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CNN NEWSROOM

Interview With Andy Slavitt About The COVID Delta Variant; Nine Children, One Adult Killed In 15-Car Pileup In Alabama; Volunteer For NYC Mayoral Candidate Stabbed Multiple Times; Suspect Charged With Murder Of American Student In Russia; Former Nixon Counsel's Book Explores Trump Supporter's Mindset, CNN Tours The Olympic Village; Lost Hiker Survives Bear Attack. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 20, 2021 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:17]

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Tonight, on CNN NEWSROOM, former presidential COVID adviser Andy Slavitt on calling out right-wing talking heads. Plus, his fears about the Delta variant.

And tragedy in Alabama. Nine children and an adult are dead after a horrific Interstate crash. We are on the scene tonight.

Also ahead, CNN takes you on the tour as the Olympic Village is revealed to the world.

And this is a crazy story. A lost hiker who faced down a bear shares her sensational story of survival with us tonight.

I'm Pamela Brown. Thank you so much for spending a part of your Sunday with us. Great to have you along.

And as Taiwan struggles with its worst outbreak yet of COVID-19, help is coming from the United States. 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine are due to arrive this evening, tripling a commitment made earlier by U.S. officials. And in Brazil, thousands take to the street as anger at their president boils over. More than a half million Brazilians are now dead from COVID after a slow vaccine rollout and staunch resistance to nationwide lockdowns.

And in the U.S., the push continues to reach President Biden's goal of at least partially vaccinating 70 percent of the adult population by July 4th. 16 states and the District of Columbia have now met that goal. But we still have a ways to go.

Joining me now with more is Andy Slavitt, former Biden White House senior adviser on COVID response and author of the new book "Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response."

Andy, great to see you. Thanks so much for being here. You've been on the show several times now. And I want to start with something that you said recently. You called this Delta variant COVID on steroids. You actually told that to me earlier in the week. If we haven't hit herd immunity by the fall and winter, and it's not

likely we will get there, how concerning is it that this COVID on steroids variant will morph into even more dangerous variants that could evade vaccinations?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: Well, good to be with you, Pam, this evening. Look, I think if you've been vaccinated, you should not be spending a lot of time thinking about the Delta variant. You should be spending time now thinking about all the things in your life that the pandemic stripped away that you can now gain back because you are safe.

BROWN: Oh, no, we lost Andy. Something happened there. We had so much more to discuss. We're going to hope to get Andy back later in the show. OK. I think we're actually back.

Andy, we lost you in a very odd way. OK. You're back, giving the good news for those --

SLAVITT: I don't know how that happened.

BROWN: I have no idea what just happened.

SLAVITT: Yes.

BROWN: But you were saying that people who are vaccinated can kind of sit back and relax right now.

SLAVITT: Yes. I think if you're vaccinated, it's time to take the things in your life back that you love during the pandemic and you really don't need to spend much time worried about this variant. If you haven't been vaccinated, it's yet another reason because it spreads about twice as fast as the 2020 version of COVID which is why I refer to this COVID on steroids.

And that means that if it comes into your community, you can get exposed to it much more quickly. So it's time, if you haven't been vaccinated, to have the conversation with your physician and someone you trust, and think about seriously about getting vaccinated and then go live your life.

BROWN: Let's talk about the falsehoods that have been spreading and has really been a big part of vaccine hesitation, reluctance. Here's one of the FOX News talking heads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Masks, the doctor said, can, quote, "cause low oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels, shortness of breath, toxicity, inflammation, increased stress hormones and sugar in the body, and create fear, anxiety, headaches, compromised cognitive performance and other problems.

In just the first four months of this year, the U.S. government has recorded more deaths after COVID vaccinations than from all other vaccines administered in the United States between mid-1997 and the end of 2013.

Medical Jim Crow has come to America. If we still had water fountains, the unvaccinated would have separate ones.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: When you hear that, what goes through your mind?

SLAVITT: Well, talk about causing fear and toxicity, I think you just showed how fear and toxicity happens. Look, there's one thing that people who have died from COVID have in common this year. They're unvaccinated. There is one thing that the 13,000 people that are in hospitals have in common, almost all of them have not been vaccinated. So this is one of the most successful -- on its record, it's one of most successful vaccines ever produced.

[19:05:07]

So, look, you shouldn't be getting your -- if you were deciding to get vaccinated, you shouldn't be listening to Tucker Carlson, shouldn't be listening to me, should be talking to your doctor. Your doctor, your pharmacist, people you trust. Don't listen to people on cable TV or Facebook. These are not the right people to make -- help you make a decision that is that important to you.

BROWN: It doesn't appear, Andy, that President Biden's goal of 70 percent of the population being partially vaccinated by July 4th will happen. Did the Biden administration underestimate how many people in this country would be so reluctant to get vaccinated?

SLAVITT: Well, when the -- when Biden -- when President Biden came into office, about 2 percent of people had their first shot. And so if we end up Fourth of July at 67 percent or 70 percent, that's not what's important. What's important is that we will probably be somewhere around 50 percent in Arkansas versus 90 percent in Vermont. And that's -- if we want to focus -- if you want to worry about something, we should be worried about that there will be states out there that are going to be more exposed to the virus, and it's really the 50 percent that worries me, not the 67 percent, 68 percent.

BROWN: I understand what you're saying, that there are pockets of the country that really worry you. But why is the administration falling short on its goal? It has been super deliberate in setting achievable goals. Why did it fall short on this one?

SLAVITT: Well, so I think what President Biden did is rally the country to say this is the place that we ought to try to get by the Fourth of July, and this will open up lots of freedoms, and President Biden is nothing if not accountable, visible, putting goals forward. If we don't get 70 percent exactly on the nose by Fourth of July, we'll get it shortly afterward and certainly when there is a final approval from the FDA, we're going to go well beyond it.

So, look, I think he's rallying the country. 15 states plus the District of Columbia which would make 16 have gotten there. The rest of the states can get there and the federal government I'm sure is there to help. We have an active working federal government now and I think that's kind of one of the major differences between this year and last year.

BROWN: But I'm just wondering, I'm just sorry, not to hammer this too much, but I'm just trying to figure out as you look back and reflect on your time and you're trying to assess everything coming into a new administration, is there anything that the administration miscalculated as it set this goal in particular? And do you think it shows a larger problem of distrust with the government? So many people say, I don't want to get the vaccine, I don't trust -- I don't trust the government.

SLAVITT: Well, Pam, so here's what I would reflect on. You know, I wrote this book "Preventable" that you mentioned. The first year we were living through this vaccine with President Trump in office, the book records conversations that I was having with Jared Kushner, with Debbie Birx. So Alex Azar was prohibited from talking to the press during the pandemic because he was saying that things could change rapidly.

We now have a president that is fully accountable for the results. He's not willing to let arguments with governors or to deflect blame, so I think we have come an enormous way and I think that the government -- the president wants to be the president of all Americans, across the country, and I think we are putting resources against the states that are falling behind and we're not going to give up on them, and we shouldn't. I think it's important to set this goal, and I think we've come much further than we probably would have if we hadn't.

BROWN: And to be clear, you didn't quite answer my question about if there were any miscalculations, but certainly it has been a tremendous effort and that is for sure.

I want to ask you as you've learned so much about these vaccines and about the variants and so forth, what do you say to parents right now who are hesitant to get their kids vaccinated? The younger kids? Obviously it's only 12 and up.

SLAVITT: Yes.

BROWN: That's what's approved in the U.S., but there's a lot of discussion among parents about what to do.

SLAVITT: Yes, and Pam, to be fair, you're right, I didn't answer your question exactly. But I don't think we did every little thing perfectly by any means. But I think we were dedicated to the goal and to being honest and transparent.

In terms of kids, I want to wait and see. Let's wait and see what the FDA and CDC says. These bodies are independent, data-based, scientific, they are -- you know, they will tell us after the trials for kids what they recommend. And, you know, there is no way they're going to recommend vaccine for children unless they are absolutely confident that it's safe and the right thing to do. I think for most Americans, if it is approved, they will want to

vaccinate their kids. But we ought to wait and see because these processes are supposed to work for us.

BROWN: I want to go back to your book, "Preventable," as you wrote this book and thinking about what could have been done to prevent all of these deaths, more than 600,000 people died because of COVID here.

[19:10:07]

How confident are you that this country is ready to take on another pandemic if it happens?

SLAVITT: Well, look, I think if we learned some of the lessons that should have been learned and, look, the book basically isn't some kind of from the top of a mountain policy book. It really follows the stories of people that lived through this pandemic and that were making decisions, and some decisions are -- some mistakes, you know, we should be generous about because making an error when you got the best of intents or just don't know the facts yet, that's one thing.

But, you know, we had a White House that for too long knew about the virus and denied it, was quashing any kind of dissent and not letting people speak even to the media or to the public, firing people, intimidating them, and then politicizing the virus. If we don't do that, we will do better. We will invest in all of the things we needed, like the CDC and surveillance and so forth. But that's not going to be 100 percent perfect and when that fails us, we're going to need to have to come together as other countries around the world did, and rally.

I think hopefully with our experience in this we will do better and we will not have this kind of loss of life.

BROWN: That is certainly the hope moving forward. Hopefully a lot of lessons have been learned. Some of those lessons in your book "Preventable."

Andy Slavitt, thank you so much for coming on the show.

SLAVITT: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: Well, tonight we are following a tragic story out of Butler County, Alabama. We are getting the first look at this horrific aftermath of a 15-car pileup that left 10 people dead, including nine children. And we want to warn you, the images you're about to see, they are graphic. So if you have any children in the room right now, now is the time for them to leave.

These are new images just in to CNN, and they show just how horrific the accident was.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Alabama for us tonight.

Martin, it seems like a lot of people you've spoken to have said this is the worst accident they have ever seen. MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, first responders especially

apparently say that this was horrific. And despite all the years of service they'd seen nothing like it.

We're in front of the Real Town High School here, four of the young victims who died attended school here. The NTSB is now involved and they will be here trying to determine exactly what triggered this chain reaction.

It's horrific on a number of levels, not just the number of lives lost, 10, but the fact that nine of those lives were all children between the ages of 9 months and 17, and many of those children themselves had come from personal tragedy in their own lives.

This occurred yesterday afternoon, midafternoon, Alabama, I-65, in the northbound lane, just south of Montgomery. We don't know, again, what started it, but the weather was bad. There were at least 15 vehicles involved, including semi-tractor trailer trucks, and as you see the carnage in those images and the aftermath of the worst thing that is fire.

The worst van to be involved was a 15-passenger van that was from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, had nine people in it, eight of them children, the children all died. The only survivor was the driver who was the ranch director. She was pulled unconscious from the wreckage of that vehicle by passersby. Passersby in this instance were the main heroes in this case, but that ranch director lost two of her own children in that crash.

Two other victims were killed in another vehicle, a father and daughter age 29 and 9 months. The weather again because of that tropical system that had been passing through may be suspect.

Michael Smith is the man who oversees that girls ranch where they are devastated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SMITH, CEO, ALABAMA SHERIFF'S YOUTH RANCHES: When you look at what we lost yesterday, we lost eight young people that can make a difference in our world. We lost eight young people that didn't have a chance to have their own children. We lost eight young people that can't break the cycle of where they have been and change it for their children.

We had two vans of children coming back from the beach and also a chase car, but they were several miles apart. And the first van was the one that had the accident. We had -- we had nine people in that van, we had eight fatalities and one survivor in that van yesterday. That's the tragedy that we're faced with.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Many of the children had been taken into custody by the state, taken from homes where they had suffered abuse or had drug addicted parents. Just an awful story -- Pamela. BROWN: No words. No words for this. Martin Savidge, thank you.

And we have breaking news out of New York tonight.

[19:15:01]

A volunteer for Eric Adams' mayoral campaign is in surgery after being stabbed multiple times. We're live in New York in just a moment.

Also ahead for you tonight, a first look inside the Olympic Village which has just been revealed to the world.

And then a lost hiker who faced down a bear shares her sensational story of survival. She's going to be on the show talking to us tonight.

And former Nixon White House counsel John Dean is here to tell us about the new version of his book "Authoritarian Nightmare" that looks at Trump's lingering threat.

But first, a suspect has been arrested and charged with the murder of an American student in Russia. The latest on this investigation when we come back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We want to bring you some breaking news just into CNN. A volunteer working with New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams' campaign has been stabbed. The campaign is confirming this for us tonight.

[19:20:02]

Let's go straight to CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro for more.

What more can you tell us, Evan?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, here's what we know. A 42-year-old man was stabbed multiple times in the Bronx earlier today. Police confirmed that to us and the Adams campaign says that man went into surgery and is now out and stable. The Adams campaign also says that this was a regular volunteer for them, and one of the people that they rely on is what they call Team Adams.

Now of course Team Adams refers to, you know, Eric Adams, who is the Brooklyn Borough president, former NYPD police captain, one of the frontrunners for that all-important Democratic nomination for mayor coming up next Tuesday. This stabbing comes as Adams has made crime the center plank of his campaign, really, and actually he was slated to appear in the Bronx at an event to commemorate another horrible incident that happened there earlier this weekend, earlier last week, actually rather, when two girls barely escaped being shot in that horrific video that everybody saw of that shooting in the Bronx earlier this week.

So it's a story about one person's battle with crime, this man who was stabbed and apparently getting out of the hospital and had remained stable, and also the story of this New York City mayor's race, which is now really hinged on conversations around crime in this city -- Pam.

BROWN: OK. Evan McMorris-Santoro bringing us the latest. Keep us posted with new information as it comes in.

And also tonight, disturbing new details out of Russia, where authorities have arrested and charged a suspect over the murder of a 34-year-old American student.

CNN's Camila Bernal is following this story for us.

So what have you learned, Camila?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Pam. So authorities in Russia saying they found Catherine Serou's body on Saturday. Of course, devastating and heartbreaking news for family and friends. According to a local court in Russia, they have made an arrest. But they did not identify this man. They did, though, say that he has a previous criminal record.

According to those statements from the court, Catherine Serou was waiting in a bus stop Tuesday night. They say that this man approached her and offered her a ride. And that's when he took her to a forested area. They say that there he hit Catherine Serou and then stabbed her at least two different times. So these are horrible details and as we wait for accountability, I was able to speak to one of her childhood friends who says that she was kind, that she was smart as can be, and just had a great sense of humor.

She says she remembers growing up with her in New Orleans, and remembers her passion for jeeps. She loved fixing these cars. It was one of her favorite hobbies. She said she was part of the military and then was happily living in California. We also spoke to one of her professors at UC Davis, and this is how she chose to remember Catherine Serou.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PROF. JENNY KAMINER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS: She was the type of student whom professors are just so happy to encounter in a classroom. She was smart, she just exuded this positive, open energy. Whenever she raised her hand to engage in class discussion, she was invariably articulate, inciteful, and she had this abiding and just infectious passion for Russian culture.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BERNAL: And the professor telling us that she was enrolled in a master's program in Russia. She was learning and had made a lot of progress in speaking Russian. She says that she expected her to be there for a couple of years while she finished her master's program there. Unfortunately, that came to an end last Tuesday and, of course, just devastating for this professor and for many others -- Pam.

BROWN: So sad. Camila Bernal, thank you so much.

And up next, on this Sunday, Donald Trump may be long gone from the White House, but the 75 million people who voted for him are still out there. Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean live up next to discuss his book "Authoritarian Nightmare," and Trump's lingering legacy.

[19:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Just days after President Biden's first meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, it appears there is no love lost there. White House National Security adviser Jake Sullivan telling CNN's Dana Bash that the Biden administration is preparing to hit Russia with more sanctions for the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are preparing another package of sanctions to apply in this case as well. We've shown all along the way that we're not going to pull our punches, whether it's on SolarWinds or election interference or Navalny, when it comes to responding to Russia's harmful activities. It will come as soon as we have developed the packages to ensure that we are getting the right targets and when we do that, we will impose further sanctions with respect to chemical weapons.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Well, that first set of sanctions against Russia came back in March in conjunction with the European Union, which some critics say did not go far enough.

Meantime, as we all know, Donald Trump is no longer in the White House, but that does not mean he's lost the support of the 74 million, almost 75 million people who voted for him. My next guest is here to explain why that is so significant.

CNN contributor John Dean joins me now. He is the former Nixon White House counsel and co-author of "Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers."

[19:30:07]

It's coming out in paperback this Tuesday.

Good to see you, John.

In your book, you look at the quote-unquote "Trump phenomenon." You use psychological scientists, doctors, you talked to a wide range of people to help you better understand what is behind this phenomenon. Why is that?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what I did is I've written on this subject before, but I went to the man who helped me so much when I read an earlier book, examining Nixon's authoritarianism.

This is the first time we've had a president in the modern time, other than Nixon, who is a true authoritarian. To get elected, you need authoritarian followers. So, I joined and collaborated with a scientist who studied these people his entire professional career, and there's just no question that while 75 million people are probably not hardcore authoritarian, they certainly have those leanings, with a number of them being very serious authoritarian followers, and they'll follow a Trump-type character anywhere he wants them to go.

BROWN: You're the former White House counsel to President Nixon. If Nixon had possessed the so-called Trump phenomenon, do you think he would have resigned?

DEAN: Well, that's a good question. Trump was a little different character. He had a respect for the rule of law that was unique in authoritarians. So, he didn't try to get around it and dodge it, he faced it.

He also -- a big difference between Trump and Nixon is Trump doesn't seem to experience shame. There's just no question in my mind, Richard Nixon did, so that would distinguish them in that regard. And that's one of the reasons I think he didn't want to face an impeachment trial.

So, they are very different. But their followers -- there was no -- there were authoritarian followers who elected Richard Nixon, but there are a lot of people who were not authoritarians who also elected him. And that core group that is now supporting Trump, both during his presidency and now afterwards, this is about a serious reading of authoritarianism we've had in this country, I think, since our founding, if you will.

BROWN: I just want to go back to what you said earlier, and that is just to make sure I heard you correctly, were saying that you said Trump does respect the rule of law. Was that -- is that right?

DEAN: No, no, no, no, no. Nixon respects the rule of law.

BROWN: Okay. Okay. Got-cha. That's -- I thought you had said Trump. And so I wanted to circle back on that.

DEAN: If I said that, I misspoke.

BROWN: Okay. No worries. So, we have to look at what's happening now in the wake of this, right? I mean, you see, Republicans are now taking more control over the voting process across -- you know, Georgia, you're seeing members of at least -- what -- 10 County Election Boards being replaced as a result of that new election law signed there, and this is according to "The New York Times," but how much of this change is driven by proponents of Donald Trump's conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, or at least taking advantage of that?

DEAN: Well, the Republican Party has become very authoritarian, Pam, and this is what they want to do. If they can't win fair and square, they want to win any way they can. So, rather than try to appease and reach out to voters and broaden their base, they want to really change the game, so the base they have can win the elections in the way they want.

So, it's really rigging the system, exactly what Trump claims was being done, and in fact, was not. They are doing their best to make sure they can do that and that's a little frightening. It's not a very democratic way to proceed. And hopefully, the U.S. Senate and the House -- the House has already acted, but the Senate is still dithering on this -- will act and put Federal standards out that will prevent this kind of fixing of elections in a democracy.

BROWN: It's really disturbing to think about it that way. And also, to see what has happened as a result of these lies about the election.

I mean, you look at the January 6 insurrection that came out of that as a result. You know, FOX News host, Tucker Carlson, recently brought up this baseless claim that the F.B.I. was behind the Capitol attack. Even G.O.P. lawmakers are parroting this.

I mean, where do you see this going? This has now made its way into the Halls of Congress.

DEAN: It's true. And January 6 is a manifestation of authoritarianism's really ugly side. That's what we saw. Those are the people who were attracted to Washington for that event. That was the wild day that Trump promised them and indeed, he helped stimulate.

Again, it was to try to upset the system, to create some revolt that would be in just really stopping the system couldn't handle. Democracy is very fragile and that's why authoritarians really don't work well in the system and they can cause a lot of problems. So, we have to be alert and that's one of the reasons I did this book, one of the reasons I went with this scientist who spent his lifetime studying these people, so we can better understand them and what to know, and what to deal with.

[19:35:24]

BROWN: It's so important to just emphasize that point that democracy is fragile. John Dean, thank you for coming on and sharing what's in your book. Thanks so much.

DEAN: Thanks, Pam.

BROWN: And coming up next, a first look inside the Olympic Village which has just been revealed to the world. Our Selina Wang takes the tour when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The Tokyo Summer Olympics are just a few weeks away and tonight, CNN has a first look at the Olympic Villages.

Soon, these empty buildings will house the world's top athletes all while managing some of the world's toughest coronavirus restrictions. CNN's Selina Wang is in Tokyo.

[19:40:10]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Olympic Village, a city within a city built for the world's best athletes for the Tokyo Games. Thousands of Olympians from more than 200 countries will be living here, preparing for the defining moment in their sporting careers.

Normally, a place for partying and celebration, this year, it's going to be an anti-social, sanitized bubble full of COVID testing health centers and staying far apart from one another.

At the Athletes Village Plaza, there is everything the Olympians will need -- cafe, bank, internet, hair salon, and much, much more. Normally, a place for athletes to hang out, mix, and mingle, instead there are signs everywhere reminding people to wear their masks and socially distanced themselves.

But the majority in Japan still don't want the Olympics to happen. Actually, a protest is ongoing right behind me as they are debuting the Olympic Village to the press.

There are 3,800 rooms of these 21 buildings to house the athletes.

This is a replica of the athletes' room. Athletes have to share the room, which some public health experts say increases the risk of spreading COVID. The Olympians are also going to be sleeping on beds made out of cardboard, recyclable, but don't worry, they're extremely sturdy and can hold more than 400 pounds.

Athletes are contact traced and tested for COVID every day. If they test positive for COVID, they have to come to this fever clinic to get tested again. If that COVID test comes back positive yet again, they then have to take a dedicated transport to an isolation facility outside of this Olympic Village and they then lose their chance to compete.

They're only allowing two-thirds of capacity here at the dining hall and normally, a place for meeting and chatting. Instead, athletes are asked to dine alone separated by plastic barriers and to leave as soon as they finish eating after wiping down their seats.

And the Athletes' Gym where they have to keep their mask on at all times and will be separated by these barriers.

Athletes can only arrive five days before their competition and have to leave within two. Now, condoms will still be passed out per tradition, but they're only given as athletes are leaving the Village.

It cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build all this. After the Games, they'll be turned into residential apartments. But before that, this is going to house athletes for an Olympics like no other.

Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, my next guest should win an Olympic medal and bravery after two bears came charging right at her while hiking in Alaska. Coming up, Fina Kiefer's amazing story of survival.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:47:07]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FINA KIEFER, SURVIVED BEAR ATTACK: At moment, I thought, is this the way I'm going to die, God? He is charging me and he's going towards me 50 yards to 25.

After I sprayed the second spray, I said "Go." And then after that, he just was like so freaked out he like turned around and ran with the second bear down the mountain across the creek onto the other side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, that was Fina Kiefer recalling the moment that she was chased by bears while hiking in the mountains of Alaska. Armed only with the can of bear spray and her voice, Fina was able to scare them away, but she lost sight of the trail in the process.

After two days lost in the Alaska wilderness, search crews found her drenched from rain, hunger, and just exhaustion.

Tonight, she lives to tell the tale. Fina Kiefer joins me now. Great to see you. You live to tell the tale. You're even smiling. I can't imagine going through what you went through. We're so thankful you survived that terrifying incident.

Walk us through what happened. You were walking through the forest. And then all of a sudden you saw two bears. How close were they?

KIEFER: Like I said, I thought they were moose grazing and they were about 50 yards, and he turned his head -- the bear closer to me -- turned his head, and as he turned his head, our eyes locked. And I'd seen his head and he seen me and I didn't realize at the time, that he was downwind, so he smelled me too.

And then he began to turn around and just began to full charge towards me. And that moment, I really did think in my thought, "God, is this the way I'm going to die?" And then the second thought was, he reminded me of the verse that he gave me in 2018, which was: "I will restore unto you what the locust has stolen," and that that moment, as he is charging me going towards me at about 50 yards to 25, I had to square up with him.

And as I was squaring up to him, I took out my bear spray, and then I took a stance, and then I was looking at him and then I sprayed and then I said "Hey," and so he's stopped at 25 feet away from me in front of me, and then before he can do anything else, he was just kind of like shaking his head.

And then I did the second spray and then I said "Go" and sprayed again on my second spray. And then after that he was just so startled, he turned around and then ran with the other bear that had been charging me with him down the mountain on across the creek, down on the other side of the creek where that trail was that I was going to go on.

[19:50:19]

KIEFER: And they just ran down the mountain together on the other side, and that's when I needed to -- after that happened, I went further up the mountain on the left, and they were on the right of the mountain -- side of the mountain. And at that moment, it was like 1:07, and it was getting dark. And I knew I had to get further up to bed for the night.

BROWN: Hold on, Fina, before we get to that, I want to just pause for a second, and like, absorb everything that you just told us about this encounter.

So, you see the bears. They are 50 yards away. What was that like when you said that you locked eyes with the bear? The bear kind of turned around, you locked eyes with it. What was that moment like?

KIEFER: His facial expression, he had such a big head that it was like right when he turned around like this, and our eyes locked, his head was so big, and his eyes and -- I just knew at that moment, when he turned -- his body was just as his like, running -- charging me.

At the same time I was thinking, what a majestic beauty, I mean, this creature. I could not believe I was actually seeing this because I love being out in nature and actually seeing animals and birds and just wildlife. And as he is going I'm going to, "Boy, that's a beautiful bear."

Like as he's charging me and I'm going like, "Snap out of it. I've got to, you know, make a stance here."

BROWN: Right. That's a beautiful majestic bear -- is this the way I'm going to die? Like basically you're holding these two thoughts in your head.

KIEFER: Yes.

BROWN: Wow.

KIEFER: What an experience. I mean --

BROWN: Incredible, incredible experience. What was it like trying to find your way out of the woods after that?

KIEFER: As it was getting dark, I had to go on the left, so, I was like going up the mountain, three-fourths up the mount on the other side of Pioneer Ridge, which was right on the right side. And I had to go further up to bed because it was getting dark and I didn't want to run into any more bears. That's when I texted my husband and said, "I just got charged by two bears." And I couldn't call him because there was bad reception. And he asked, "Do you need help?" And the last text I texted out was "yes." And then my phone died.

BROWN: Oh, my gosh. And then, fortunately, the search teams, they came to rescue you and you're here to tell us about the story. Just incredible what you have been through, Fina, and we just thank you for coming on the show to share that incredible story of survival. We'll be right back.

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[19:57:59]

BROWN: Well, homelessness which was on the rise before the COVID pandemic is showing signs of surging across the country, and Los Angeles is no exception. More than 65,000 people are experiencing homelessness there and the city's streets are filled with men and women suffering from high rates of death and disease. The daily struggle just to find food, safe drinking water, and safety.

And while many of us may look the other way, this week's CNN hero has planted herself squarely in LA's homelessness epicenter, Skid Row. She brings care and hope to the unseen whose pain and loss she understands personally after losing her two-year-old son.

Meet Shirley Raines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHIRLEY RAINES, HELPING TO KEEP SKID ROW'S RESIDENTS FED AND CARED FOR: It is just being seen, being touched, being cared for.

You want a face mask?

It plants a little bit of self-esteem in them so they feel like, okay, maybe no one knows I'm homeless because I have a fresh cut.

Good to see you all. Happy Saturday, King.

I dress them as Kings and Queens because that is who they are. We want to make them feel beautiful.

What do you want hair? Hair cut? Hair, okay.

When they say they're broken, I am too. They're like, how did you get fixed? I am not. I take Prozac 20 milligrams every day.

What the heck? I ain't fixed, child. They don't know.

I'm not going to lie to you and tell you things will be better now. But what I am going to do is feed you while you're out here. What I am going to do is do your hair. What I am going to do is give you a hug. What I am going to do is encourage you and speak life into you. And that's what I can do.

That was Mickey on the mic, you guys, give her a hand. Give her a hand. Give her a hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: What an inspiration. To see the full story of Shirley and her extraordinary work on Skid Row, and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, just go to CNNheroes.com right now.

And your next hour of seeing a NEWSROOM starts now.

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