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CNN Newsroom

Aired December 21, 2001 - 04:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.


SUSAN FREIDMAN, CO-HOST: And I'm Susan Freidman.

Beginning today, victim's families and survivors of the September 11 terrorist attacks can apply for federal aid. The families will receive an average of $1.5 million. That money will come from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund which was set up shortly after the attacks. Kenneth Feinberg is the lawyer named to oversee the fund.


KENNETH FEINBERG, SPECIAL MASTER, SEPTEMBER 11TH FUND: The claimant must be filing on behalf of an individual who suffered physical injury or death -- physical injury or death in the vicinity of the World Trade Center or the Pentagon as a result of the attack or its immediate aftermath.


MCMANUS: Feinberg says he'll try to figure out a fair way to allocate the money, which has been a hotly debated issue. Some people say certain families are in line to receive more financial help than others.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick now on the controversy.


CHERI SPARACIO, WIDOW OF SEPT. 11 VICTIM: Hunt drove to work. And the car was in the World Trade Center.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cheri Sparacio sorts through a pile of bills, a chore made even more difficult with the death of her husband. Thomas Sparacio was a currency broker on the 84th floor of Tower 2. Since the attacks, money from various charities like the Red Cross has been helping Cheri pay her mortgage and monthly expenses. But within a year most of that money will likely run out. Cheri's anxiety is made worse when she thinks of the $353 million donated to charities set up specifically for widows of firefighters and police.

SPARACIO: I can't cry for my husband -- because I miss him and I wonder how I'm going to get the money to pay for, you know, our insurance all at the same time.

FEYERICK: 403 Firefighters and police died in the line of duty September 11. Donations poured in.

TILLIE GEIDEL, WIDOW OF SEPT. 11 VICTIM: He was looking forward to retiring. Yes. That is the last thing he said to me that morning.

FRAZIER: Gary Geidel, with the city's elite Fire Rescue 1 unit was one of the uniformed heroes. His wife Tillie could get well more than $1 million from charity funds. That's in addition to her husband's salary and health benefits for life. A safety net in place long before the attacks.

GEIDEL: He rescued a lot of people and he saved a lot of people and it was their choice. They didn't have to go into the building and you know and risk their lives and lose their lives like they did.

FEYERICK: Tension is growing not only between the families of rescue workers and other victims, but also between those other victims families.

So many charities and so much money divided into so many different amounts, critics say there is the appearance that some lives have become worth more than others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal. In this situation, all men are not created equal.

FEYERICK: With stock brokers killed alongside bus boys, monthly expenses of each family vary widely. And charities give based on what people need to sustain their standard of living, says Catholic Charities director Kevin Sullivan.

MSGR. KEVIN SULLIVAN, CATHOLIC CHARITIES: Generally the approach is to look at the need of the individual and the family who asks for help and try to provide whatever need that family has to help them to move on with their lives.

FEYERICK: With twin boys and a third on the way, widow Sherry Sparacio wants to stay in her house living the kind of life she and her husband planned.

SPARACIO: You know, America loves heroes. And I don't feel like I have to say my husband was a hero too. Plenty of people were that day. There were people helping each other. But I don't need to make that as an excuse for my husband's life to be worth as much as any other life that was lost there.

FEYERICK: As for Tillie Geidel, she will be financially okay. She prays all of the other families will be too.

GEIDEL: It was a tragedy for everyone. So I don't understand why people are fighting over money. Because money means nothing. It means nothing when it comes down to it, because no family is rich without their families.

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


FREIDMAN: The first wave of peacekeepers is now in Afghanistan, a group of British troops landed at Bagram Airbase Thursday. They have a tough job ahead of them as they try to help rebuild a country wrecked by decades of war.

CNN's Harris Whitbeck shows us just how difficult it will be in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is one of only two fire stations in all of Afghanistan. Located in downtown Kabul, it was smack in the middle of a front-line during fighting between factions battling for control of the city. Shells and shrapnel virtually destroyed its roof and walls, and almost all firefighting equipment.

"We only have one active truck," says the deputy fire chief, "and we can't always start it. The war has destroyed all our resources."

A recent fire in a series of storefronts in Kabul raged out of control for hours because there was no one to help put it out.

(on camera): The winter season increases the danger of fire, because people use charcoal stoves to keep warm. This year, in particular, firefighters say they're not prepared to respond to emergencies.

(voice-over): Shoddy equipment and a corps of only 30 firefighters for one of the country's essential services, one example of the many challenges the incoming government will face as it tries to rebuild the country.

But help is on the way. On this day, a delegation from Russia's ministry of emergencies visited the Kabul fire station, and promised to donate equipment and supplies.

"There is a good opportunity to help Afghanistan politically and economically," he says, "but they will need time and international cooperation to rebuild."

As one firefighter showed off his skills, a U.S. B-52 bomber flew overhead, a reminder of the trials this country has endured, and now changes that many hope will make things a bit better.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


FREIDMAN: Another sign of changing times in Kabul, people laying down their guns in hopes of peace. Since the Taliban fled the Afghan capital, government officials have been trying to reduce the number of weapons in untrained hands. It's a frightening thought for many people, as CNN's John Vause reports.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Afghan men carrying an AK-47 is as normal as a briefcase for a western businessman. On the streets of Jalalabad, for example, one gun just isn't enough. The greater the firepower, the better.

"It's in my heart and desire that I should have a big gun with me," says this man. "Like a cruise missile," he adds, as he carries a rocket propelled grenade.

Here the weapon of choice, a Russian-made Kalashnikov, costs less than $200 U.S. But on the roads in and out of the capital Kabul, the government is trying to reduce the number of weapons, stopping and searching cars - still soldiers and others with proper documents are allowed to keep their guns.

Shafi Ahahmari (ph) works one of the checkpoints. He told me since Kabul fell, his team has seized thousands of guns. Only a fraction, though, the millions of high-powered firearms estimated to be scattered across Afghanistan. Still the local commander is proud of the work here, asking me to review his men, whom he says are making Kabul safe.

(on camera): Hello. Hello.

(voice-over): "It's 100 percent good to have Kabul secure," he says. "We're checking the cars and we will not let anything happen in Kabul."

And in many ways, the capital is safer than the other major cities. Here there are no warlords dividing up city blocks. According to Mohammed Nastein (ph), a traffic cop for more years than he can remember, security in the capital is good. Everything, he says, is fine.

"In the past," he says, "there are a lot of gun accidents because people wouldn't obey the laws."

"Now," he says, "there are no accidents." But he says he'll only feel safe when all the guns are handed in. And in many ways that is one of the biggest problems facing the new interim government - how to make the people feel safe enough to hand over their weapons and then what to do with thousands of young men who have learned little more than how to pull a trigger. John Vause, CNN, Kabul.



ANNOUNCER: Andrew Gerber from Charlotte, North Carolina, asks, "How are American Muslims viewed by bin Laden followers and other extremist Muslim and Arab groups in the Middle East?"

AKBAR AHMED, CHAIR OF ISLAMIC STUDIES, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Most of the Muslims living in America, which number about 7 million, are American citizens, loyal citizens. They love America. They love being in America. And there would be some kind of split in the way they are viewed by people like Osama bin Laden, because he would be intrigued as to why they would be so well adjusted and happy in America.

I think the way bin Laden would look at it is like this: He would say, our enemies -- that is, the enemies of the Muslims -- are basically the Jews and the Christians. He targets the Jews and the Christians. He mentions them in his speeches, and he mentions them because, he says, of the plight of the people of the Middle East. He mentions the Palestinians, the people of Iraq, and the stationing of foreign troops in Saudi Arabia. So he believes that those Muslims who do not support his call for a war against Jews and Christians are not loyal or good Muslims.

So he attempts to create a rift within Muslim societies. So the more the chances of disharmony, of conflict, within the community, where Muslims are unhappy, the better the chances of Osama bin Laden influencing these people. So he would like to see conflict and disharmony in America.


FREIDMAN: As the U.S. considers sending in Marines to help conduct cave searches in Tora Bora, special ops troops are already in the area searching out the bombed-out remenants of the al Qaeda network hideouts. This is the region where Osama bin Laden might have been hiding before U.S. bombing campaigns ruined his army. The search for bin Laden is just the latest chapter in a year filled with the unexpected and terrible.

NEWSROOM's Joel Hochmuth has the third of his year-ending series on the U.S. Retaliation and The Hunt for Osama bin Laden.


JOEL HOCHMUTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the very beginning, it seemed it would come down to this, the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Even before the dust settled at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he was the world's most wanted man.

Suspicions about bin Laden's responsibility in the terrorist attack September 11 surfaced as profiles of the hijackers became known. By September 13, it was clear the Bush administration had made bringing him and his al Qaeda network to justice priority No. 1.

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We'll go after that group, that network and those who have harbored, supported and aided that network to rip the network up. And when we're through with that network, we will continue with a global assault against terrorism in general.


QUESTION: Do you want bin Laden dead?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want him -- hell, I want -- I want justice. And there's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said, "Wanted: Dead or Alive."

HOCHMUTH: That bin Laden would emerge as suspect No. 1 surprised no one inside the American intelligence community. The former Saudi citizen and heir to a Saudi family worth billions of dollars had begun forming a terrorist network as early as 1979. Bin Laden had sworn hostility to the U.S. when Saudi Arabia let American troops be stationed there during the Persian Gulf War. His network had already been blamed for the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 and the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

PETER BERGEN, TERRORISM EXPERT: His organization has both the suicide bombers willing to die in these kinds of attacks. It also has the pilots. It's had a history of training pilots. And also it has basically the level of kind of sophistication and coordination to bring off something like this.

HOCHMUTH: It took devastation on the scale of September 11 to push the U.S. over the edge and to finally go after bin Laden and eliminate him as a terrorist force once and for all. The effort began at the diplomatic level. Immediately, Secretary of State Colin Powell began building a global coalition against terrorism, and in particular, against the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan that sheltered bin Laden.

POWELL: We sent information out last night to a large number of nations that have the ability to receive the kind of information we sent, which I think powerfully made the case that the al Qaeda organization, led by Osama bin Laden, was responsible for what happened on the 11th of September.

GEORGE ROBERTSON, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: It has now been determined that the attack against the United States of America on the 11th of September was directed from abroad, and shall therefore be regarded as an action covered by Article V of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack on one or more of the allies in Europe or North America shall be considered as an attack against them all.

HOCHMUTH: While NATO leaders were convinced, predictably, Taliban leaders were not.

SOHAIL SHAHEEN, TALIBAN EMBASSY SPOKESMAN: Our position in this regard is that if America have evidence and proof, they should produce it and we are ready for the trial of Osama bin Laden in the light of evidence.

QUESTION: Are you willing to hand Osama bin Laden to the United States or not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no.

SHAHEEN: Without evidence, no.

HOCHMUTH: With the Taliban refusing to hand bin Laden over, the U.S. and its allies began preparing for battle. President Bush called up 50,000 Army Reservists, the largest mobilization since the Persian Gulf War. Additional warplanes and an aircraft carrier were also deployed to the region as rhetoric heated up on both sides of the Atlantic.

BUSH: And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Surrender the terrorists or surrender power.

HOCHMUTH: U.S.-led forces delivered on their threat October 7. Bombs began falling on Taliban targets throughout Afghanistan.

Bin Laden, himself, was as defiant as ever. Calling on the name of Allah, he vowed that Americans would never be safe or feel secure again unless, among a list of other grievances, Palestinians were secure from Israelis. This would be the last tape bin Laden would intentionally release to the media. He soon would be a man on the run.

Slowly, methodically, the U.S.-led bombing campaign was taking its toll on the Taliban and al Qaeda forces protecting him. By the middle of November, those forces were clearly crumbling as opposition Northern Alliance forces swept through city after city. By December 9, U.S. special forces patrolled the streets of Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold.

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is still a lot of senior al Qaeda and senior Taliban people left. We went in there to root out the terrorists, to find them where they are. Our job has got a long way to go.

HOCHMUTH: Despite the victories, bin Laden remains allusive. Speculation was that he had headed to the rugged Tora Bora region along the Pakistan border where it was thought he was pursued by a combination of U.S. special forces and anti-Taliban troops.

But even after intense bombings of suspected hideouts and cave- by-cave searches, still there is no sign of him. Perhaps he's dead. Perhaps he's still hiding in these mountains. Perhaps he's fled to Pakistan or somewhere else. Whatever the case, those anxious to see him brought to justice will have to settle for promises.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Whether it takes a day or a month or a year.

POWELL: Whether it takes us one day, one month, one year, two years, we'll get him.

BUSH: But when the dust clears, we'll find out where he is and he'll be brought to justice.


FREIDMAN: Afghanistan is an old land. Its history built on custom. For many of its citizens, doing without is all they've ever known. Children without shoes in the winter, polluted drinking water and a shortage of food are some of the things Afghans live with on a daily basis, as our Walter Rodgers reports.

A warning now, some may find the images in this report disturbing.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Afghanistan, as Alexander the Great or Marco Polo may have seen it. Little has changed here in over two millennia, and it was among these people Osama bin Laden based his al Qaeda fighters. War has been a kind of commerce here. Twenty years ago it was the Soviets, then bin Laden's Taliban followed by U.S. bombs that decimated the Taliban.

This clan chief complained that the Taliban destroyed everything, although a younger generation here disputes this. Afghanistan is both breathtakingly beautiful and brutally cruel. Spilling blood, part of the rhythm of life. When vultures soar here, Afghans say the birds smell bin Laden's dead al Qaeda fighters killed by U.S. bombs. Before that, it was the Russians killed by the Mujahideen in the 1980's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to come and sit and talk with you, but we never went near the Russians. We hated them. They would shoot us.

RODGERS: Villagers still hate the Soviets, claiming they even shot Afghan babies in their cribs. In return, this boy's father or grandfather may have played polo on ponies with the heads of captured Russian soldiers they decapitated.

(on camera): While intentioned diplomats and policymakers talk of modernization and nation building in Afghanistan, out in these villages, however, those lofty intentions may have to squeeze through some ancient doorways and leapfrog centuries to achieve those goals.

(voice-over): Many Afghans still live without electricity in a world lit only by fire. Some children go shoeless all winter. Just as in medieval Europe livestock is often killed off before winter -- not enough fodder to feed the animals until spring. Drinking water is lapped from polluted drainage ditches. Afghans still live in mud castles, fortresses in a faction-riddled society. Young girls are married by 14, bought and paid for by the groom's family -- $500 and up.

RODGERS: Isatoola (ph) does not know if he is 16 or 17. Dates are not important here, but he has an eight-month old son. The baby wears bright blue beads to ward off the evil eye. These are Muslims, fatalism is key to their faith, accepting what Allah has mandated for them.

RODGERS: Allah has been generous with Jon Mohammed (ph). He has three wives. His friends say the youngest is his favorite. Except for gathering firewood or crops, most Afghan women do not venture forth. Their world is the mud fortress - the world beyond is threatening.

RODGERS: So alien is our TV camera, this woman fears we have come to kidnap her son.

RODGERS: Still as this war winds down, the sounds of a child's laughter is again heard in Afghan villages and hope again soars here that this generation may yet enjoy its childhood.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, Bombockle (ph), Afghanistan.


ANNOUNCER: Teachers, make the most of CNN NEWSROOM with our free daily classroom guide to the program. There you'll find a rundown of each day's show so you choose just the program segment that fits your lesson plan. Plus there are discussion questions and activities and the guide highlights key people, places and news terms. Each day find hot links to other online resources and previews of upcoming desk segments.

It's all at this Web address where you can also sign up to have the guide automatically e-mailed directly to you each day. It's easy. It's free. It's your curriculum connection to the news. After all, the news never stops and neither does learning.

FREIDMAN: Now with a lesson in giving, here's Michael.

MCMANUS: Thanks, Susan.

The giving season is indeed upon us, and the outpouring of support following the tragedy of September is proof of that, proof that the human spirit can be quite gracious when the call goes out. Some have donated services, items or money. But what can you do when you have neither the money nor the means?

Two stories now on how important a musical note or a spoken word can be.


CHRIS JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, billions of dollars have been raised by large charitable organizations and big name musical events. However, being a member of a large charity or possessing celebrity status aren't necessary requirements for raising huge sums. Anyone can make a difference with hard work, tenacity and let's not forget, talent.

In small town America, a group of only 100 students collected over $200,000 for September 11 relief efforts. Several times this fall, Georgia's Carrollton High School marching band delivered a 15- minute performance entitled "The Greatest Generation." Originally, the show was designed to be a tribute to American war heroes.

JOEL POLLARD, TRUMPET SECTION LEADER: I just felt that it was really ironic to have -- we started the show in late July and then we'd been working on it for over a month. And all of a sudden we come in one day to class and look on the TV and we see these -- you see the World Trade Center is on fire.

JONES: But the week of the terrorist attacks, the performance quickly evolved into a fund raising event for September 11's fallen heroes when the school's band director was approached by the principal and superintendent.

ROBERT CARTER, BAND DIRECTOR: You know they -- of course they knew about the show and everything, and they asked if there was any way we could do it that following Monday with some other music, to set up a program that the community of Carrollton could come out and sort of a night of remembrance and a night of reverence and to honor all those that were killed in the tragedy.

JONES: And it was an opportunity for band members to express their patriotism.

COURTNEY FITZGERALD, COLOR GUARD: And it's really neat because like we've been working on this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) July and August and since this summer. And it was really interesting and neat that September 11 that it was kind of significant and that was real important to me because it was real patriotic and it was a good time for the show.

CARTER: They've learned a lot about patriotism through this show.

JONES: The show also proved that small communities can pull together and make a major impact.

CARTER: We didn't know if 4 people would show up or 400 or what, and oddly enough, we filled our stadium here up.

JONES: Nearly 6,000 people filled the stands, bonding (ph) together for America.

TIFFANY HOLLAND, DRUM MAJOR: We did the show, and then you get off the field and you saw them crying or you know, they were all emotional about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just amazing to me that the people in the stands giving (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a standing ovation once the Star Spangled Banner begins.

JONES: The Carrollton High School band, an example of how a small group can represent American strength.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little thing we could do.




ALYSSA LUDWICZAK, CNN STUDENT BUREAU (voice-over): The end of the first semester usually finds 13-year-old Bryant Seamon feeling relieved to put exams behind him and talking about his plans for winter break, but this year is different. When Bryant heard his school was offering students an opportunity to record videotaped messages to be sent to our troops overseas, he wanted to be one of the first to volunteer.

BRYANT SEAMON, AGE 13: I feel it was important because they are fighting over there, risking their lives for us and even for themselves. And I just think that by me taking this little bit of time out to say this message that it's just going to help them, it's going to give them a little bit more courage and they're just going to feel a lot better.

LUDWICZAK: Bryant attends West Shore Junior/Senior High School, which is located about 10 miles from Patrick Air Force Base. The base has deployed approximately 150 troops. Among those leaving were friends, neighbors and family members of many of the students at this school. When offered a chance to give messages of support, many of them wanted to help.

ASHLEY GLASS, AGE 14: A good neighbor of mine, he's going to be flying over the holidays -- he's going to be flying one of the planes for our troops. And I feel upset for his son because he's also one of my good friends, and he's going to have to go through the holidays not knowing whether his father's going to be OK or not. I think sending these messages to our troops is going to give them a little boost of confidence, just to make them feel better about what they're doing.

LUDWICZAK: Those who have been deployed or are still on base were appreciative that students would take time to record messages of support for our troops.

LT. NEKITHA LITTLE, FAMILY READINESS OFFICER, PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE: And not only do those video messages impact the troops overseas, but they have greatly impacted those of us who have reviewed the tape. They were heart-felt, they are well thought out, very, very sincere. And I know when we looked at the tape, all of us were like, wow, this is absolutely great. So we really appreciate what the students have done and what you guys are doing even now.

LUDWICZAK (on camera): After the events September 11, the way of life for Americans has changed this holiday season, but for the students of West Shore, the spirit of giving has not.

Alyssa Ludwiczak, CNN Student Bureau, Melbourne, Florida.


MCMANUS: Well it's that time of year for us as well. We're going to take next week off so we can spend some time with our families as well as take the opportunity to work on some great stories for 2002.

FREIDMAN: Have a great holiday. We'll see you January 3, 2002.

MCMANUS: Happy holidays.

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