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INSIDE POLITICS

Irma Hit Florida Keys as a Category 4 Hurricane; Irma Wreaks Havoc Across the Caribbean; Hurricane Irma Kills 36 People in Caribbean; British Royal Navy Sends Aid, Supplies to Islands; Remembering 9/11; Trump Salutes those Who Gave Lives on 9/11; Pence: United 93 Passengers' Sacrifice Saved Lives

Aired September 11, 2017 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[12:30:14] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: When Irma hit Florida, hit the Keys first. CNN's Bill Weir is in Key Largo, I believe, on the Atlantic side. Bill trying to assess the damage there.

What are you seeing?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we're starting to just get the first glimpses of the devastation, which only gets worse going south. We're in Key Largo.

Here's the story. We're running on fumes. There's no gas here. The roads are cut-off because they have to inspect the bridges. An Instagram angel heard my call for help named Shirley (ph). She said, hey, my friend Katherine's (ph) dad has some gas in his shed. That's the shed back there after climbing over the roof with the neighbor's house which came off of that mobile home. Those angels bought us a few more hours of live shots, because these days our car is our home and our office which you get a sense of just one of the homes here.

And this scene is repeated in an apocalyptic street escape here at a neighborhood pull -- Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, this is around mile marker 97, that's how they gauge distance in this part of the Keys here.

And just about every home we've seen, sustain some damage, you know, the mobile home is obviously more than others. The post-Andrew, heavy stone construction pretty seemed to survive pretty unscathed, at least up here. But we're dying to get down south to the lower Keys. But the Florida Department of Transportation has to inspect all the bridges before they're going to open up U.S. 1. And since there are 43 islands, John, you can imagine what a huge job that is.

So people hoping to get back to the Keys -- in the Keys this winter, you may have to wait a while. And then somebody who came just came by to assess the damage of her friend's house is Tiffany McNeal (ph).

Good to see you. Come on over. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good. How are you?

WEIR: This is incredible. I mean, we're still absorbing it. You live down here, what was the storm like? What's your impressions of the damage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really crazy. A lot of people's houses are damaged pretty badly. The water came up pretty high in a lot of areas. Our house, thankfully, we're up high, it never reached our house there.

WEIR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But our roof is leaking real bad. We got, you know, a lot of people have a lot of devastation here.

WEIR: Will you show me the tattoo on your arm? That's the last card your father sent you before he passed away last summer and he worked on the Seven Mile Bridge, I think you told me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did. He was the project engineer for the Seven Mile Bridge.

WEIR: And you stayed because he would have stayed, you told me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he would have stayed. He bought a house down here in Key Largo and he said the concrete fortress and he has never leave even if there's a hurricane and --

WEIR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's where I stayed and I was -- my boyfriend and I stayed there, we're safe, you know.

WEIR: Well, I have to say, just in the last hour, I've had two complete strangers give me precious gasoline. Everybody seems to be neighborly. They're bonding together as one family down here in the Keys. Do you think that will rebuild this place?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

WEIR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It's already happening. A boat in one of the marinas a couple of miles north of here, the Key Largo Princess came lose and knocked into a bunch of the charter boats and all the guys stay behind went out to help save each other's boats, you know, from sinking --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and all the other stuff. So everybody is coming together to really -- they try and save our community here, so.

WEIR: God speed to you and your recovery. Thanks for visiting with us. Condolences about your father, I know he'd be proud of you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

WEIR: So, John, you can see here some of the boat damage. It's just about all the vessels here on the Atlantic side were heaved up by that storm surge as Irma came ashore. About Cudjoe Key -- what is that Tiffany? What mile marker is Cudjoe

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about 26.

WEIR: Twenty six. So we're at 97, so 60 plus miles from here. So we're going to do our best to bring you as many stories as we can here, while we look for a boat or plane or any sort of transportation that can get us further down to the lower Keys, because we hear about people in shelters. We hear about folks down in Key West. We're really anxious to check up on.

But until then, I'll send it back to you in New York or Washington.

KING: Safe travels, Bill, as you keep going south. And our thanks -- we join you in thanking those angels helping you out with some fuel along the way. Bill Weir for us in Key Largo. We're going to try to keep going south to see the situation further and further south toward Key West. Thank you, Bill.

Thousands of people across the Caribbean are facing a staggering amount of damage. Irma hit many of the islands as a Category 5 hurricane, killing at least 36 people and flattening entire towns. The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands called it a horrific disaster.

Elizabeth Smith was on the island of St. Croix when the storm rolled in. She joins me now in the telephone. Elizabeth, St. Croix, got off a bit easier than St. Thomas and St. John.

[12:35:01] Tell us your current situation and you have been trying to coordinate and communicate with your friends who are on St. Thomas and St. John. What's the situation?

Elizabeth Smith, can you hear me?

ELIZABETH SMITH (via telephone): Hello?

KING: Elizabeth, this is John King in Washington. Can you hear me?

SMITH: Yes. Can you hear me?

KING: I can hear you now just fine. You're on St. Croix which to my understanding is -- was the least damaged by Irma. But tell us your situation. And you've also been trying to keep in touch with friends on St. Thomas and St. John. Give us the latest on a, the devastation and destruction, and b, the urgent needs now.

SMITH: Sure. I'm on St. Croix here. As you said, we're fortunate to have not been hit as hard as St. Thomas and St. John, although we do still have areas that have not had power.

I have friends on St. Thomas, friends on St. John that have very limited access to power, access to cell service. I've only heard very few text updates from them. I know they are alive. But I don't know the current situation of what they're going through.

Day to day, I have heard very terrifying posts on Facebook of people that are still not accounted for. Elderly people that are stuck in their homes, children that cannot get the help that they need and it's just very frightening.

KING: And when you talk about very frightening, in those that you have been in touch with, you mentioned it's hard to communicate, most have no power, have they given you any information about their situation when it comes to food, water, vital supplies?

SMITH: They are having to walk to find FEMA trucks. They have been able to FEMA trucks to pick up food rationing, but it is my understanding that you have to be present in order your rations. If you are sick or if you are pregnant and you have to stay home, then, I understand that there is some trouble getting the food that you need.

KING: And the hospital in St. John, I believe, there's only one faced some pretty significant damage. What do you know about that?

SMITH: Yes. It was actually the hospital on St. Thomas. And during the storm, they faced catastrophic difficulties. And while the storm was going on, they're having to evacuate patients from the first floor to higher floors, because they were receiving a lot of flooding.

KING: And Elizabeth, how would you rate the communication from local officials about where to get help, where to get supplies? How to be in touch with law enforcement if you needed that help?

SMITH: Yes. They have been very receptive. I have been seeing posts, updates almost daily from the governor and giving us information on where to go. The problem is the lack of cell service and the lack of power.

KING: Elizabeth Smith, joining us from St. Croix. Elizabeth, thank you for touching base with us and sharing your story. Good luck keeping in contact with your friends there. Hope the situation improves and improves quickly.

Anguilla is small British territory, lies directly east of Puerto Rico, it found itself in Irma's crosshairs. So at least 90% of government buildings and businesses described as badly damaged including the island's only hospital and high school. Its radio station knocked off air by the storm.

But reporter Nisha Dupuis stayed on the air using her phone. And look at this, a selfie stick.

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NISHA DUPUIS, RADIO ANGUILLA REPORTER: So we're here at Radio Anguilla. All of our signal is now down. Hurricane Irma, it seems that she is still approaching us with this force so strong. Many of these are being blown down and we are being flooded even within the radio station. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Nisha joins us now on the telephone. Let me start by applauding your ingenuity, 19 years old. That's pretty impressive to keep on. Tell us right now, right now, what's the biggest worry and biggest concern on Anguilla?

DUPUIS (via telephone): The biggest concern on Anguilla at this time is definitely sourcing essential supplies for persons who have been so badly affected by Hurricane Irma. I mean there are children -- mother and then children who are left -- who are now left homeless due to the damage done here by Hurricane Irma. So water, basic supplies, food, clothing is also very important.

The electricity company predicted that we are to be out of electricity for a substantial amount of time, some generators are also a very (INAUDIBLE) at this time. Because we are in survival mood, basic supplies are most essential right now.

KING: Nisha, your mother works as a nurse at the local hospital. Describe the situation there. I understand it was heavily, heavily damaged.

DUPUIS: Yes. I remember receiving a voice note for her -- from her some time after 5:00, after 6:00. And she was just letting me know that the roof was being blown away and they were experiencing flooding.

[12:40:04] Now, imagine you're separated from your family at this time and you're having these influx of messages coming in, the terror that runs through your body when you not only think of your mother, but you think of the patient, you think of the other nurses who are risking their lives just to be able to help other people.

But yes, the hospital, the one hospital on the island of Anguilla, (INAUDIBLE) hospital has been badly affected, the maternity ward completely blown off. They sustained a severe damage due to Hurricane Irma.

KING: We just showed the pictures there you sent into us of the hospital. That's amazing destruction there. How about communications from officials about where to get key supplies, where to get medical attention if you need it? How is that going?

DUPUIS: Well, right now is really is a community effort. Everyone is uniting and sharing information. Social leader is a show way, you are able to get WiFi, also radio is up.

I saw they are communicating to the National Center -- the National Operation -- Emergency, pardon. They are relaying information very heavily to the local radio station, recently volunteered as the public information officer. So, we're just trying to get as much press releases as possible. Right now, even as we speak, there is a Red Cross station outside of the police station, where people are able to come and get essential supplies. There are also different efforts being made, relief effort and something as simple as charging cord coming so crucially at this time. So there are people who are just setting up charging points outside of their establishments just so people could come and get their electronics charge up just to be able to stay connected with what's happening. In terms of government officials, I am aware that they have been coming over and doing interviews.

Communication is an issue because, yes, service, phone lines but I believe that everyone is doing their best to keep everyone informed, even under the dire circumstances.

KING: Nisha Dupuis, we appreciate your time today. We also appreciate, again, your ingenuity and tenacity to stay in touch on the tiny island of Anguilla, 35 square miles. We see the pictures of the devastation. Wish you the best in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you very much for your time today.

Up next, we check in on another Florida community hit hard by Irma.

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[12:46:35] KING: Welcome back. Another city that found itself in Irma's crosshairs, Bradenton, Florida, that's just south of the Tampa, Saint Petersburg area. CNN's Diane Gallagher is on the ground there, getting a sense of how hard hit that community has. She's with us right now.

Diane, what are you seeing?

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, John, actually we're in, what we're calling a roaming coverage vehicle. So, we've got like 360 view of everything. If you'd take a look at these cameras all along here, you can see right now they're doing a lot of sewage that's coming up, overflowing of sewage and trees that are down.

And in fact in just a little bit, we're going to come up to the stop that you see ahead. I'm going to show you one of the larger ones that we've been watching throughout the day then cut apart. Just about an hour and a half ago, we couldn't get really get across this road here and that is because this large tree that you can see, the roots, the kids that are playing on it now was completely uprooted in across this road.

We've been watching people get and this is sort of something we've seen across the entire area breaking to them. I'm getting out of this car now, I'm going to cross in front because we aren't seeing too many cars in the road because they are still underneath a sort of a stay inside, we don't want you out here. There's a curfew until 3:00 p.m. And I'm going to give you and idea, I am almost 6 feet tall John, I am -- you can see just how large this is, this root here

Something fun for the kids to play on of course, but the big thing that they're looking at now was the fact that these are taking out power. We can't even get to the Bradenton Beach area because the police are not letting people on there because of live wires. There are so many live wires on the ground right now.

We watched firefighters who were unable to get trees just like this one that they have been able to walk from across roadways that are blocked in this area because there are so many live wires sparking right now. And you could see there are some people now trying to get into their communities for the first time. A lot of people evacuated. This family here actually stayed. They had just finished renovating their home to prevent hurricane destruction.

They said that it actually wasn't so uncomfortable. They were expecting far more than this. They thought they were going to have -- you can go ahead and come on through. They thought that they were going to have some sort of flooding, they didn't really have the storm surge, John. But I can tell you that we have seen some homes on the other side of Bradenton be ripped up. We're going to be going there a little bit later today to check in on them again.

KING: Diane Gallagher in Bradenton and at a minimum, it made us say a huge mess that is going to take weeks and weeks and weeks to clean up, get all the power back. Diane Gallagher, I appreciate the firsthand insights there.

Up next, emotional moments from the president then the vice president today. as they, along with all of us, paid tribute to those lost on the day we will never forget.

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[12:53:13] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard Dennis Allen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Richard L. Allen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christopher E. Allingham.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anna S.W. Allison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Janet Marie Alonso.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A solemn and very important ritual today in New York, the reading of the names lost, those lost on 9/11. We close with this today.

The president and the first lady earlier today at the White House for the traditional moment of silence and later at the Pentagon, paying tribute.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of them loved this country and pledged their very lives to protect it. That September morning, each of those brave Americans died as they had lived, as heroes doing their duty and protecting us and our country. We mourn them, we honor them, and we pledge to never, ever forget them.

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KING: Sixteen years later, the list is growing. The New York Police Department this morning saying 33 more officers who fought through the smoke and dust on that day have died of 9/11 related illnesses.

Today, the vice president, Mike Pence standing at the side of the United Flight 93 crash, that's in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. If you don't know the heroism, you should study it. The vice president saying thank you to the passengers who fought the hijackers.

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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will always believe that I and many others in our nation's capital were able to go home that day to hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of the heroes of Flight 93.

[12:55:10] So for me it's personal. And I speak on behalf of a grateful nation. But thank you for giving me the privilege of speaking on behalf of my little family as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He's at the White House on that day. Forget a lot of things in life and that one plays back and back and back like a movie. To all of those who gave their lives that day, we, of course, thank you.

Thanks for joining us in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer is up after a quick break.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer.