finish the arithmetic.

I probably have a better chance of hitching a ride with one of those nascent private spaceliners. Who knows.

For a while, I wondered if Barbara would ever realize her dream; although she told me the other day she never doubted she would get a chance to fly. Maybe I could be faulted for not employing her amazing power of positive thinking.

While I am envious, I also am glad Barbara will, at long last, get her chance to go. This is NASA delivering on a promise derailed by the other shuttle disaster -- Challenger.

Christa McAuliffe's understudy has waited in the wings for 22 years, and now the limelight is hers. She will be carrying the fire.

I will be cheering her and her crew on, holding my breath (as always) during that eight-and-a-half minute streak to the heavens.

-- By Miles O'Brien, CNN Correspondent


Editor's note: Meet teacher and astronaut Barbara Morgan tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360," 10 p.m. ET.
Posted By CNN: 9:53 AM ET
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Monday, August 06, 2007
The kindness of others...
It's been a sad and busy last several days. Tonight, I've arrived in Utah to cover the story of the trapped miners. And before that I spent a few days covering the collapsed bridge tragedy in Minneapolis. But one development in that story has put a smile on our faces.

Last week, we told the story of 26-year-old Marcelo Cruz, a parapalegic who was driving his own specially equipped van when the bridge went down. He avoided plunging into the Mississippi River by purposely crashing his van into the wall and stopping just feet from the water.

Because he no longer had a vehicle, we offered him a ride to the emergency room to get some treatment to his injured back. Well, among the good samaritans watching our story was Lawrence Pleskow, head of a California based charity called When U Dream a Dream. He asked us if we could put him in touch with Marcelo, and here's why.

Pleskow has told Marcelo that he will come to Minnesota on Friday to present him with a new accessible van that Marcelo can keep as he works to get a new one through his insurance policy. In addition, the charity wants to fly Marcelo and his mother to California so they can have a free trip where they will tour Disneyland and meet a celebrity or two.

Pleskow tells me his charity works with many paraplegics and quadrapelegics, and when he saw this story on "360", he knew he wanted to help in some way. Marcelo tells me he is thrilled with the offer, and overwhelmed with the kindness he's felt from others.

Seven years ago, Marcelo was shot by an unknown assailant. That's why he's in a wheelchair. We hope the attention he's getting marks the beginning of a more carefree life for him.

-- By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent


Editor's note: For information about how you can make a difference, please visit Impact Your World.
Posted By CNN: 8:10 PM ET
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