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February 21st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Prayers from the air

By Jim Spellman, CNN

Colorado Springs, Colorado (CNN) — They call Colorado Springs “Little Jerusalem” for good reason.

Christian churches from mega to micro dot this city nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and prayer is an integral part of the lives of many of the worshipers who fill those pews.

Most prayers start on the ground and are sent heavenward. But helicopter pilot Will Sanders is taking prayer to the air by flying pastors up to the skies to pray down on the people below.

“I believe prayer works, and I want to take prayer warriors up to pray for their community. Inspire them to see it from a different angle, from a different view,” he said.

Sanders earns a living running Colorado Vertical, giving tours of the area in his Raven II four-seat helicopter. About once a month he opens his chopper up to local pastors, who fly over their churches and areas of the city they think are experiencing hardship and pray for them.

“Pastors know their areas, they know where people are hurting, where people need prayer, where people need help, and I can take them over those areas,” Sanders says.

He says that flying is a profoundly spiritual experience.

Helicopter pilot Will Sanders takes local pastors up in the air to pray over Colorado Springs.

“I see God’s creation. I do believe God created this world, and I see that in nature. When I fly I see the fingerprints of God.”

On a sunny winter day, he meets two pastors from Vanguard Church, Alan Briggs and Jonathan Madrid. It’s Briggs’ third trip and Madrid’s first. As evangelical Christians, they said prayer is an essential part of their faith.

“I care so much for our city that I’ll do anything, and so just starting with prayer is what I think we need to do,” Briggs said.

“I think the first thing we need to be doing as a city, as a body of believers, is to get down on our knees and pray,” Madrid said.

Sanders with pastors Jonathan Madrid, left, and Alan Briggs of Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs.

The tower clears the helicopter for takeoff, and a few minutes later we are cruising over the city. The prayers fly over the tinny audio of the headset microphones, with Briggs and Madrid taking turns.

“We pray that you bring the needs of the city to these churches that they may be able to help.”

“We pray that you bring this city together.”

“We pray for the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson.”

“We pray over this land that it would be dedicated to you.”

“Lord I pray for the high schools in our city, that your light may shine in those schools.”

We bank to the left and pass over the offices of The Independent, an alternative free weekly newspaper that has been critical of the evangelical community.

“We pray for The Independent and particularly publisher John Weiss. We pray for a partnership between such a sometimes hateful organization,” Briggs says.

A minute later, after a bit of quiet, he adds, “That we would be marked by our love and not by our judgment.”

Sanders heads west towards Garden of the Gods - a stunning orange rock formation popular with hikers. Pikes Peak is clearly visible to the south.

“Lord, when people see Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, I pray we would see you.”

We head back toward downtown, and Briggs turns to me to ask if it would be OK if he prays for me. I give him the thumbs up.

“Lord, we pray for Jim and getting to meet him today. I pray that you give him protection, that you keep the hand of safety on him,” he said.

As the airport comes back into sight, the pastors get in as many prayers as possible before we land.

“I pray you would drive out the spirit of consumerism in our city.”

“Lord I pray for more Spanish speaking churches.”

“We pray for military families to be taken care of.”

The voice of an air traffic controller interrupts the flow of prayers and clears us to land.

The cockpit is quiet as we gently touch down.

Back on the ground, Madrid is smiling widely.

“It was great. A different perspective for sure. As I saw the city, so many things came to me,” he said.

“It just gives you a whole new perspective on people, I think. You see these different areas of the city that you never would have thought to even pray for before, so I think praying from a different view is huge. I think it’s awesome and we’re blessed to be able to do that sort of thing.”

The pastors head back to their church as Sanders shuts down the helicopter.

“I was given a gift. I’ve been so blessed. How many people have a helicopter?” Sanders said. “I do believe in the power of prayer, and I want to cover this whole community with it”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Colorado • Pastors • United States

soundoff (558 Responses)
  1. Steve (the real one)

    Gingeet
    How much more delusional do these crazy religious types have to get before we start sending them to therapy? Come on people get a grip, get a glove and get in the game! Since when has prayer ever worked? Never... and if you're stupid enough to think that it does then ask yourself "If prayer really works why hasn't science, corporations and governments sunk tons of money into researching this?" You know why they haven't because they know it doesn't work and it's just B.S.! Who are these idiots that still believe in this stuff?
    -------–
    You ever pray for anything?

    February 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Gingeet

      Well Steve, ask yourself have you ever prayed for something and did it come true? And then think about it for a second and ask yourself did it come true due to "divine intervention" or was there a more realistic reason that it did? I'm 100% sure that the events happened due to a natural solution. If you actually think that something happens due to telepathically communicating to another being than rather it happening due to real reasons... I'm sorry you're delusional! And no I've never "prayed" for anything because I'm not that pathetically mentally incompetent to lie to myself to make myself believe in fictional stories.
      And if you're going to kid yourself and say "Well I know prayer works because..." then ask yourself then why has no one ever re-grown a limb due to prayer? Does your God just not like amputees? Maybe you should "Check" yourself in and get looked at?

      February 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      You are tap dancing pretty hard. Simply Have YOU prayed for anything? Yes or no!

      February 21, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Gingeet,
      you said: "And no I've never "prayed" for anything because I'm not that pathetically mentally incompetent to lie to myself to make myself believe in fictional stories".
      Sorry, you have answered my question.
      Now I will say this: Since you have never prayed for anything, how can do you REASONABLY and LOGICALLY conclude it does not work? So much for your "reason" and "logic", right?

      February 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Magic

      Steve (the real one),

      "... how can do you REASONABLY and LOGICALLY conclude it does not work?"

      Trying to prove a negative again.... you know better.

      February 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Magic
      Steve (the real one),
      "... how can do you REASONABLY and LOGICALLY conclude it does not work?"
      Trying to prove a negative again.... you know better.
      ------
      Hello Magic,

      Using an atheistic argument against an atheist is trying to prove negative?

      February 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Magic

      Hi Steve,

      "Using an atheistic argument against an atheist is trying to prove negative?"

      I'm not sure what you mean there.

      The burden of proof is on the claimant. If one claims that prayer works, then one must prove it. It is not necessary (nor possible) to prove this kind of negative, i.e., that prayer does not work.

      In fact, the several studies which were done about the effect of prayer on medical patients were undertaken to prove its efficacy... and failed to do so. They did not set out to disprove it.

      And anecdotally, yes, I did pray for many years - good, bad and mediocre things happened. I have not prayed for at least the last 15 years; good, bad and mediocre things still happen in equal measure.

      February 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  2. Gingeet

    How much more delusional do these crazy religious types have to get before we start sending them to therapy? Come on people get a grip, get a glove and get in the game! Since when has prayer ever worked? Never... and if you're stupid enough to think that it does then ask yourself "If prayer really works why hasn't science, corporations and governments sunk tons of money into researching this?" You know why they haven't because they know it doesn't work and it's just B.S.! Who are these idiots that still believe in this stuff?

    February 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Lanfear

      "Who are these idiots that still believe in this stuff?"

      Grown men and women, unfortunately...

      February 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  3. Free Thinker

    How truly embarrassing for Colorado and the nation that this religious insanity continues into the 21st century, because nothing fails like prayer. Oh, and stop calling rational thinkers "hateful" for identifying your social disorder for what it is. REASON DOES NOT EQUAL HATE.

    February 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Ryan

      If religion is insane, then what is believing the universe created itself from nothing, that man is related to bananas (the human chromosome is closer to a banana than a monkey according to science), that evolution is fact when nothing supports it (the fossil record shows humans and dinosaurs co-existing, along with the supposed half-human/deformed-ape people – remember, Nebraska Man was created from the recovery of a single tooth that was later found to belong to a pig from a nearby farm, and it's still taught in textbooks today as fact, so whose outdated?). Your faith is far greater than many Christians, I'm sad to say. And if reason were alive and well, you wouldn't be belittling the faith of much of the world (less than 1% of the world is athiests – Christians aren't the only religions "nuts" out there after all, so be fair).

      February 21, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • kso

      @RYAN, ill-informed.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Ryan
      Where are you getting your data?
      Are you a geneticist or geologist?

      Pope John Paul II once said:
      “[N]ew findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—const.itutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”

      Say what you will about the Catholic Church – they've at least abandoned geocentrism, young earth theories and literal genesis creationism.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • cm

      Reason doesn't = Good amongst other things.

      February 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  4. Moravian

    The pastor could also sprinkle holly water on the christian flock below, by bucketful if need be. Better yet, he could lobby rich local donors to pitch in and rent a water bomber with bellyful of holly fluid to literally drench christian houses...Doubtless it would be truly refreshing spiritual experience, particularly on a hot day.

    February 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Fortunately dropping objects from an aircraft is not permitted without special permission, but let's not give the believers too many ideas. On the other hand, if the effects of prayers are tangible as the believers argue, it might be fun (but even I would have to admit, not likely successful) to charge the pilot with violating federal air law.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Sigh . . . beam me up, Scotty, there's no intelligent life down here. I suppose you mean holy water, not holly? Holly is a tree or shrub. Please use a dictionary.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Denizen Kate

      Much as a broken watch is correct twice a day, on occasion the believers get it right by accident. You will find at
      http://www.botanical-online.com/medicinalsaceboangles.htm that holly does/may have some medicinal benefits. So, if I must be showered by the delusional, I would much rather be showered by holly water rather than holy water, as I try to stay as far away as possible from the shamans and charlatans of christianity, and their brand of voodoo and casting of spells, as possible.

      February 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  5. Ryan

    Wow, look at all the anti-Christian comments. I suppose equality means nothing to someone like them. The shout "tolerance" and "freedom of speech" at us 24/7 through every media available, then blast us for trying to excercise those rights.

    February 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Igor

      "Wow, look at all the anti-Christian comments. I suppose equality means nothing to someone like them."

      Why? Do you think that only Christians pray? My response would be the same if you were a Polytheist, except you don't have many Zeus worshippers anymore and they don't try to push energy legislation based on him supplying heavenly electricity.

      "The shout "tolerance" and "freedom of speech" at us 24/7 through every media available, then blast us for trying to excercise those rights."

      Tolerance does not mean approval. Perhaps that is why fundamentalists consistently try to change policy. They constantly conflate equal treatment with approval. I think that all Christians should have the same identical rights that I do, not that I have to agree with their unsupported claims about the metaphysical.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Ben H

      I don't see anyone advocating anything against christians here. It's just having a good laugh. christians always hide behind the totlerance thing. That's good for a laugh too. Thanks

      February 21, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  6. fsmgroupie

    (what would jesus do) jesus don't need no stinkin' helicopter ! he's one of the gods! he can already fly!!

    February 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Jesus does not need a computer either, yet here we sit, right?

      February 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  7. Bus2

    C'mon guys, don't you know that when you're telepathically communicating with a magical sky wizard, the higher up you are, the better?

    It must have to do with atmospheric filtering or something like that...

    February 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • David

      WHY DO ATHEISTS REPLY ON THE FAITH BLOG. YOUR FAITH IS NONSENSICAL BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE NOTHING COMES FROM EVERYTHING.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      David
      WHY DO ATHEISTS REPLY ON THE FAITH BLOG. YOUR FAITH IS NONSENSICAL BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE NOTHING COMES FROM EVERYTHING.
      ------
      Nonsensical to you! I don't live for YOU! You believe everything comes from nothing!

      February 21, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      @David: 1) Please turn off your caps lock.

      2) As an atheist, I can only speak for myself when I say that I read about faith and belief because organized religions do tend to have a profound political and social effect on my life, therefore I feel the need to "keep a finger on the pulse" of the believers.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Igor

      "WHY DO ATHEISTS REPLY ON THE FAITH BLOG. YOUR FAITH IS NONSENSICAL BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE NOTHING COMES FROM EVERYTHING."

      We do? I say there is no evidence so far so its unlikely but I simply don't know? Is that nonsense? I know it's easier to believe that you are in the right when you just make up what others think.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  8. painurse

    God bless you my friend and brother in Christ for taking the talent and gifts that the Lord gave you and using them for His glory!!!!

    February 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Starman

      Why do religious people always have to give the LORD credit for things. A brain doctor saves a mans life and the parents thank God. How about thanking the man and all those many many years of education that he went through to save the mans life.

      February 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  9. Lorelei

    What is this, 1011? It's 2011! Can we stop with the showboating and maybe use the fuel money to feed somebody?

    February 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  10. nina

    First of all Atheist/unbelievers, What are you all doing on a Belief Blog?? Apparently you are all looking for something GREATER than yourselves. I think it is silly to argue on who is right and who is wrong. At the end of our lives (because it is inevitable) we will see who was right and who was wrong. What does the loser get/gain? We ALL get to choose on our own.

    February 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • kso

      We did find something greater: reason.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      kso
      We did find something greater: reason.
      -----–
      Not greater. Reason is human effort and as such will fail the test of eternity!!

      February 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  11. Ben H

    Well, the story was good for a laugh at least

    February 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  12. Harry G

    Stories like this crack me up. hard to understand how anyone can believe this follishness

    February 21, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  13. Sy2502

    Think people, use your head. Doesn't your omniscient god ALREADY know who needs help and who doesn't? Does he REALLY need you to tell him to do something about it?

    February 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Even though you have a need that your natural parents know about, do you still ask? How many times you ask 'what's for dinner" when you know somebody know you need to eat?

      February 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      So it's ok to be a whinny self-centered little brat? :^))

      February 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      HotAirAce
      So it's ok to be a whinny self-centered little brat? :^))
      ---------
      Who is determining he is a whinny, self-centered brat? You?

      February 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Steve (the real one)

      I apologize for my feeble and failed attempt at humor.

      Having raised two children, and observed numerous others, when a child asks what's for dinner? they are often thinking solely of themselves and their tone is not always melodious, hence my reference to whinny and self-centered when asking for/about something that need not be asked about/for.

      I will try to stay within the bitter, angry, lonely and humor-hating stereotype that some, not necessarily you, expect of atheists.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      HotAirAce
      @Steve (the real one)

      I apologize for my feeble and failed attempt at humor.

      Having raised two children, and observed numerous others, when a child asks what's for dinner? they are often thinking solely of themselves and their tone is not always melodious, hence my reference to whinny and self-centered when asking for/about something that need not be asked about/for. I will try to stay within the bitter, angry, lonely and humor-hating stereotype that some, not necessarily you, expect of atheists.
      -------
      Sorry I did not catch the humor! That is not normally your tone! Let me answer you earlier question. God knows what we have need of,yet He wants us to ask. Asking re-enforces the idea of relationship with Him. The benefit of asking is ours and not God's! Asking proves to us that we can trust him. Yet there are conditions to answered prayers:
      1. Asking in Jesus name
      2. Faith

      Those are the 2 most import ones.

      HotAirAce,

      You guys fussing at us about praying is not going to stop us from praying!

      February 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  14. chris

    Hey Will... I'm sure you're a nice guy and everything. But raining down 'prayers' on people... very creepy. Instead of taking preachers up in the air, why don't you go to a local charity and volunteer instead.

    February 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  15. Reality

    Why prayer is useless:

    Inherent Free Will and Future belong to all the thinking beings in the Universe. This being the case, god (if there is one) is not able to alter life and requests/prayers will not be answered. Statistically, your request might come true but it is simply the result of the variabiliy/randomness of Nature.

    So put down your rosaries and prayer beads and stop worshiping cows and bowing to Mecca five times a day. Instead work hard at your job, take care of aging parents, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to charities and the poor and continue to follow the commandments of your religion or any good rules of living as gracious and good human beings.

    February 21, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      you are as-suming people who pray don't do any of those things! Your as-sumptions are wrong, just like many of your posts! !

      February 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Kipster

      So we're supposed to take prayer advice from someone who doesn't know if there is a God? Pfffft

      February 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • airwx

      I find your arguement without basis. You first claim that whatever being is be addressed in the prayer cannot actually become reality because we are free thinkers. You have the reasoning backwards, I believe because of your reliance on the common misconception that God is subject to humanities first limiting force, time, that you have come to your conclusion. God gave us the free will to ask in prayer for our needs. God is not subject to time, the natural laws of our universe (further limits on humanity) nor is God restricted from bringing about His will. Others may be angry with you for your words. Others may be swayed by your words. I choose (free will) to pray for you.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • nina

      Have had many, many, many prayers answered in my life. First it's a miracle that i'm still here and all my physicians (man) couldn't explain why I'm still here. The only hope given to my spouse and family was to pray. HHHhhhmm. I have had many specific prayers answered, included every detail and It was all answered. My first home was an answer to prayer from the fence, big yard, Fruit trees, and price range. Oh and that it would have an Efficiency apartment to supplement may income. Never told my realtor(of my wishes) but what do u think he showed me one day?!! (Oh and he didnt even know it had an efficiency apt upstairs it wasn't in the listing) Nope NOT Random!!! God listens to those who are faithful and sincere and YES I donate all my time to church, charities and helping others w/o anything in return. It's not by your Good Works you enter in you need a RELATIONSHIP w/ God. 🙂

      February 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Something

      nina,

      I have bought 3 houses in my lifetime which were perfect for me... without one single prayer to a god.

      I guess you'd say I cheated though, I did tell my realtor what I wanted.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • nina

      @ Something, I told him I wanted a 3 bed 2 bath house of course!! But not all the other details, specific fruit trees (orange, peach, lemon) Not common findings where i live. I never told him about finding me a house w/ a efficiency apt to supplement my income. (he would think I couldn't afford it) When i went to see the house, it was a 3 bed 2 bath house as requested but had a separate entrance to a 2nd floor that wasnt on listing or floor plan. My realtor was an elderly 70 something yr old couldnt even walk up stairs so he gave me the keys to check and there it was an efficiency apt. Not Random or a coincidence!!! Oh and had to place a bid w/ several other people and I still got it and never left my price range ,my bid stayed the same. 😉

      February 21, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  16. Steve (the real one)

    Can Christians effectively pray on the ground? Yes they can. But when a man , using his OWN Helicopter, using his OWN fuel, using his OWN money, using his OWN time, decides to do something differently, why the complaints? Get on with your OWN lives! To all who complain that he could have fed someone with the cost of his fuel:
    1. What are YOU doing for the poor?
    2. Judas had the SAME type argument!
    3. Telling someone what to do with his own time, money, and resources sounds too much like socialism and liberalism to me!

    rown alinat larenlty y

    February 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • kso

      donating services and money regardless of your belief. acting like civilized and caring human beings. any more questions?

      February 21, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      kso
      donating services and money regardless of your belief. acting like civilized and caring human beings. any more questions?
      ------
      Actually yes more questions, at least one:
      1. Glad you are helping
      2. Are you telling me those who pray don't help?

      February 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  17. saganhill

    LMAO...whats next? I wonder if his engine fails he'll say it was gods will?

    February 21, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Bus2

      C'mon, don't you know that if that helo ended up crashing, they'd just start exclaiming what a miracle it was that nobody on the ground was injured?

      February 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Thanks to excellent engineering, auto-rotation and piloting skills, all manmade talents (queue "from god"...), engine failure in a helocopter should be quite survival – not pleasant, but not neccesarily deadly.

      February 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  18. georgea

    Great job!! God bless what you are doing! May all the Glory and Praise be the only GOD, HIS SON and to the HOLY SPIRIT !
    THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY IS SOVEREIGN above all things.
    One day all earth will see the living GOD!

    February 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • saganhill

      People like you have been saying that for 2000 years. Another 2000 years will go by and he still will be a no-show.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • pleasedotell

      @Saganhill: And what happens if he does show? And what if he asks you what have you done to help your neighbors while he's been away? And if he shows you the many opportunities you have missed in life because of you hardened & prideful heart, how will you respond?

      February 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      @PleaseDo Tell: You ask "And what happens if he does show? And what if he asks you what have you done to help your neighbors while he's been away?" I am atheist, and I can say I've done plenty. Why do Christians believe that they are the only ones who help the less fortunate? That they are the only ones who are kind to others? Do you really think you have a lock on what you consider good behavior? Then you are even more delusional that I thought.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  19. Ohtheirony

    The anger and hatred of atheists always confuses me.

    February 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • saganhill

      We're not angry, we are scared that irrational people are making decisions that affect people that dont have this credulity
      like you do. There is no old man that lives in the sky that made everything.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Here's an equally intelligent response to believer's seemingly amazing ability to detect anger and hatred by atheists:

      The stupidity of believers never confuses me.

      February 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  20. jd

    What happened to the wonderful concept of WWJD ( what would Jesus do )
    These guys are so far from knowing Christ it's frightening. They have hijacked Christianity for too long – not only is the fuel in that helicopter the cause of the war & death the cost to fly the helicopter & maintain it could help A LOT of people who are right back on the ground.
    Christian's wake up!

    February 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • saganhill

      What? You're crazy, jesus is dead. And I highly question his history since he is only mentioned in one book. The bible and god have caused more widespead war & death than anything in this world.

      February 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.