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tv   CNN Newsroom With Pamela Brown  CNN  December 11, 2021 5:00pm-6:00pm PST

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destruction and devastation, as a swarm of deadly tornados slam through six states, killing at least 79 people. in kentucky, a candle factory flattened. officials digging through the rubble looking for survivors. >> i just came from there. we're going to lose a lot of lives in that facility.
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>> families outside of the facility desperate for news about their loved ones. >> i've been looking for her ever since 10:30 tonight. please help me. in illinois, an amazon warehouse partially collapsed. >> i have no idea what's going on. we're worried sick. we want to know if he's okay. >> president biden offers federal support. >> this is one of those times when we aren't democrats or republicans. sounds like hyperbole, but it's real. we're all americans. we stand together as the united states of america. and so i say to all the victims, you're in our prayers. >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. >> i'm pamela brown in mayfield, kentucky, the epicenter of the deadliest december day for tornados on record. more than 70 people are feared dead from a devastating spring of tornados across a half dozen states.
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the death toll climbs, sunlight fades, temperatures are dropping as rescuers now battle darkness, the cold and the clock. winds ripped apart an amazon warehouse in western illinois killing at least six people. the wreckage is exceedingly dangers for rescue crews who are painstakingly searching for survivors, still right now as we speak here in mayfield where i am and beyond. in arkansas, a tornado decimated a nursing home. at least one person was killed there, many people were trapped and at least 20 injured. here in mayfield, dozens of people are missing after a tornado flattened a candle factory and we spoke to one man who rushed to this factory where his wife worked. he managed to pull two people out of the rubble, but his wife is still missing and each passing moment is agony. >> i want to find my wife.
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i want to find out if she's somewhere safe. i hope she's somewhere safe. please call me as soon as we get connected. please call me. i'm looking for you, baby. we've been looking for you. we're all looking for you right now. >> just heart-wrenching to take that in, just such devastation there. last check, he's still not had any work on his wife. more than 30 tornados raked across six states. cnn metrologists say one single twister may have ripped a 250-mile swath of damage from arkansas to kentucky where i am. that would be a record. our correspondents are on the scene of those areas shattered by the tornados and are following all of the latest efforts. dawson springs is a popular
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tourist destination. that's where we find ed lavandera. what are you seeing there, ed? >> reporter: we're about 70 miles east of where you are there in mayfield and you can imagine the dread that people were feeling here last night as they were hearing and seeing the reports of these twisters moving from the west to the east across the state of kentucky. we spoke with one gentleman here who is watching and tracking the storm on his radar and when he saw that his neighborhood was about to take a direct hit, he left this very area that we are in and it is probably the one decision that saved his life. many of the homes in this neighborhood look like what you see minbehind me. it looks like it's the epicenter of an explosion that stretched across several miles of this community. hundreds and hundreds of homes destroyed. many people displaced. county officials here have set up a -- cottages at a nearby
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state park to house the people who have been left homeless by this storm. the medical examiner here in hopkins county tells us that this storm killed ten people in this area and the neighborhood that we are in is one of the hardest hit in the county. earlier today, the governor of kentucky came here to dawson springs. >> my dad's hometown of dawson springs. population 2,700. they're going to lose a lot of people. one block from my grandparents' house, there's no house standing. there's no house standing and we don't know where all those people are. >> and, pamela, we got here late this afternoon as the sun was starting to set. we're on a hill top overlooking. as far as we can see, this kind of destruction that you see behind me, the magnitude of this storm here and the intensity of it and what it has done to this
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community has simply left people stunned here tonight. pamela? >> it's the same way here in mayfield, just -- the devastation is as far as the eye can see. ed lavandera, thank you so much. let's go to edwardsville, illinois, that's the site of the partially collapsed amazon warehouse. the governor spoke last hour. what did he have to say? >> reporter: pamela, as we approach almost 24 hours since that twister touched down here in western illinois and you can see causing that damage behind me and with that partial collapse of this amazon fulfillment center, the governor sharing information that nobody wanted to hear in this part of illinois now. updating that death toll from two to six people confirmed dead at this particular location here. and also, some other disheartening developments to share with you, pamela. authorities on the ground saying that this is now officially transitioning from a search and rescue to a search and recovery
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effort. one local official here in the last hour saying at this point they have no hope of pulling any survivors from what you see behind me here. you see part of the building that collapsed when that tornado touched down, almost 24 hours ago here, but there's still a big question as to whether or not there are still any people actually missing. that's because at this point, based on the information, they did not have a set staff that was deployed here. amazon representatives are working with officials to find out if in fact there could potentially be any other people -- any other persons who were lost yesterday. meanwhile, as you mentioned a little while ago, we did hear from illinois' governor just a few moments ago, sharing a message of condolence for those families that were affected. >> please know that the people of illinois stand with you. we are one illinois. in this moment and in the days, months and years to come, you
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are not alone. we will stand with you to help you through your grief and then to honor your loved ones. may their memory be a blessing. >> as we prepare to send things back to kentucky, pam, a couple -- several questions, actually, on the ground. the big question as to whether or not there are people that have to be recovered from the rubble. but then also the big question as to what kind of protocols were in place to keep those employees sheltered and protected as that severe weather was threatening. we heard from officials in the last hour say that this building did not have a basement. so there's certainly that big question as to -- whether or not these employees actually had the opportunity to save their lives. >> polo sandoval, thank you so much. the historic destruction will leave lasting damage to the effected areas and residents have a long rebuilding process ahead of them. joining me now by phone is
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daniel carr, a restaurant co-owner in mayfield, kentucky. daniel, you probably can't even think about rebuilding right now. you're probably still processing what happened in your town and your restaurant here in mayfield. >> it was totally devastating. we really haven't been able to think about rebuilding yet. and we spent last night, my family, in the basement. we got up early this morning and made our way downtown through all the debris and rubble and just saw, you know, a flattened complete downtown. building after building, block after block. my first thought was about our staff and people that got us through covid and all of these challenges over the last two years. the only place they have, they rely on us for income and a job, what they were going to do and for our customers that have lost their homes, their cars, their businesses. and the community as a whole,
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completely gutted and devastated. we've lost so much just in the last 24 hours. all of our history and our buildings and businesses and our homes. it's just been totally devastating. >> and the buildings are decimated, but the spirit of community is still very much alive here. just what i've seen, being in mayfield for a short time tonight and the ways that the people are coming together, if you would, though, tell us, what this community -- what it was like this downtown area where your restaurant was, where i am now, what it was like. paint a picture for us before this tornado came through last night. >> sure. well, we're about a block from the square. even neighboring communities have come to our aid and it's been outstanding and inspiring. before the tornado hit, our restaurant has been there for the last 11 years and it's in a building that was 150 years old.
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a lot of history. really neat building. and that's how all the historic buildings, churches we had in town. really beautiful, really neat places to visit as far as whether you're from the area or not. it was just a really nice place, really neat community. really good people. and everybody is really hurting right now. >> how are your staff and co-workers doing right now? >> we've touched base with everyone and made sure everybody was okay. everybody is struggling in different ways, whether they're worried about their jobs and the holidays. several of them really -- they lost their home, they lost their apartment, their vehicles were destroyed. everybody is trying to figure out what to do next and we're trying to figure out how we can help them. we're very community-oriented and, community-involved from day one. now, without the restaurant, how
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do we move forward. what's the next step to keep pushing our community forward and everybody around us. >> i know people -- not just here, but all across the country want to help as well and you can go top for ways to help residents of mayfield and beyond. thank you for coming on the show to tell us about your experience and what happened with your restaurant and we just wish you the very best as you look ahead to rebuilding. >> thank you so much. my next guest lived through the violent storms that pummelled this community and shot these aerial images showing the aftermath. he describes what he saw as insane. he joins me next. get groceries, gifts, & more fast and easy so last minute guests are the only thing you'll be waiting on
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and we're back now with our breaking news coverage. it is a cold, bone-chilling night here in mayfield, kentucky. there is so much sadness all around me. this is where the tornado damage is really just stunning, as far as the eye can see. this -- i'm just about a block away here from the town square, from the courthouse. and you can see here these huge buildings that once stood here, about 24 hours ago, now decimated here in this town. the traffic lights, the poles are down as you see right here. it is just a mess. and this is the way it looks like everywhere. the town of mayfield, a town of $10,000 people, a town that was decorated for christmas, people were here enjoying festivities for the holidays, now it's a town of sorry and devastation as you see and the pictures tell the story and looking at it is
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all you need to know in terms of what is happening here in this town. cars driving through, first responders still on the scene, trying to pull survivors from the wreckage. but, of course, there's agony with every passing minute for those who have not been found. the mayor of mayfield telling cnn earlier today that the storms left her city looking, quote, like match sticks. right now an urgent search for survivors that is under way after that series of powerful tornados wrecked entire towns and likely killed more than 70 people. some of the worst damage is here in mayfield where i am here in kentucky, my home state. whitney westerfield captured the drone video showing the devastation from the tornados. he's also a state senator who has been speaking with constituents impacted by the storm. tell us about your experience
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over the past 24 hours as you were able to capture these heartbreaking images of your home state. >> well, you captured it pretty accurately. it's get-wrenching and stunning. it's a breath-taking amount of damage. i wasn't prepared for that. i spent some time in a basement here in christian county not knowing whether we were going to have the same short of touchdowns here and we had some close to here. after the storm passed and i gathered my stuff, i headed over to mayfield. i wanted to observe the damage for myself. i wasn't prepared for what i saw. the drone got in the air and the devastation and the path of destruction was enormous. even from outside of the city center there, where some of the most news worthy images have shown a lot of damage. as you mentioned, power lines are down two or 3 miles outside of town. it's just a very, very bad situation in graves county. >> it's really remarkable.
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i've covered a lot of -- sadly, tornado damage in my career and what strikes me is just how widespread it is. everywhere you look, as far as the eye can see, buildings are flattened. this town is decimated. what have you been hearing from your constituents? >> well, i've talking to folks, my contacts and friends and loved ones in the graves county and surrounding county areas. all of them dealing with power outages, dealing with neighbors who have been spared and neighbors who haven't been spared from the damage of the tornado. this tornado was on the ground for 227 miles and 200 of that in kentucky. if the reporting i've heard is accurate. and so the damage is just incalculable. while most of the damage and most of the fatalities are right there in graves county, we've got fatalities all over western
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kentucky. bowling green, hopkins county, it's just a tragic, incredibly tragic loss of life to a lot of folks. i know the message that we're getting from the governor's office is to donate blood, if you can, and to donate to what the state has set up a central donating portal and i can give you that web address if you all don't already have it. but the governor has tweeted it out. i encourage people to do both of those things, donate blood and give to the central portal to help rebuild the folks here in west kentucky. >> that is so important, the folks here in western kentucky. not just here. they're going to need help in the near future, but in the long run too. i think about all that these folks have gone through, getting through a pandemic, how difficult that must have been going through that and now this, it is just so -- go ahead.
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a few weeks before christmas. from all accounts, this -- the town where i am right here, this town square was lit up for christmas. again, 24 hours ago, you had a town here, lit up for christmas, holiday festivities going on and then it's just wiped out suddenly and we knew that there could be -- >> this is my first experience with this sort of thing and i haven't seen this sort of damage and destruction in person like that before. the images of people standing outside their homes, there was a little boy standing outside of home who not much older than my daughter. i thought about our little girl being in that position and standing in what's left of their home. not just two weeks before christmas, but here in the middle of winter when it's so cold. just -- you add that on top of the incredible loss of life. it's a very challenging day for these people. >> it's so challenging: i think about waking up in a warm bed and just -- you take that for
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granted so easily, right, when you think about all the people here in mayfield and beyond, what they're going through, now losing their homes in the middle of winter, just weeks before christmas. thank you for coming on and sharing your story with us and for sharing your drone footage with us as well to help us better understand what happened. we talked a lot about how you can help. for more information about that, how you can help these tornado victims, go to one storm chaser followed the tornados all the way from missouri to tennessee to right here in mayfield, kentucky. he'll join me live up next. what can i du with less asthma? with dupixent, i can du more....beginners' yoga.
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and welcome back to "cnn newsroom." i'm pamela brown live in mayfield, kentucky, where the devastation from a series of tornados is staggering. there are mountains of rubble behind me here. kentucky governor andy beshear says at least 70 people are feared dead. but he thinks that number could be above 100 before the day ends. a string of tornados was on the ground for more than 200 miles, lashing across six states, including kentucky, tennessee and missouri. watch what our affiliate saw when the reporter toured kentucky earlier today. >> this right here, i mean, it's every home, every tree, every tree is snapped. every power line is down.
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cars -- there's cars flipped over. look at this van right here. thrown into this ditch. look at this home right here. it's not even there anymore. that's just the foundation and a couple walls. we passed a house earlier where you could still see the children's clothes hanging in the closet. it's just devastate -- just absolutely devastating. even trooper mcpherson says he's never seen anything like this in his life. it's heartbreaking. >> joining me now to discuss is storm chaser michael gordon who experienced last night's storms. michael, tell us about what you first saw when you came across the tornados. >> yeah, i mean, i followed and watched the tornados start spawning out of the arkansas area and intercepted it near missouri where that same
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supercell tornado traveled the next, i believe, roughly 200 miles through tennessee and then into kentucky. seeing that tornado was -- to be honest i've never been that close to a tornado. i didn't expect to be that close to that tornado. i didn't expect it to be as large as it was. when that thing went in front of my truck on the highway, i went, whoa, i mean, it was loud. even with my windows rolled up, before i rolled my winds down, it was a loud roar. you could feel the tremors coming off of the -- the radiation coming off of the decycling of the tornado. you could hear debris just whipping throughout the air. watching power flashes as it
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went towards -- i'm trying to think of the name now, sorry. but as it went towards there, you could see it having power flashes throughout the power lines and then after that sequence, you know, i kind of decided, you know, the storms were pushed off, i started my way towards mayfield. when i arrived in mayfield, total devastation. it was flashing lights in every direction. red and blue lights. you could see it 360 degrees. there were lights -- like i said, in every direction. and just as i pulled up off the
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interstate there -- or highway, it -- the buildings were just gone. it was something -- i haven't seen anything like that, the devastation within mayfield is more than any of the storms i've ever been in. seeing the buildings leveled, it's heartbreaking to see the candle factory. i was there first thing, about 10:30 last night, and it those first responders were working as hard as they could to try and help and remove debris and save lives. >> many of them still are. they worked a full day yesterday, then through the night and now they're still working there at the candle
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factory and beyond and the search and rescue effort. this is historic for kentucky. i'm from kentucky. this is damage like this state has not seen from a tornado that spanned more than 200 miles in terms of the track that it was on. tell us more about what made this storm different than previous storms that you have chased. the size of the tornado. very large, but also it was moving at a very high rate of speed anywhere between 50 and 60 miles per hour, maybe a little more. it was a very dangerous storm. also, it was at night, of course, so it was a nocturnal tornado which made it very dangerous. the things that i'm seeing --
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that i seen throughout mayfield, it looked like there were multiple votices through mayfield. you have bands on the outer sides that get almost wiped out as well but then you have inner areas within mayfield that didn't get that much damage. i'm not saying they didn't get that much damage. they still got damage. but not the devastation that you're seeing within the center line through mayfield. >> michael gordon, it's just stunning to hear what you saw and heard with this historic -- these historic storms that swept through here in mayfield and beyond, five other states. thank you for coming onto share your experience with us. >> appreciate it, thank you.
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hurricane katrina years ago, he's seen things now that he didn't now. and i'm joined by the man praised by taking charge during carter. retired general russel honore. general, thank you so much for joining me. you're right there in baton rouge. i know you don't have eyes on everything here on the ground where i am now in kentucky. but from what you see, what do you think of the disaster response so far? >> well, i think the search and rescue is moving with us most expeditiously that the governor and county officials, from everything i see moving fast and neighbors helping neighbors. i stayed up past midnight last night watching that line of storms and the warnings and how much things have changed from past years. the warnings were significant. with current technology and local media giving people
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warnings, that saved untold lives. the impact of a tornado with this taken down to grid inside those areas were -- it touched down for 200 miles is going to be a significant challenge while many of the people who are first responders that are out there, many of them, themselves are survivors. so you got the outside teams coming in. the unique thing about a tornado, you can go 10 miles away and it looked like nothing happened. surrounding communities will be able to put their arms around their fellow citizens and help them. and the governor, from what i've been hearing, both on television, watching them all day. they're doing a superb job and seem to be asking for the right stuff. the big issue right now is to get the white house and fema to approve individual assistance. the fema director was on earlier tonight and this is a criticism -- not a criticism but
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an observation. said that will start later. that needs to start tomorrow so people can find nearby hotels and fema can issue instructions so they can go online and apply. they need not the wait for the governors to ask for individual assistance. with a presidential declaration, it's coming. it just needs to start and be a simultaneous operation. the next piece is when we transition to recovery. we're going to need trailers for people to move in. it's cold. unlike ida, people were able to survive for three months without getting a trailer from the state and up to five months for a fema trailer, those people are going to need trailers now so they can start recovering and the first responders are going to need man camps, work camps, so they can be in the town to secure it and to make things happen. and the governor should ask for
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a hospital be put up in the town as the hospital they have i understand is damaged. and they're going to have to evacuate the elderly away from that area. those are some of the big things. but i think they're on track and everybody is working together. good early declaration by the president. >> all right, lieutenant general russel honore, thank you for coming on -- sharing your perspective -- >> one other point here. >> yep. >> i hope they get the supplemental done faster. it took almost a year to get the supplemental done for hurricane laura. senator rand paul held that supplement up over five months because he didn't think the federal government should be paying recovery money. and i hope they get him under control and the people of kentucky don't have to suffer like the people in lake charles did. i'm sure the president is all
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over this. but we should not delay supplemental money to do the recovery that's needed and i hope the individual assistance is approved by noon tomorrow so people can go online or text and get registered with fema. they're doing a great job, great team going on right now. >> all right, general, thank you so much. >> bless you. a devastating death toll from more 30 tornados. the storms cut a path of destruction across at least six states and set records. metrologist chad meyers joins me next.
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this is cnn's breaking news coverage of the deadly storms that crashed through communities in six states, leaving more than 70 people feared dead. i'm in mayfield, kentucky, and earlier this evening i spoke with kyanna parsons-perez. she was stuck under 5 feet of rubble in a collapsed candle factory here in mayfield, and she managed to get out alive. she told me what was going through her mind at the time. >> it was like, is this really happening? in my mind, i couldn't really -- then one of my co-workers she was like, i'm going to die. i'm going to die. call my family. i'm like, girl, shut up, we're not talking like that. we will not talk like that. we're not dying. and it's almost my birthday, we're not dying today. >> so much resilience there as she helped calm her fellow
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colleagues there trapped under the rubble. but there's so much damage, devastation all around me making this the deadliest december day for tornados on record. i want to toss now to chad meyers, metrologist chad we are well into december. how strange is it to see a line of tornadoes in this part of the country this time of year? >> i can tell you from all the data i went back to look at, we haven't seen anything like this as long as we've been keeping decent records. now, is it unusual to have december tornadoes? no. the number is 23. that's a normal, out of the 25 year period, but they're usually around the gulf coast. southern alabama, part of the florida panhandle, georgia, into louisiana. down there where the humidity is, the heat is. not here. but this is what happened yesterday. warm front moved to the north. the normal in memphis
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should have been 56. it was 80 in memphis on a december day. the jet stream also in the way pushing storms at a rapid rate. we had a level four out of five risk for severe weather. that's just one short of the highest risk there was. so we started out about 6:00. we have some storms on the radar. we start to get more and more of these tornado warnings in different areas. here's st. louis. in mayfield. many tornadoes were on the ground at the same time. and this is where the rub is. we had such large tornadoes, these were called super cell tornadoes. the storm itself was all by itself. we typically don't mind storms that look like this. they can make tornadoes ef-0s or 1s, but the energy around it, continues to stay strong. it was on the ground for almost 250 miles. we're still measuring it. we don't know if it skip add little bit or not. whether it cycled, went back
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into the clouds and came back down but there's a damage path from arkansas all the way up to almost louisville. here's some pictures here from the technologies. the building, the nursing home there in monet and here's what it looks like now. you can see right into the rooms. take you over here into the candle factory. what i want you to notice is that there's sheet metal on the roof. that was before. and here's after. where's the sheet metal? not on this picture. maybe a little bit strung out around in here but it was obviously tuorn off. there was a photograph picked up in dawson springs and it was landed. they found it in indiana. 130 miles away. a photograph. 30 tornadoes. 200 severe reports and still the rain moving off the east coast. this is almost done. good news there. >> all right, chad myers.
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thanks for bryning us the latest there. more breaking news storm coverage ahead but first.ining t there. more breaking news storm coverage ahead but first.ging u latest there. more breaking news storm coverage ahead but first. the daughter of space pioneer and michael strahan taking a supersonic joyride to the edge of space. all the action when we return. f. ♪ ♪ this is how we shine... at zales. the diamond store. tums vs. mozzarella stick when heartburn hits, fight back fast with tums chewy bites. fast heartburn relief in every bite. crunchy outside, chewy inside. ♪ tums, tums, tums, tums ♪ tums chewy bites ray loves vacations. but his diabetes never seemed to take one. everything felt like a 'no'. everything.
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i know what i'm going to look like at 85. >> blue origin sending another six americans to the edge of space this morning, including good morning america host michael strahan. it was a third manned space flight for jeff bezos's rocket company. also on board, daughter of legendary astronaut alan shepherd and four other paying customers. in van horn, texas, for the liftoff. this is the rocket booster that blasted six passengers to space on blue origin's third crewed launch. the whole journey lasted just ten minutes and 13 seconds but it was the ride of a lifetime. >> it was a mind trip when all
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of a sudden, you feel your body go like this and you're floating. and then back in a belt and on earth. i'm going to sit at work tomorrow and said, i went to space yesterday. it to be floating again. you want more of it. >> reporter: laura shepherd churchly 12 years old when her father allan shepherd made his historical flight, first american in space. his journey aboard new shepherd, named after her father, was a long time coming and allowed her to experience a little bit of his adventures. >> way back when in '61, i was grateful that i had been a girl because i don't know how i would have followed in daddy's footsteps. so i finally did it. it was wonderful. >> the passengers passed the karmen line, international boundary of space and experienced three minutes of weightlessness before making a parachuted landing back on earth.
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reusability is at the core of blue origin's space strategy and this was the first flight for this vehicle. upon landing, they celebrated with champagne showers and hugs from loved ones. they are still processing the fact that they are now astronauts and the impact this will have on them moving forward. rachel crain, cnn, launch site in texas. one of the toughest nights in kentucky's history. >> destruction and devastation after 32 tornadoes strike six states killing dozens. a candlelight factory live streamed her pleas for help. >> we are trapped. please y'all. get us some help. we're at the candle factory in mayfield. >> people desperately seeking their loved ones. >> i've been looking for her since 10:30. please help me. >> president biden offers federal support. >> this is one of those times when we aren't democrats or republicans. sounds lik


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