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Branson Lands Back On Earth After Touching Edge Of Space; U.S. Officials Make Vaccination Push As Delta Variant Fuels Case Surge; Confirmed Death Toll Rises To 90 In Surfside; Officials: Haiti's Wounded First Lady Speaks Out. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired July 11, 2021 - 14:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again. Thank you so much is for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. A historic day for space travel. Richard Branson going where no billionaire has gone before. Virgin Galactic's supersonic space plane the VSS Unity taking off with Branson and five others on board this morning. The flight taking them to the edge of space.

Here is CNN's Rachel Crane reporting on that breathtaking moment when the supersonic space plane detached from the mothership named Eve.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can hear the crowd cheering behind me. This is that historic moment that Richard Branson and his team at Virgin Galactic have been waiting for, for nearly two decades.

And we have release, Brian. We have release. The rocket or engine has ignited. This is the moment that Branson and his team have been waiting for.

Brian, I've got to pause. I've got to take this in. This is really an incredible moment here.


WHITFIELD: It was incredible. And this was an hour-long journey and a few minutes of weightlessness included as well.

But the journey to get here, it was decades in the making. Not only did Branson make this happen, but he, in spectacular fashion, brought all of us along with him making sure that we could see and hear from him while it was happening.


RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GALACTIC: -- one day built experience (ph) with Galactic -- the experience of a lifetime. And now I'm looking down at our beautiful space. Congratulations to everybody for creating such a beautiful, beautiful place. Congratulations to all our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic with 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far.


WHITFIELD: Branson's flight making him the first billionaire space baron to actually travel into space there -- sub space. So his goal to make commercial space flights like this one available to the public some day.

Once back on earth, Branson had a message for the children who watched it all unfold.


BRANSON: I was once a kid with a dream looking up to the stars. And now I'm an adult in a spaceship looking back to our beautiful earth.

To the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.


WHITFIELD: In sub orbital space. Certainly a lot to talk about here.

I want to bring CNN space and defense correspondent Kristin Fisher and former NASA astronaut Kay Hire. Great that both of you could be with us. What an exciting day.

Kristin, you first. Branson, you know, still trying to get kind of his sea legs, you know, while he's talking during that press conference understandably. I mean describing how he was inspired as a kid and now his hopes for inspiring the next generation.

He and his team are describing this as a huge success -- near perfect even.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that that is a very accurate description, Fredricka. Still trying to get his sea legs. I mean Richard Branson usually quite eloquent but he apologized several times on the stage behind me and at his press conference because he said he was just kind of having a hard time putting words together. And expressing exactly how magical the experience was.

Though he did use that word magical quite a few times. And we now know, I mean this test flight, it certainly looked flawless, but we now know, you know, the official confirmation from the Virgin Galactic team that it was indeed a text book test flight.

This space plane, Spaceship 2, it returned in pristine conditions, no issues whatsoever after taking off from Spaceport America in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico a little over three hours ago.

And it took off from this runway behind me, attached to the belly of the mothership Eve and once it got to the proper altitude, it then dropped. [14:04:57]

FISHER: Those astronauts then experienced a few seconds of freefall before the pilot ignited the rocket engine and Spaceship 2 Unity blasted into space -- a near vertical climb to the very edge of space. We got official confirmation from the Virgin Galactic team that they reached an altitude of 53.5 miles, that is just over the 50-mile threshold which is what that U.S. recognizes as the boundary of space.

But don't tell that to fellow billionaire spacefaring Jeff Bezos whose company takes you all the way out to the Carmen line which is just a little bit further and where his sub-orbital space craft is going to be going.

So once the Virgin Galactic team and crew got to the edge of space, they got those few minutes of weightlessness, we could see them floating around, having some fun. Some of them were taking notes. Richard Branson was writing down about -- some notes about the passenger experience, some things that he perhaps wanted to change for once they get paying customers on board.

And then we saw the descent, the reentry into the earth's atmosphere, a gentle corkscrew down before Spaceship 2 returned and landed beautifully on the very same runway that it took off from.

And then moments later, Richard Branson standing on the stage behind me, spraying some champagne, getting his astronaut wings and trying to put some words together to describe the moment.


BRANSON: Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid. And honestly, nothing could prepare you for the view from space.

I mean the whole thing was just magical. Suddenly you are looking down and you're seeing three people looking up at you, like what are you doing down there?

We have this incredible earth. Anyway, I'm just taking it all in. It's just unreal. I was so honored to test the customer experience. Initially I thought testing the customer experience was a little bit of an excuse to get me on.

It wasn't. It's so great to just get out there, test the customer experience. You get -- list and list of little things and the little details that matter.


FISHER: So this is a big deal because it is the first time in history that somebody had built and funded a spaceship and then flown on it to the very edge of outer space.

And so now Virgin Galactic hopefully after two more test flights is going to begin flying paying customers into space. But you know, Fredricka, we still have another huge exciting launch this month. Jeff Bezos going up in just nine days on his rocket. It's going to be a very different experience. It is much more like an Apollo rocket, vertical lift off with a rocket, the capsule on top, shorter flight and it's also the first time that any humans have flown on this spacecraft.

And the person on board is going to be the wealthiest man in the world. So he got -- he congratulated Richard Branson on his successful flight and said he looks forward to joining the club in just a few days.

WHITFIELD: Right. I mean it's equally exciting. And I love that Richard Branson too, you know, stated -- he goes, I know most people see us as competitors, but really you know, we're all encouraging one another. We really don't consider it a race.

But before we get there in nine days this still is pretty exciting and I think too, Kristin, it is extraordinary to hear Richard Branson say how much he was able to do in a couple of minutes of weightlessness. I mean taking notes, you know, and also enjoying the experience of weightlessness?

FISHER: Yes. At one point one of the other astronauts Beth said hey guys, look out the window, remember to look out the window. She really wanted to make sure she -- this is her second flight so she wanted to make sure that while everybody else did have some jobs to do, that they really took a minute to soak it up.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. And Kay, I mean you have spent weeks in space. This flight was only a few minutes long, but describe for us all that you have experienced and felt when in space. They were sub-orbital space.

And then also help us understand the importance of the inspection of the spacecraft upon landing. In this case, they say it was really in perfect condition but, of course, it was not enduring the same kind of stresses that say a shuttle would have and often the skin is damaged, et cetera. But if you could tackle all that for us.

KAY HIRE, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Sure. Thanks so much for having me on such an exciting day. Congratulations to the Unity 22 team and everybody behind them to make all this successful today. It really is an important step along the way to get towards opening the access to space.


HIRE: As far as my experience, I was so fortunate to fly the space shuttle twice. The first time on a laboratory mission and then up to the International Space Station.

So I got to enjoy more time of micro gravity, as we call floating in space. And of course, we're operating experiments the majority of the time. So you have to get used to that operating in that micro gravity. And it is a wonderful feeling and amazing how the body can get used to it.

The inspection of the spacecraft after landing is very important to learn how that spacecraft is operating and to see if there are any improvements that need to be made before the next flight.

WHITFIELD: And back to what your body is feeling. Help people understand what Richard Branson might be experiencing now back on earth. Granted, you know, he is not up there days like you experience -- you know, weeks and what your body -- and as you said, you kind of get used to it.

But he even admits, you know, he is trying to get his faculties together although we see him there, you know, running and we saw him bike riding too, the launch. And then you see him jogging and picking up his grandkids.

I mean he is in extraordinary shape. But just listening to him speak, he even, you know, was saying hey, I'm having a difficult time putting my thoughts together. He is also still kind of up there, you know, reliving his experience for the public.

HIRE: Most definitely. And, now I've not flown a mission profile like just happened today so I don't know personally exactly how he feels. But I imagine that there is a lot of similarity to skydiving.

And they will tell you before you go skydiving that after you come back to earth, take it easy and be a little careful because your body is filling with adrenalin for this experience.

So I imagine the crew of Unity 22 is right now having just these floods of adrenalin and it probably does feel pretty euphoric and can lead to a little bit of an inability to articulate the feeling.

WHITFIELD: Well, I'd say he is really selling it. I mean he's talking about his customer experience and how important and how glad he is to have done this now especially as he opens it up to, you know, the public -- the paying public as early as, you know, early 2022.

But I think his excitement is palpable and, boy, if you weren't interested in going into sub orbital space, maybe now you are.

Kristin Fisher, Kay Hire -- stick around. We're going to talk to you again. We've got so much more as we continue to cover this historic day.

Coming up, a new chapter in space travel. We'll talk about what's ahead for civilians and the concerns about safety.

Back in a moment.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We continue to follow our breaking news. Richard Branson's trip to the edge of space is now in the history books. The billionaire making the ground breaking journey today on board his Virgin Galactic VSS Unity 22 aircraft.

Branson and his crew are now back on earth and making a smooth landing in the New Mexico desert there. From lift off to landing, the trip lasted about an hour but the short trip may usher in a new era in private space travel. That's their goal.

It's a dream that has long been just a fantasy for science fiction and childhood cartoons.

All right. Still not quite there yet. So are we closer?

Joining me again, retired NASA astronaut Kay Hire. All right. you watched "The Jetsons" as a kid as did I and we all thought, no way, that day can't possibly come but wouldn't it be fun if it did.

So are we closer now that we're seeing that civilians are going to be in sub orbital space and perhaps even beyond after today's test flight?

HIRE: We are absolutely closer to making science fiction reality. Actually watching "The Jetsons" as a young child and when I was very young watching the Apollo program and the Apollo astronauts walk on the moon and the way that technology was advancing so quickly during that time, I just assumed everyone would be flying in space by the time I was an adult.

So in my mind it slowed down a little bit but I'm excited to see that efforts by commercial space industry are actually accelerating this again and making some of these things come true.

WHITFIELD: So customers have already put down their deposits for these some $200,000 tickets for Virgin Galactic flights soon to fly in 2022. How will what we saw today be perhaps further perfected before then?

HIRE: Well, certainly everything about the flight will be evaluated by the Virgin Galactic team to see are there places where they can improve it for efficiency, for safety, for even the customer experience which is something that is not necessarily focused on as much with government programs.

But this -- congratulations again to this team because this flight was built on the shoulders of all the previous government programs which have been flying humans in space since 1961.

But each time each program improves a little bit the concept of a winged spacecraft is not necessarily a new concept but certainly this team put their innovation into it to improve it and to make it a reality.

And I so expect as we go further, this flight will inspire others to look closely at technology that's already out there and take it to the next step. [14:20:03[

WHITFIELD: And talk about inspiration, we heard Richard Branson in his press conference, you know say that, you know, to the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this imagine what the next generation can do.

As you were watching this all transpire on live television today, what were you thinking -- what were kind of the aha moment as you watched, what were the jaw-dropping kind of discoveries that perhaps you were making while you were watching it?

HIRE: Well, I was very excited that this step occurred today because it means that we're starting to make this happen. The things that I thought were going to happen decades ago.

And the reason it has taken so long is it is very complicated and so very important to make sure it's safe. It's safe for the crew. It's safe for people on the ground. And that it all works together. And that takes thousands of people working together to make that happen.

So it is not a quick process. It takes a long time to make these things happen. However, what is difference this time is with the commercial space industry, with a little bit of healthy competition, I believe that's going to accelerate the innovation and maybe speed things back up. Not maybe as fast as it was during the Apollo program, but it will speed things up.

And for me personally, I was a little jealous. It would have been nice to have been along with them.

WHITFIELD: You know, that could still happen, right.

HIRE: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: So this space flight originated in New Mexico and the governor of that state says it is an industry that is a big part of that state's economic future.

Take a listen.


GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D), NEW MEXICO): Just the research and doing all of the initial practice flights, that meant people moving in to Truth or Consequences. That means restaurants were doing catering. That meant security firms. That meant research and engineering.

Economists all around the world are saying anywhere from $8 billion and that's our entire annual budget in the state of New Mexico to $20 billion.

We have some of best air space in the entire world. This is where companies will come. Build it and they will come. Today is proof in that pudding. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So what do you see this as spawning? What is the future in investment, in commercial ventures, in travel?

HIRE: Oh, this is fantastic because this flight is not just about this one flight or just about a few people who can go to the edge of space.

What is more important about today's flight and the upcoming flights in a couple weeks and then beyond that is that it should inspire, and it will, inspire folks to be creative and say you can expand technology with further innovation to achieve things that were previously thought to be totally fiction.

Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein has a quote that says "everything is theoretically impossible until it is done".

WHITFIELD: Kay Hire -- it was great having you as a co-pilot during this whole adventure and being able to get a better picture of where the future may lay.

Kay Hire, thank you so much.

HIRE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Our special live coverage continues in a moment. But first, let's listen to what Richard Branson said about space back in 1988.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever thought about going into space, Richard?

BRANSON: I'd love to go into space as I think pretty well everybody watching this show would love to go to space. I mean when you see those magnificent pictures in space and incredible view, I think there could be nothing nicer.

So if you are building a spacecraft, I'd love to come with you on it.




WHITFIELD: All right. Other news we're following.

More than 159 million people are now fully vaccinated here in the U.S. according to the latest data from the CDC.

But officials are rushing to get more shots in arms with the more transmissible Delta variant, now the dominant strain in the U.S.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says he expects to see local vaccine mandates soon.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think the hesitancy at the local level of doing mandates is because the vaccines have not been officially fully approved.

But people need to understand that the amount of data right now that shows a high degree of effectiveness and a high degree of safety is more than we've ever seen with emergency use authorization.

So these vaccines are as good as officially approved with all the Is dotted and the Ts crossed.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now to discuss is Dr. Gigi El- Bayoumi, a medical professor at George Washington University.

Dr. El-Bayoumi, always good to see you. So should schools and businesses be requiring vaccinations now?

DR. GIGI EL-BAYOUMI, MEDICAL PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, one point that I'd really like to make is that the information is rapidly changing.

Remember, that just a few weeks ago, the Delta variant was not the dominant variant. We don't know what is to come, right. The Lambda, the Gamma, whatever else might be coming.


So I think that we have to be smart in how we mandate. And so in states where they are high vaccination rates that are like 75 or above, it makes sense to loosen up the restrictions. In places where there are not, right, as in some of the Southern states, it makes sense to have mandates.

So, you know, just like everything, it depends. And this is an ongoing story, right? So I want people to understand what is true today may not be true tomorrow, and we have to let the science and data really impact and inform these decisions.

WHITFIELD: And you've just published a piece in "The Washington Post" calling for more localized approach to vaccination, writing this: community-based organizations know their neighborhoods intimately, they know who has an Internet connection, who is food insecure, who has lost someone to the coronavirus. They know the obstacles that impede the path to good health.

So, explain, you know, the work that you've been able to do there in Washington. EL-BAYOUMI: Sure. Well, through the Rodham Institute, which is

dedicated to improving health equity, we have almost 150 partners so this is a collaboration. And really the point is the locust of power really needs to be with leadership in communities that know their communities. I can go in there and talk until I'm blue in the face and wag my fingers as doctors do you need to get vaccinated.

But for people who are there, they should be the leaders. We're laying more of a supporting or consulting role. You know, people trust who they know. And isn't it much more powerful to have somebody say, you know what, I was not sure, I was hesitant, let me tell you why I changed my mind and why because I care about you, because you are part of the community, you are part of my family, I want you to get vaccinated too.

WHITFIELD: And when it comes to masks, right now, you can't get on an airplane you can you are wearing one. And that will be the case until September. The CEO of United Airlines says that he hopes that the mandate is not renewed. Listen.


SCOTT KIRBY, UNITED AIRLINES CEO: One of the great things about flying on an airplane is it's literally if you're going to be in doors with other people, it's the safest to be, particularly because of the air filtration on the airplane. My guess is that if the current government order expires on September 13th, and fingers crossed, my guess is it will expire on September 13th but we'll wait and see for sure.


WHITFIELD: How about you? How comfortable are you to fly with unmasked travelers potentially?

EL-BAYOUMI: So I'm not comfortable again because although I am vaccinated, I don't know who variants might be emerging. Right now, it seems that the data shows that the vaccinations protect us from the delta variant. But again, this is something that might change. I mean, we're in mid-July. That's two months from now. How can we predict the future?

And a then remember, when people fly on planes, don't we all get sick with colds when there's somebody with a cold, or if there's somebody with tuberculosis, doesn't it spread? So, you know, let's use common sense. I mean, you don't have to be a doctor or an astronaut or brain surgeon to just think about this logically.

WHITFIELD: So you think removing any kind of mask mandates on airplanes right now or even in September is premature?

EL-BAYOUMI: Right now, it is premature. In September, we have to see where the data takes us. I don't know.

WHITFIELD: All right.

EL-BAYOUMI: I know that it is unusual. I know it is unusual for doctors to say that they don't know, but I really don't know. We have to wait and see.

WHITFIELD: I got you. All right, Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi, thank you so much. Be well.

EL-BAYOUMI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, search crews finding a ring in the rubble of that collapsed condo in Surfside, Florida. We'll go live to the scene in a moment.



WHITFIELD: Search teams in Surfside, Florida, are on their 18th day of poring through rubble. Ninety people are now confirmed dead in that collapse condo building. The mayor of Miami-Dade County praising the efforts of those response teams still working around the clock.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: Our team continues to make incredible progress delayering the pile, and we're working to bring closure to families as quickly as we possibly can. We have now recovered over 14 million pounds of concrete and debris.


WHITFIELD: Natasha Chen is in scene is Surfside for us.

Natasha, tell us more about these search efforts.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Fred, there are 90 people now confirmed dead, but 31 people still unaccounted for. I mean, it hasn't rained here today, which actually means that there is a bigger challenge with dust clouds on the pile for the people searching there.

They have now heavy machinery working as well, but they're skimming the rubble so carefully that we're told they were able to find things like an undamaged bottle of wine, and the mayor of Surfside, Charles Burkett, told us that a ring was found belonging, believed to be belonging to a missing man.


And that ring is important to him personally because he's become friends with that man's 12-year-old daughter and their family.

I asked him how these teams were able to find this ring, what it means to the family, here is what he said.


MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: They know exactly where everybody lived and where they should have been and they know exactly where to look for these things down to this ring that goes on a pinky finger. So you have got to be as astounded by the incredible abilities of these teams, and I'm in awe.

CHEN: What was going throughout your mind when you were told that that was his ring, something you could bring back to this family?

BURKETT: My family has gotten bigger. That's what I can tell you. It's been enlarged.


CHEN: This has been, of course, an emotional journey for everyone involved and we were told that as far as the items being collected, those are carefully cataloged. They are put into a storage area, and the families can actually upload information to a database about the items the heirlooms that they are looks for and at a later date, they'll be able to go to that storage space and everybody can connect on what belongs whom. So, a very detailed, meticulous process.

As far as search teams go, there are some who are leaving the site. The Israeli defense forces are leaving today. The Virginia team is on its way out. But the fire chief did tell us that the average number of personnel on site working here over the last 2 1/2 weeks has remained about the same. And this is still, Fred, a 24-hour separation.

WHITFIELD: And it remains painstaking.

Natasha Chen in Surfside, Florida, thank you so much.

All right. Straight ahead, Haiti's first lady speaking out for the first time since her husband was killed.



WHITFIELD: Haiti's first lady is speaking up for the first time since her husband was assassinated. She says her husband was killed for fighting for a better country. She too was shot when gunmen attacked the couple's private residence, and she's been recovering ever since.

Matt Rivers is with us now from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

So, Matt, how important is it that the first lady is speaking out like this?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, she's a surviving witness, Fred. I mean, she saw there inside the house the night that her husband was murdered. She saw presumably who pulled the trigger and killed her husband and she's going to be able to provide investigators should she be willing to do so some information about just who was inside the house that might and what if anything they said to her.

As this investigation goes on, we know here in Port-au-Prince that U.S. delegation has arrived here comprising of a mixture of FBI agents and members of the Department of Homeland Security. They are here to assist with this investigation. The numbers haven't really moved much since yesterday, Fred. Twenty people detained, as suspects in this case, three suspects killed, another five remain at large at this point.

But even if the first lady has some insights to share with investigators, it will be interesting if she has any insights into the motive, what caused all of this, how were they allowed to come in here like this? And I can tell you that within the Haitian government right now, there is a sense that someone inside the country had something to do with this.

Let me play you a sound bite with the election minister we spoke earlier this morning.


MATHIAS PIERRE, HAITIAN ELECTION MINISTER: I don't think mercenaries, Colombians, former Colombia's military, would just get in the country. It's obvious. I mean, just get in the country and kill the president? Where did they get their cars that they're driving? How do they get in the country?

There is a lot of things that doesn't make sense for foreigners to just do by themselves. So, I think and we believe they are mastermind behind that crime.


RIVERS: And, of course, of the 28 suspects involved, all of them are foreign nationals at this point, 26 Colombians, two Haitian Americans.

And we should get more information tonight. There is going to be a press conference around 6:00 p.m. local time, the first held by authorities here in a few days and we are expecting them to break news about the status of the investigation because that is news that everyone here in Haiti is desperately awaiting for, how did it happen and who is behind the assassination.

WHITFIELD: And then, Matt, what are the concerns about the leadership, the vulnerabilities of the government right now and who is in charge?

RIVERS: There's no doubt there is a power vacuum. Officially, it's acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph that is in charge.

Technically, elections are still set for September 26, but there are competing political factions that have made their case over the last few days that they believe that there should be an interim president appointed before September 26th. How this plays is something that really could change by the hour, by the day.

We're going to see how this plays out in the early part of this week, protests are up, if things get violent. It's just too early to stay as this point.

WHITFIELD: All right. Matt Rivers in Port-au-Prince, thanks so much. We'll have more news in a moment, but first, today's off the beaten





It's a difficult place to get to, but it's really worth the trip.

The north rim gets 10 percent of the visitors that Grand Canyon gets. That means that you have a little more space to find a place for your own and enjoy the canyon views.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just like the fact that it's less crowded. It's magical. It's a whole different level.

MAX LEPEKES, GUIDE, LAKE POWELL PADDLEBOARDS: Welcome. We're on Lake Powell right now to show people a different way into Antelope Canyon that most people don't know about.

Paddling into the canyon, you get to experience reflections in the water of the canyon walls that will make it so you can't even tell what's up and what's down. There's 100-foot walls that close in as you get farther back. This is the only way to get here, by paddleboard or kayak. So, it makes for a crazy unique experience.

This is the end. This is where the hike starts. This is where it really gets beautiful. It's going to get more narrower here. The farther we get back, you're going to have to duck.

This is the reason people come here, to see this carved out sandstone. The waves and the lines are ancient deposition of sand getting compacted into sandstone. It's just what makes this area so beautiful and so unique and why people come from all over the world.




WHITFIELD: All right. More than six months after rioters rushed the haul of Congress to protest the 2020 election results, and the U.S. Capitol grounds are now again open to public. Access was granted to tourists there this morning after workers finished removing fencing put up around the Capitol after the January 6th insurrection.

The acting Capitol police chief said they're prepared to bring back security measures if necessary.

Pope Francis appeared in public this morning for the first time since having surgery for diverticulitis last week. The pope holding his weekly prayer from the window of a hospital in

Rome, saying many of his prayers have been directed toward Haiti over the last few days following the assassination of that nation's president. The pope is calling on Haiti's leaders to stop the violence and resume the path toward a future of peace and fraternity.

Pope Francis is expected to be released from the hospital in the next few days.

Tonight, the new CNN original series the "History of the Sitcom" premieres with back to back episodes.

And to get us excited for the big show tonight, CNN's Stephanie Elam is on the Warner Brothers Studio back lot in Burbank, California.

So, Stephanie, some pretty iconic moments were filmed right where you are.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So many of them, Fred. I mean, you take a look here, you got the water tower. How many times have we seen the water tower, but most people don't get to see it up close. What it is right here on the lot here in Burbank. What we're seeing is a look back at a lot of shows so many of us have watched over the years and loved.

You're talking about since 1928, this is where the Warner Brothers studio lot has been and there are 37 sound stages here currently. So they have filmed many, many shows and some movie too. So, we're showing you a little TV magic that has happened here along this little bit of strip. It's like you turn a street and things look different than they do because it's like, oh, I'm in California. No, I'm not. I'm in New York, no, I'm in Chicago.

So, we're giving you an idea, to this point, look at this, I may be standing in Burbank, but that right there is the L of Chicago. You can see it down there in the distance, which has been used in like "Bob Hearts Abishola", I think it's been used in a bunch of shows, "Living Matters", I think it was also in that, too. So, "Family Matters", I should say. So several shows that we have seen filmed in this very area.

I just want to show you because now you can actually take part in the Warner Brothers studio tour Hollywood and we have people on a tour.

Are you guys having fun?

CROWD: Yeah.

ELAM: And this is Helen.


ELAM: Helen, what is your favorite sitcom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a huge "Friends" fan, so being on the Warner Brothers tour in Hollywood getting to see the whole central perk was so much fun.

ELAM: OK. So, speaking of "Friends", may we go around the corner please? Because around the corner, you can see some of these moments that you may remember from shows. Remember "Friends" was filmed here at the Warner Brothers lot.

And so if you come around the corner, again, I told you, we were just in Chicago. I was standing in Burbank, and now we're on brownstone street in New York City, and down this street is where Rachel, do you remember this, Rachel lost Ross' monkey? She lost the monkey and they were out at night searching for the monkey. The monkey was upstairs. They didn't know that.

This is where it happened. You can see around the corner, you have all these memories filmed in Burbank on this lot, and they can change it for so many things. It looks like, Fred, it looks like it's a real show of brownstones.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's fantastic.

ELAM: I'm walking down 77th Street.

WHITFIELD: Amazing replica.

ELAM: But they're just facades.


ELAM: They can use these for so many different shows and movies. It's very cool.

WHITFIELD: It is very cool. I like it. I mean, but I love the journey going from city to city by staying in one city. That's movie-making, TV making.

ELAM: Yeah, all over.

WHITFIELD: I love it.

All right, Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.