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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Oklahoma Tornado Aftermath

Interview

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

BLITZER: Welcome back to Moore, Oklahoma, right outside of Oklahoma City, where rescue efforts are continuing after yesterday's massive tornado.

Joining us now, two special guests, the mayor of Moore, Glenn Lewis, and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.

Governor, Mayor, thanks very much. First of all, our hearts go out to both of you, your communities, your state. What a heart-wrenching story.

Let's get through some of the specifics first. Are there still people missing?

GOV. MARY FALLIN (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, we are waiting to get further information from our search-and-rescue squads.

We don't -- I don't have any current information right now.

GLENN LEWIS, MAYOR OF MOORE, OKLAHOMA: As of now, we do not.

BLITZER: You do not have additional information or you don't know?

LEWIS: No, we don't have anybody missing.

BLITZER: So, there's no one missing?

LEWIS: According to the reports that I just got.

BLITZER: The search-and-rescue operation -- so we don't think, you tell me if I'm right or wrong, Mayor, there are still people trapped under rubble?

LEWIS: No, sir. Anywhere there's an orange mark, like on that car right over there, that means that has been searched twice and a thermal imager has gone over that car.

BLITZER: And the thermal imager can detect if there's a human inside.

LEWIS: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: We were talking. The last time I came to Oklahoma City for an awful, awful story, was 1995, during the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Office Building. That building was -- you were there at the time, too. You were the mayor.

LEWIS: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Compare and contrast then and now.

FALLIN: Well, the damage is -- pretty much looks the same.

BLITZER: Yes. That's what I thought.

FALLIN: At the time, it was just total devastation. And it's remarkable that anyone could survive anything like this, and especially a major tornado that came through of that magnitude and caused such destruction.

It's remarkable that we have had not more loss of life at a time when something's been so widespread.

And we're devastated by the people that have been lost, by the children that have been lost. It's been very hard on this community. But we're also very thankful for the response of our emergency personnel. Certainly, our law enforcement, firemen, police, they have done a tremendous job.

BLITZER: They certainly have.

Was there anything looking back, Mayor, this is -- 50,000, 60,000 people live here in Moore, is that right? Could you have done anything to prevent the destruction, the damage that occurred? You have gone through a lot of tornadoes here.

LEWIS: No, sir, I don't think there's anything else that we as a city could have done and -- or state. Unfortunately, there's just natural occurrences.

BLITZER: The warnings went out. People had some notice of what was going on.

LEWIS: They did.

BLITZER: You have spoken to the president, right?

FALLIN: Yes.

BLITZER: And he's made a commitment to you that whatever is necessary, whatever is necessary you will get?

FALLIN: Absolutely. And we appreciate the president calling. And several of the Cabinet secretaries have called, along with probably over 25 governors have called and offered their assistance.

And what we have to understand about this situation, and they do, is that people are in need now. And we had to first make sure that there were no bodies, no people that were injured, that is within this rubble, and hopefully we have been able to find everybody. We have had rescue teams out. We have had dogs out. The heat imaging equipment has been out. So we're getting comfortable with that. But it's still concerning when you see something like this to wonder if there might be somebody.

But we appreciate their fast action on our emergency declaration. We need services now. We need money now. And we need to get the help on the ground to help these families that are suffering so much. BLITZER: I'm sure you will be getting that.

What's the saddest thing you have seen over the past 24 hours?

LEWIS: Oh, it's been incredible.

The president has called us. He offered us complete assistance. We get our money from FEMA, through the governor's office. She's been excellent. She's been here since the thing occurred. So she's been Johnny-on-the-spot, I'm telling you.

BLITZER: Yes.

LEWIS: And everything has been -- I mean, the response has been incredible. It really has.

FALLIN: I will tell you two sad things.

One was late last night, as I made my tours around this community, I went down to the school, the Plaza Towers that was lost. And it just took my breath away to see that, and to think about parents that have dropped their children off at school in the morning, and as a mother, and thinking how I would feel if that were my child and if I were the parent who had lost someone, and just knowing that -- the heartbreak.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And have you met with some of these families?

FALLIN: I have met with some of the families that have had children that survived. I have tried to give distance to those that have lost someone.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Nine children are dead.

FALLIN: But I have actually been in a facility that was a reunification facility at a church.

And at the time I had gone in there to talk to some of the Red Cross, I heard several wailing crying very, very loud. And it was very disturbing to hear people crying of that magnitude because they just found out that they had lost someone.

BLITZER: A lot of people have asked me on e-mail and Twitter, can't more be done in these elementary schools, to have shelters, concrete bunkers, underground facilities in case of a tornado?

LEWIS: Ever since the '99 tornado, all the new schools that have been here have safe rooms in there. So, we're doing that. Unfortunately, Plaza Towers was one of the older rooms.

Briarwood was a newer model. And there was no casualties there. And it is very much damaged as much as Plaza Towers.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, Governor, you're going to have to make sure all schools have these safe rooms. You get a lot of tornadoes here. And God knows, this could happen again.

(CROSSTALK)

FALLIN: Well, we're certainly going to be having a discussion about that. And we have already been talking about how can we make sure our schools are as safe as possible.

We do have requirements that schools have to have drills. They have to have a plan of action. They have rehearse those things. The schools did respond appropriately. They took their children to safety. Some schools were actually able to move the children out of the schools before it hit. And so we are fortunate that we didn't have more loss of life.

BLITZER: Any new information coming out of the Plaza Towers Elementary School? It's a pre-K through sixth grade. About 500 kids normally would be attending Plaza Towers Elementary School. And that's -- it was literally leveled.

LEWIS: Yes.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I guess I should say, a lot of parents came and got their kids out of school early. Unfortunately, not everyone did. So --

FALLIN: They do have a big crane on the site right now actually picking up huge pieces of debris, trying to lift that up. It's a massive site, as you have seen on the news. And so it's going to take a lot of effort to be able to get down to the bottom of the ground.

BLITZER: I assume there will be a memorial service at some point?

LEWIS: Yes.

BLITZER: And the president will probably come. Did he say he wanted to come to attend that?

LEWIS: We haven't talked to the president about coming to a memorial service yet, because this just literally happened. But he has called several times and expressed anything that he would do anything it took.

We are in the process of planning a memorial right now.

BLITZER: What day?

FALLIN: And we haven't decided on the day yet.

We want to make sure that we give families the opportunities to find their loved ones and make sure everyone's accounted for. And we know it's going to take families a while to find a place to live, to get clothes on their back and to get the medical care that they need. BLITZER: The three of us were at that memorial service in 1995, when President Clinton came after the Murrah Federal Office Building was destroyed.

That was by terrorists. That was manmade destruction. This was a natural disaster.

FALLIN: And a memorial service is very important to the healing of the community, the healing of those that have lost so much.

I think it's important for the nation, too, and even for those around the world that are expressing their sympathy, their concern, that are worried about the people of Oklahoma, and just for the sake of humanity, to know that people can pull together in such a time of need, and especially with prayer.

BLITZER: We're -- we're with you, Governor.

Mayor, good luck to both of you.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: Good luck to your communities.

(CROSSTALK)

FALLIN: Thank you for coming.

BLITZER: You have got a beautiful, a beautiful state, beautiful community.

(CROSSTALK)

FALLIN: We have got great people.

BLITZER: You certainly do.

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