tv NBC Nightly News NBC January 11, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
the tragedy here in tucson. tonight, a progress report on congresswoman giffords and a new phase she's entering in her treatment and recovery. and tonight, loved ones of victims and survivors come forward. we've learned more of their stories and for the first time we've heard from the family of the accused assassin. and the other big story tonight. severe weather. it has spped parts of the south. now it's barrelling north. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television a special good evening to those of you watching in the
west. we say good evening from tucson, arizona. we're here in tucson outside of university medical center. congresswoman gabby giffords is recovering along with some of the other victims of saturday's shooting. we have a number of new developments on her condition and a new phase she's entering in her treatment and recovery. the doctors say this next phase is up to her to get better. the stories continue to come out and so many are so sad. many of them are inspiring though as we learn more about those affected, those who lived. those who died. we've just heard from the family of the troubled young man being held for this mass murder. we want to begin with nbc's lester holt who is on opposite side of the hospital complex tonight. lester, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening. congresswoman giffords is said to be holding her own. the doctors say no further brain swelling and for now she appears to be defying the odds.
>> when she starts to become mobile -- >> the surgeon treating congress woman giffords is as blunt as he is encouraged by her condition. >> she has no right to look this good given the type of injury. so many people do so poorly after this kind of penetrating injury to the brain. >> reporter: the dr. michael lemole said giffords has flashed what appears to be a thumb's up, to breathe unassisted. but the road ahead is still unknown. >> this is the frustrating thing about this kind of injury. for us as physicians, for the family and patient it comes at its own course over months and longer, sometimes. >> bill heileman's wife, suzys took their neighbor, 9-year-old christina taylor green to meet the congresswoman. suzy was shot several times and underwent more surgery today. christina was killed. >> what kinds of things has she expressed? >> the initial horror upon realization that bullets were being fired and cars were not backfiring which they had before they were hit.
the eyes of the man who was doing it, which will be emblazed in her memory forever. the realization that, indeed, they were hit. her crying out, christina, christina, let's run, let's run, had her by the hand and then her very, very vivid memories of being on the ground bleeding profusely thinks she was dying. >> arizona's governor voiced the collective mood. >> there's no way to measure what tucson and all of arizona lost in that moment. the statistics, six dead, 14 wounded, and in no way explain the depth of this tragedy. >> reporter: a depth it seems no one here can escape. >> where this occurred was a mere few miles from where i live. and we shop at that safeway. so, yes, this hit home very, very deeply. >> reporter: late today, the
arizona legislature voted to ban a group from protesting at the funeral of christina taylor green. it's the same group that's protested some u.s. military funerals that protection is extended to the funerals of all victims and, brian, the house here in arizona is expected to pass that bill and the governor to quickly sign it. it will apply to all the victims here. >> imagine a group wanting to come here and protest as a 9-year-old girl's funeral. be that as it may, lester holt on the other side of this hospital complex here tonight. thanks. as we watched family members come forward today at the news conference, the words, the humanity of two sisters stood out. their mother daisy stoddard survived the shooting because her husband, dory, a 76-year-old retired construction worker, active in his church here in tucson, used his body to shield her from the gunman's
attack. he lost his life while saving hers. >> they married 15 years ago. they were 6th grade girlfriend and boyfriend. >> they have been married 40 years to wonderful other mates and when their mates died within a year apart, they remet and married shortly thereafter and it's been a blessing for all of us. >> they had a wonderful, loving life together. >> he's walking with the lord now but what a way to go. as the hero, he lived that kind of a life. >> their mother, the two women say, is doing well. both daughters say she has the strength and the courage she's going to need to move forward from this. and we turn now tonight to the suspect in this case, the accused assassin, jared lee loughner, by all accounts, a very troubled 22-year-old man. so much so, in fact, that many people are saying that the main story of this tragedy is more
mental health than it is issues like the political process. tonight we finally heard from his family in our own mike taibbi is live outside the family home in tucson. mike, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, how are you, brian? in a written statement late today the parents of the suspect said we wish we could change the heinous events of saturday. we care deeply about the victims and families and we're so very sorry for their loss. the question remains, how could the parents of jared loughner been unaware of what their only child was thinking and allegedly planning living in the same house? secluded in their modest home, amy and randy loughner told the neighbor, wayne smith, to say a few words about how they were doing. in the aftermath of the tragedy their son is charged with creating they, too, are suffering. >> they're hurting bad. she's really bad. we may have to put her in the hospital. >> reporter: while they knew
their son had problems they had no idea how far he had spiralled down. >> it's a sad thing. their son did this, not amy and randy. and people need to understand that. >> reporter: but many wonder how loughner's parents could not have questions which looks like a shrine in the backyard with a candles and replica skull. they wonder why they didn't see and hear what the classmates and teachers at pima community college heard from him in outbursts. tirades and some found terrifying and not just now and then, says his former classmate. >> this kid was so off the wall -- >> reporter: every day? >> every day. so for, i don't know, for people not to notice, i find that hard to believe. >> reporter: but it seems loughner's parents lost touch with him. george, the father of one of his best friends, said loughner's parents showed up unannounced one day looking for jared.
>> my son told me he was gone for an entire week. >> and the parents didn't know where he was. >> did they know his other influences? allegedly smoking pot and the over-the-counter hallucinogen like salvia and he likes documentaries that were scarey about government conspiracy theories. and he cut himself off from his friends. >> basically, he called or texted them and said, you know, i don't want anything to do with you anymore. >> reporter: isolated in his own home and apparently propelled by demons his parents say they never saw. federal investigators tell nbc news that loughner's parents have, in fact, cooperated fully with the investigation right from the beginning. brian? >> all right, mike taibbi not far from here at the house. mike, thanks. given the troubled past of the man charged with these
shootings, jared loughner, it's predicted that he'll use a weapon like this, very possible his lawyers will decide to present an insanity defense. will that work? our justice correspondent pete williams has been looking at that question all day today in our washington newsroom. >> reporter: the insanity defense is attempted in less than 1% of the thousands of criminal cases and when they do it works about a quarter of the time. congress made it harder after a jury found john hinkley not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of president reagan after that, congress and many states, made it harder, they said a mental disease or defect. a defendant could not tell right from wrong. someone who's found not guilty by reason of insanity is sentenced to treatment at a mental hospital and can be released if no longer judged to be a danger. but arizona and three other states, do not allow verdicts of not guilty by reason of insanity. instead, defendants be found guilty but insane and sent to a
mental hospital as they would be elsewhere. but in those states including arizona, if they're considered no longer a danger, they're not released but transferred to prison to serve out their sentences. >> pete williams with that from washington. pete, thanks. we'll let you know that tomorrow, president obama heads here to tucson for a memorial service at the university of arizona. he will also visit with survivors and families. we'll have more from here a bit later on but first, we need to turn all the way to the east to the day's other big news. the major winter storm that has all but paralyzed the southeast and has led to at least 11 deaths. our ron ron meyer is with us tonight from frozen and paralyzed, atlanta, georgia. ron, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. the hot question is when will it get warm enough, long enough, to burn off some of the snow and ice from the roads. the answer is, not soon enough.
breaking the ice in atlanta, blow by blow, officials literally pounding the pavement to get traffic moving again. a jackknifed big-rig snarled one interstate highway here overnight, just one of a handful of tieups. >> i've been out there since 10:00 with no food or drink. >> reporter: eventually, crews got the jam unplugged but not before a rocky mountain of criticism about the government's response. >> i've been off work for two days. i grew up in detroit and i've never had two days off of school or work or anything. >> reporter: a limited number of snow plows are working. private and public, the city has just eight. getting around was treacherous. these two plowed into one another. >> the ice was too much. >> reporter: the scene across much of atlanta was either slow motion or no motion at all. >> we heard one take off, 20 minutes ago. the first one of the day. >> reporter: from the world's busiest airport where some 1500 flights were cancelled to the bus station where hundreds got
an unscheduled layover. >> we're stuck here. i want to go home. >> reporter: but for many, going home won't be easy. whether it's across country or across town. >> i'm not trying to fly out. this is my destination. i'm just trying to drive out of here and that looks like it's going to be hours. it's like a winter wonderland out there. you wonder if you'll make it. >> reporter: no one will make it to the nba basketball game tonight. it's been postponed. the city has brought in six times the usual number of pieces of equipment to fight this snow and ice to get atlanta back on the road. brian? >> the great ron mott working late. the second and third night in the snow and ice in what is normally called hot lanta. and the storm system is headed up the eastern seaboard, another direct it will for new york city is being predicted. airlines are pre-emptively cancelling blocks of flights.
as they tend to do. here's what the storm path looks like. heavy snow and winds make their way up the coast. another direct hit forecast for new york city. they've already declared a weather emergency in advance. in boston a blizzard warning posted from early-morning through late evening tomorrow. the storm will intensify as it moves north and you can see the expected totals. ics to ten in the city, more north of the city, that vague generic 12 inches plus in boston. greater amounts in new england as the storm goes on up and dissipates. when our broadcast continues in just a moment, athe scenes from australia that some americans are comparing to what they saw during katrina. and later, a member of our own team who happens to be from this town, she talks about how her hometown is coping with this tragedy.
overseas to australia where the flooding in queensland continues to be catastrophic. for weeks as we reported the flooding has been in mostly small towns but now the water is moving in on brisbane, the third largest city. michelle kosinski has more on this growing disaster. >> reporter: from above, it was it was a 26-foot high wall of water. but on the ground, there seemed no bounds to it. unstoppable through this town in queensland. it ripped homes from foundations. those that remained were islands, residents clinging to roofs. people were caught by surprise in their cars. this couple narrowly rescued. others plucked from the raging water itself. this man held on to a tree while vehicles were swept around him. now, brisbane, australia's third largest city of 2 million people is where all this water is heading as soon as tomorrow night.
evacuations have started. this has claimed 20 lives since late december with nearly 80 people missing. in some cases, entire families. in this video posted on youtube, people watch their creek quickly rising and overtaking its banks -- >> that's coming fast. should we move the cars? >> reporter: but there was no time. >> oh, my god. let it go. >> reporter: one man saves his truck just before the creek is a run-away river and their cars pebbles in it. carelessly piled up out of it. weeks of water have swelled to what might be one of this region's worst disasters ever. >> incredible pictures. and we have late word from l.a., michael jackson's
in his other job as an actor, he he has won two academy awards. he's been undergoing treatment for throat cancer over the winter, diagnosed in august. this week he announced some good news in an interview with matt lauer. >> i feel good, relieved that the tumor is gone. but, you know, i have to check out on a monthly basis now to maintain. i guess there's been a total euphoria. i'll probably take a couple of months of getting checked out to feel -- but it's been a wild six-month ride. >> he looks good and his voice sounds great. our friend, michael douglas, told our friend matt, he lost 32 pounds during his cancer treatment and he's now, quote, eating like a horse to get back to his healthy, fighting weight. college football championship game was up in phoenix last night and after a moment of silence, of course, for the tucson shooting victims, the game between oregon and
auburn was on and it ended on a nail-biter with auburn kicking a field goal just as time expired for the 22-19 win. auburn's first national football title 70s 1957. retired army major dick winters has died. he was best known as the leader of the 101st airborne division's easy company during world war ii. the band of brothers in the book and later in a series on hbo, where he was portrayed by actor damian lewis as a natural leader who took care of his men above all easy company parachuted into france and played a huge role in the d-day invision and fought their way across europe. winter's always denied he was a hero saying, instead, he served in a company of them. dick winters was 92 years old. when we come back here tonight, more on the story that brought us here to tucson. our own savannah guthrie grew up here and she's here with us tonight with a look at her
place. think about the oklahoma city bombing. to a person, the folks here have welcomed us when they see us. and they've all said welcome to tucson and as quickly, they say, we're so sorry for what brings you here. they are justifiably proud of where they live and are devastated over what has happened. one of them happens to be our white house correspondent, savannah guthrie. she grew up a mile away from where this happened. and you told me the safeway is your mom's grocery store. >> that's where she goes. so many people have said it could have been me. this is a vibrant and diverse place. there's a mix of rural and urban. a rich native american heritage and hispanic heritage. the politics have gotten rough lately but the people want you to know this place is about much more than that. this is the tucson people here wish you knew. a city of postcard-perfect views
nestled between the mountains and among the cactus. a town proud of its university, especially its basketball team. a thoroughly modern city celebrating its western roots. today it's a community nursing a collective wound. >> gabby is, you know, she's a tucson girl. that's why it hurts so much. they're one of us. >> at this cafe today, everyone said the same thing. >> tucson is the biggest small town you could ever possibly live in. there's -- i would say there's not even six degrees of separation between people. it's like i just met you. but your sister comes in here every day. >> reporter: there's something about a place with triple-digit temperatures five months a year, settled by the spanish, once a part of mexico, the city embraces its hispanic heritage and its dusty, desert character. a little grittier than it's cosmopolitan neighbor to the north, tucson is the unphoenix.
old-timers still bristle over the time "life" magazine declared their main drag the ugliest street in america. the owner of a downtown historic hotel says there's a word to describe this place. >> it's been characterized as "funky." but funky means real and a real place to live as opposed to some imaginary land where everything looks pretty and may not be. >> reporter: recently, state politics have been anything but pretty. a hot house of bitter battles of illegal immigration. life-long residents like this local nbc station anchor worry. >> it is a different community now. that's for sure. but i'm hoping that as we grow, we can remember to keep some of those good things about tucson. >> reporter: a place not just of heat, but warmth. and now, the healing starts, brian, not just in the building behind us but among this community. they'll do it together and, of course, the president will be
here tomorrow for a memorial service. >> every reason to be a proud daughter of tucson. savannah guthrie with us tonight. that's our broadcast for this tuesday night. thank you for being with us. i'm brian williams, reporting from university medical center here in tucson. we hope to see you again tomorrow evening. good night. . a good sign but still not out of the woods. a new leader at the helm. what the mayor, ed lee, has in store for san francisco. when the dreary skies will finally give. thanks for joining us on this chilly night. i'm jessica. >> and i'm tom