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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Surveillance video caught the dramatic moment an explosive device was detonated in the New York City subway system during Monday morning's rush hour, sending panicked commuters scrambling to evacuate.

The video shows commuters walking in the underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal when the explosion erupts. The camera screen filled with smoke as people fled for safety.

As the smoke clears, the suspect is seen lying on the ground.

The 27-year-old suspect, Akayed Ullah, is in the hospital, badly injured in the arm and torso from the device that went off in his arms, sources said. Ullah, originally from Bangladesh, told authorities he is self-inspired from ISIS online propaganda, sources said.

Christina Bethea, 29, told ABC News she was in the passageway on her way to work when she heard a bang, saw smoke and ran.

Despite the crowds, only three people suffered minor injuries, officials said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the explosion “one of our worst nightmares.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called it an "attempted terrorist attack."

Cuomo said on CNN that the homemade device only partially detonated, explaining that the bomb was in a pipe that itself did not explode. Authorities called it an "improvised low-tech explosive device" that was attached to the suspect with Velcro and zip ties.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A suspect is in custody after allegedly detonating a small explosive device in an "attempted terrorist attack" in the New York City subway system, sending commuters scrambling to evacuate a major transit hub just blocks from Times Square, city officials said.

The explosion occurred in an underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and, despite the rush-hour crowds, only three people suffered minor injuries, officials said. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the explosion “one of our worst nightmares.”

The 27-year-old suspect, Akayed Ullah, is in the hospital, badly injured in the arm and torso from the device that went off in his arms, sources said. Ullah, originally from Bangladesh, told authorities he is self-inspired from ISIS online propaganda, sources said.

Authorities called the explosive an "improvised low-tech explosive device" that was based on a pipe bomb and was attached to the suspect with Velcro and zip ties.

Video of the incident, shot by a surveillance camera, shows commuters’ walking in the passageway when the explosion erupts. The camera screen filled with smoke as people scattered.

Christina Bethea, 29, told ABC News she was in the passageway on her way to work next to the terminal when she heard a bang, saw smoke and ran.

"If I didn’t believe in God, I believe in God today," she said, adding that she commuted from Yonkers, New York.

The explosion in the subway system -- ridden by 6 million people each day -- occurred at about 7:20 a.m.

Port Authority Police Department Officer Jack Collins, who was undercover at the time looking for children being trafficked at the bus terminal, apprehended Ullah, with the help of three other officers.

The suspect entered the United States from Bangladesh seven years ago on a family-based visa and has an address in Brooklyn, sources said. The explosive was assembled in his apartment, sources said.

"Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

New York City has long been a target of terrorist attacks. Since Sept. 11, about 26 “plots” in New York City have been prevented, officials said this morning.

There are no credible and specific threats against New York City at this time, officials said.

The bus terminal was temporarily closed but has since reopened. Subways were bypassing the terminal and Times Square stations.

President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

This is a breaking news story, please check back for updates.

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Courtesy Columbia County Sheriff's Office (NEW YORK) --  A high school soccer coach who allegedly ran away with a 17-year-old girl is being extradited to Florida, an official told ABC News Monday.

Rian Rodriguez, 27, had been in custody in upstate Onondaga County, New York, on a Florida warrant for alleged custodial interference since 17-year-old Caitlyn Frisina was found safe in New York with him earlier this month. He's now been released from the Onondaga County Jail to be extradited to Florida, where he lives, said Jon Seeber of the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office.

A spokesperson for the Columbia County Detention Facility in Florida confirmed to ABC News that Rodriguez is heading to the jail, but the spokesperson declined to say when he is expected to arrive due to security reasons. 

Frisina was reported missing from her Florida home on Nov. 26, sparking a massive search. She and Rodriguez -- a family friend and assistant soccer coach at the teen's Florida high school -- were found in a car together in Syracuse six days later.

Frisina has since been reunited with her parents.

Chuck Keller, the Syracuse-based attorney representing Rodriguez in New York, told ABC News last week, “I can say that my client maintains his innocence of any charges and has consented to be extradited back to Florida as soon as possible so that he can clear up the matters there."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Christina Bethea was on her way to her security guard job in Midtown Manhattan early Monday morning.

But she never made it to work.

The 29-year-old had arrived at the massive Port Authority terminal after taking a bus from her home in Yonkers north of the city and then a city subway. She was about to walk out of the transit hub to her job.

“I walked down the stairs to go through the pathway that connects to the Port Authority and when I got to the end of it I heard a noise that went ‘boom’,” she told ABC News. “It sounded like a big gunshot. One time.”

The explosive sound was the result of what authorities are calling "an attempted terrorist attack" that injured three people.

A 27-year-old suspect "intentionally detonated" an improvised, low-tech explosive device that was based on a pipe bomb and was attached to the suspect with Velcro and zip ties, authorities said. Three people were injured.

Bethea heard the sound first. Then she saw smoke.

“I saw that so I started running to get out of there,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

She said others also fled at the sound of an explosion and smoke.

“We all just ran,” she said. “We all ran up the steps, and someone said, ‘What the hell was that?’”

Police arrived quickly, she said.

“Not even two minutes passed and all the police rushed into the Port Authority,” she said.

After calling her family and her best friend, Bethea heard the news that the explosion and smoke were from a detonated device.

Realizing she survived what may have been an attempted bombing, Bethea decided to head back home.

“It shakes you up,” she said. “If I didn’t believe in God, I believe in God today,”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- Five years after a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school horrified the nation, some family members of victims reflected on how their lives have changed since the tragedy, as they work together to prevent future acts of gun violence.

"We simply don't want other parents to be in our position. We know that these acts of violence are preventable," Nicole Hockley, whose son, Dylan, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown five years ago, told ABC News' Amy Robach. "We feel responsible to teach people how to prevent them from happening."

Hockley recalled how her Dylan, who had autism, loved to pretend to he was a butterfly.

"He would flap his arms up and down whenever he got excited, which was pretty much all the time, and I asked him once, 'Why do you flap?' and he said, 'because I'm a beautiful butterfly,'" she said.

"At his funeral I talked about how the theory of a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world can cause a hurricane on the other side," Hockley said. "I thought about Dylan as our butterfly to help create change in our country, positive, transformative change."

Hockley co-founded the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization that uses educational programs to help prevent acts of gun violence before they occur.

The community of Newtown was thrust into the national spotlight five years ago this week when it was rocked by tragedy after a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty students -- between the ages of 6 and 7 -- and six educators were killed.

The shooting drew many immediate calls for reform or action to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again. Just this October, however, the U.S. suffered the deadliest mass shooting in history when a gunman killed 59 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mark Barden, who also co-founded Sandy Hook Promise after his son, Daniel, was killed at the elementary school, told ABC News that he "made a very deliberate decision to invest every fiber of my being into trying to prevent that from happening again."

Barden recalled his son as "an exceptionally sweet, compassionate little soul."

"My one little Daniel has in his life affected so many people in a positive way, but in his murder I can't even tell you," Barden said.

"We're training people, students, parents, teachers, how to recognize the warning signs that people give off before they hurt themselves before they hurt someone else," Barden said.

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ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- The Thomas Fire, the worst of five wildfires currently burning in California, grew by more than 50,000 acres on Sunday, making it the fifth-largest wildfire in the state's history, fire officials said.

The inferno just north of Los Angeles in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is being fought by about 6,400 firefighters.

It’s been a witch's brew fueled by lush vegetation, powerful Santa Ana winds and the region's extremely warm weather and dry conditions.

So far, officials estimate the Thomas Fire has charred about 230,000 acres. It has consumed 794 structures and damaged about 190 others, with 18,000 buildings still at risk.

The peril of the blaze, which has burned wildly for a week, has prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

In Santa Barbara County alone, more than 30,000 residents were forced from their homes under evacuation warnings.

Perhaps most critical is that the Santa Ana winds persist, keeping firefighters struggling with gusts at around 35 to 45 mph, Cal Fire officials confirmed.

However, in a promising turn, despite the fire’s perimeter spreading over the weekend, the Thomas Fire is now back to 15 percent contained -- up slightly from Sunday evening.

The state has spent more than $34 million on efforts to suppress the Thomas fire, which has also knocked out electricity for thousands of area residents, authorities said.

 "[We're] facing a new reality in the state," California Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday as he surveyed damage in Ventura County. "It's a horror and a horror we need to recover from."

He said drought and climate change have exacerbated the wildfires.

 From now on in California, Brown said, fires are going to be more "intense" and a greater danger to lives and property.

"Individuals need to come together to make our communities livable," he said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A body found Sunday in a wooded area in a suburb of Washington, D.C., has been identified as that of a 17-year-old boy who went missing a day earlier, according to police.

The body of Navid Nicholas Sepehri, a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, was found in a wooded area in the city that is about 20 minutes northeast of the nation's capital, Montgomery County police said in a statement.

Sepehri was reported missing after he failed to return home Saturday night, according to the statement.

Walt Whitman High School's principal confirmed the teen was a senior at the school in an email to parents and students Sunday night, according to ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington.

Police said the cause of death is still under investigation.

Montgomery County police are asking anyone with information on the case to call its major crimes division.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A fresh round of cold and snow headed toward the Midwest and Northeast on Monday.

The National Weather Service has issued winter storm watches and warnings for nine states from Indiana to Maine as an Alberta Clipper storm system moves through Monday into Tuesday.

The system is just moving into the northern Plains from the Dakotas to Minnesota and Wisconsin, with snow from Minneapolis to Chicago.

The storm system is forecast to move east into the Great Lakes by Monday evening, bringing snow from Detroit to Cleveland.

The clipper system is expected to touch down in the Northeast by Tuesday morning, with snow mostly inland and rain showers from Boston south to Washington, D.C.

Most of the snow will fall in the Midwest and Northeast just north of major metropolitan areas. Some parts of inland Maine could get as much as 10 inches.

Behind the storm system, the coldest air of the season is forecast for the Northeast by Wednesday morning.

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@WildandSassyGal/Twitter(LOS ANGELES) -- Communities along Southern California's coast were still seeing fresh evacuations on Sunday as the seemingly unstoppable Thomas fire, fueled by plentiful brush and shifty Santa Ana winds Several swaths of the city of Carpinteria were placed under mandatory evacuation overnight and into Sunday, fire officials confirmed, as the blaze continues to threaten structures.

The Thomas fire, which since Monday has been battled by 4,400 firefighters and has torched 173,000 acres, remains only 15 percent contained.

One firefighter suffered an injured leg while battling the Thomas fire, Cal Fire officials confirmed to ABC News. The Thomas fire has also knocked out power lines to thousands.

There was also limited refuge for the evacuees as parts of Ventura, Ojai, Casitas Springs, Santa Paula and Fillmore are still being threatened by blazes, fire officials said.

The news of the fire's continued devastation in the already scorched region comes a day after firefighters across Southern California made dramatic headway in the week's battle against six major wildfires that have dragged the state's fire season well into December.

On Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown surveyed some of the remains of Thomas Fire, which started in Ventura, fire officials said.

The governor said the prolonged fire season is becoming the norm.

"[We're] facing a new reality in the state," he said. "It's a horror and a horror we need to recover from."

He also noted that the years of drought and climate change have caused experts to conclude that "California is burning up."

From here on in California, Brown said, fires are going to be more "intense" and penetrate lives and property.

"Individuals need to come together to make our communities livable," he said.

The breakdown of the blazes and shift in winds gave firefighters in the region much-needed respite.

The newest blazes, the Lilac fire in San Diego County and the Liberty fire in Riverside County, which was 20 percent contained as of Saturday afternoon, are also being fueled by continued Santa Ana winds and low humidity, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

ABC News meteorologist Daniel Manzo said the forecast for those fire-ravaged areas remains serious.

Red flag warnings have remained in effect for much of Southern California with peak wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph. Low relative humidity –- as low as 5 percent -- is likely through this period, as well, Manzo said.

Winds could exceed 50 mph in the mountains east of San Diego, an area that was of particular concern for fire growth on Sunday.

Winds gusts in Ventura and Los Angeles counties were expected to diminish Sunday afternoon from 60 mph to 45 mph due to an onshore flow beginning to develop, according to Cal Fire's website.

The winds had exceeded 60 mph during the week, causing embers to spread.

Gusts were in the 30 to 50 mph range in San Diego County and 25 mph in Santa Barbara where the evacuations were taking place.

Low humidity around Southern California has staggered in the teens to single digits.

It took 8,500 firefighters to battle the first four large wildfires and then new ones have continued spreading rapidly, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Overall, the six blazes have burned more than 200,000 acres and forced more than 98,000 residents from their homes.

A 70-year-old woman was identified Friday as the first victim of the fires.

The Skirball fire is small, but its threat to heavily populated areas of Los Angeles, including Bel Air, has drawn widespread attention.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and 17 schools on Los Angeles' west side were shuttered last week, citing the poor air quality. At least 265 schools have been closed. UCLA canceled classes during the week because of the Skirball fire.

On Friday, the district announced that all schools will reopen Monday.

Thomas fire

The Thomas fire in Ventura County, the largest of the six blazes, started Monday night as a 50-acre brush fire in foothills east of Santa Paula and grew to 10,000 acres in just four hours, authorities said.

The fire had burned 173,000 acres of land by Sunday morning and was holding at just 15 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

More than 98,000 residents were evacuated, and 25,000 structures are threatened by the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Thomas Fire has since spread to Santa Barbara County late Thursday, prompting California Gov. Jerry Brown to issue a state of emergency for the county, the third to be designated.

There were 9,000 firefighting personnel on the scene of the massive blaze.

Authorities said 834 structures were destroyed in the blaze and more than 100 were damaged.

Officials were concerned about part of the Thomas Fire heading northeast and threatening a nursing home in Ojai. The 25 residents and staffers there were evacuated as a precaution, authorities said. It's unclear if the seniors have returned to the nursing home or remain evacuated.

Creek fire


The Creek fire, in the Kagel Canyon area above Los Angeles' Sylmar neighborhood, has scorched 15,619 acres of land, destroyed at least 105 buildings and damaged another 70. Over 150,000 residents were evacuated and some 2,500 structures are threatened, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze was 90 percent contained as of Sunday morning, and 1,964 personnel are fighting the flames.

The Creek fire was responsible for the death of almost 40 horses at Rancho Padilla, according to ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles. The horses were trapped in a barn that burned to the ground as the owners were evacuated with no warning.

All evacuation orders and warnings were lifted by Saturday morning.

Rye fire

The Rye fire has scorched 6,049 acres in Santa Clarita, west of Valencia. The blaze was 90 percent contained as of Sunday morning, though 5,460 structures are still threatened by the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

About 2,000 residents were evacuated, though mandatory evacuation orders in the area have been lifted.

There were 652 personnel on scene battling the Rye fire Sunday morning.

Skirball fire

The Skirball fire has burned more than 400 acres of land so far, but its proximity to Los Angeles and responsibility for briefly shutting down the infamously crowded 405 Freeway has drawn national attention.

The fire had posed a threat to the acclaimed Getty Center, a museum in western Los Angeles. Officials managed to keep the flames from jumping the 405 freeway and heading east. The blaze was 75 percent contained as of Sunday morning, and firefighters have managed to keep it from breaching containment lines.

Six structures were lost in the fire, with an additional 12 damaged. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the flames, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Los Angeles County declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon because of the Skirball fire in the city's Bel-Air neighborhood.

Lilac fire

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Friday that flames from the Lilac fire were growing at a "dangerous rate" in San Diego County, where 4,100 acres of land have been burned thus far. At least 182 structures were destroyed and 23 were damaged by the blaze, while an additional 1,500 are threatened.

The fire was 60 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

AlertSanDiego, the region's cellphone emergency alert system, had sent out 23,000 evacuation messages as of Friday morning, including for new evacuations in Oceanside.

Officials said the Lilac fire began late Thursday morning near Fallbrook and had grown to 50 acres in just an hour. Peak gusts had reached 66 mph Thursday afternoon in Pala, California, near the blaze, contributing to the rapid spread of flames.

Four civilians had suffered injuries and were taken to local hospitals, though authorities could not confirm the severity of the injuries.

Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency in San Diego County due to the Lilac fire, his office announced late last week.

Liberty fire

The Liberty fire, located in Riverside County near Murrieta, north of Temecula, has scorched 300 acres of land. It was 100 percent contained as of Sunday night, according to the Murrieta Fire and Rescue.

Seven structures were destroyed in the flames, but authorities have lifted all evacuation orders for the area.

One woman, Lauren Fuga, said she watched in shock as the Liberty fire burned down part of her home in Murrieta.

"I just, I'm at a loss for words," Fuga told KABC-TV through tears. "It's so horrible. You never think that it's going to happen to you, and it can."

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iStock/Thinkstock(SPARTANBURG, S.C.) -- Convicted serial killer Todd Kohlhepp claimed in a letter he wrote to a South Carolina newspaper that he killed more than the seven people he was convicted of murdering.

In a letter to the Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Kohlhepp, 46, said he had tried to tell investigators about his other victims, "but it was blown off."

"Yes there is more than seven," Kohlhepp wrote in the eight-page letter. "I tried to tell investigators and I did tell FBI, but it was blown off. It's not an addition problem, it's an multiplication problem. Leaves the state and leaves the country. Thank you private pilot's license."

Kohlhepp pleaded guilty in May to 14 charges including seven counts of murder in exchange for serving seven consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole. The prosecutor agreed not to seek the death penalty as part of the deal.

Kohlhepp was arrested in 2016 after Kala Brown, who had gone missing along with her boyfriend, was found chained on his property. Brown later told police she saw Kohlhepp shoot and kill her boyfriend, Charles Carver. Carver's body was later found in a shallow grave on Kohlhepp's property.

In all, the killings took place over more than a decade, as Kohlhepp ran a real estate business. Among his victims were four people killed at a motorcycle shop in 2003.

A Spartanburg County sheriff's investigative report says Kohlhepp "confessed to investigators that he shot and killed" the owner, service manager, mechanic and bookkeeper of Superbike Motorsports, a high-performance motorcycle shop in Chesnee, South Carolina.

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Natasha Bates(VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala.) -- One Tyrannosaurus rex was so happy to see a rare snowfall last Friday that it couldn't help but make snow angels and throw snow balls at the neighborhood kids.

The woman inside the inflated T-rex costume was Christi Boston Henderson of Vestavia Hills, Alabama. She, along with her friend and videographer Natasha Bates, decided to enjoy the first snow of the season.

"I honestly was in awe. That's the most snow I've ever seen in my life," Henderson, 27, told ABC News. "I made the most of it. I said, 'This is going to be fun.'"

Henderson had purchased the costume beforehand, as she wore it to attend Dragoncon in Atlanta last September.

"I had seen a lot of people just kind of be stupid with the T-rex suits. I thought, 'This is my time to shine,'" she said with a laugh. "I went outside and got in snowball fights with the neighborhood kids. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

"The best part was making people laugh," Henderson added.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- So long, snow.

After a winter storm dumped the white stuff on parts of the Gulf Coast and Southeast on Friday, the mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New England were hit with heavy snow on Saturday. But as of Sunday morning, the storm is leaving the Northeast.

Final snow totals in northern Georgia approached nearly 1 foot, while more than 10 inches of snowfall was reported in western North Carolina.

Farther north, in the Washington, D.C. area, 2 inches of snow was reported at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 2.6 inches was reported at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and 4 inches was reported at Washington Dulles International Airport. All of the aforementioned figures are all new daily snow records.

While the storm may have left the South and East Coast, as of Sunday morning, 40,000 customers were still without power from Georgia to New Jersey. This is an improvement, though, from the nearly 275,000 outages on Saturday afternoon.

The South was hit with the first measurable snowfall to the region. In fact, there's more snow on the ground in parts of the South than Minnesota's Twin Cities have seen all season. There's only been 3.1 inches to date in the Twin Cities.

Now, back to the Northeast. The storm is pulling away from the Northeast on Sunday morning. Snow will continue to taper off from west to east through the morning hours with much calmer weather expected through Sunday.

The main concern Sunday will be patches of ice from melting and re-freezing of snow. Behind this storm, lake-effect snow will continue again Sunday across the Great Lakes region.

Upstate New York, from Buffalo to Watertown, may experience significant lake-effect snow, with up to 18 inches in the forecast. Travel delays in parts of New York State and Michigan are possible as a result.

Cold air is locked in place for much of the eastern U.S. Sunday morning. The most notable area of cold air is Florida, where wind chills in the central part of the state over the next few mornings will be in the 30s.

Looking farther north -- very farther north -- a disturbance will develop in southern Canada by late Sunday and cross the border into the U.S. Northern Plains by Monday. This classic disturbance, called an Alberta Clipper, will bring some light snow from the Northern Plains to the Northeast from Monday to Tuesday. With the exception of enhanced lake-effect snow, accumulations from Alberta Clippers tend to be fairly light.

Expect a significant blast of cold air right behind the Clipper. Wind chills spanning an area from the Midwest to the Northeast will be the coldest so far this season, with it feeling like the temperature is in the low teens in the I-95 corridor by Wednesday morning.

Over on the West Coast, the Santa Ana winds are expected to ramp up again Sunday morning and through the day on Sunday.

Gusts locally will exceed 50 mph through the hillsides and mountains. Relative humidity will be as low as 3 percent in some areas over the next several days -- not an ideal condition for battling the blazes.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- Five years after 20 children and six educators were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school that shocked the nation, the community of Newtown, Connecticut, is close to designing a permanent memorial that will honor them.

The process of constructing a memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has been a long one. A commission was formed in 2013 to tackle the town’s unprecedented challenge. Since then, finding a site and a design in line with the wishes of the victims’ families and the town's residents has proven to be a slow and delicate operation.

"We want to get this right," Kyle Lyddy, the chairman of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission, told ABC News.

While some decisions have already been made, the concept of the memorial is yet to be determined. The public has been invited to submit their design proposals for the memorial until Dec. 15.

In the meantime, those who have spent the past five years working toward the goal of a memorial to the victims said the process is finally on track.

'The whole town stood still'

In 2012, the day of Dec. 14 "started out as a picture-perfect day with blue skies," said Bonnie Fredericks, 50, a local hair salon owner and lifelong resident of the village of Sandy Hook.

Fredericks told ABC News she was heading into work when she heard the sound of emergency vehicles and helicopters.

"You could feel that something horrific had happened," Fredericks said. "People running down the street. People trying to get up to the school who couldn't. A lot of hearsay as to what happened. But then more news of what was unfolding became clear. And then disbelief -- somewhat like 9/11. You're there when it's unfolding, but never could you comprehend what's unfolding."

On that December day, Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother at the home they shared before heading to Sandy Hook Elementary School. He used an AR-15 to shoot and kill 20 first-graders and six educators. Lanza then turned the gun on himself.

"It felt like the whole town stood still," said Lyddy, 30, a lifelong Newtown resident.

"You'd never think it would happen in Newtown," he added. "It was shock."

'How can I help?'


Right after the shooting, Lyddy said, everyone was asking themselves, "'What can I do?' 'How can I help?'"

For Lyddy, the answer was pouring himself into efforts for a memorial.

Temporary memorials that included teddy bears, balloons and signs from children immediately sprung up around the village of Sandy Hook after the shooting.

Then, in 2013, a dozen volunteers were appointed to the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission to determine if a permanent memorial should be created, and if so, what it should look like. The committee now consists of 10 people, including three people who lost a loved one in the shooting, Lyddy said.

"We did create guidelines based off of community feedback -- most importantly, the 26 families' feedback. What they thought should be present, what they thought should definitely not be present," Lyddy said.

Lyddy also reached out to people who had been in his shoes before, people tasked with helping design memorials to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.

“They've been great assets to us,” he said.

Residents also pitched in to raise money for the permanent memorial, including Fredericks, who held a hair "cut-a-thon" fundraiser at her salon a few weeks after the shooting. She said her salon and the others who joined her raised $8,000 that day. The memorial will be paid for with a combination of private and public funds, Lyddy said.

Fredericks said that more than just raising money, the "cut-a-thon" was about helping people feel involved.

"I think it filled a void for so many people in my industry, with hair and beauty and making people feel better. It makes us feel better to help," she said.

'Honoring those lives lost'

Commissioners looked at several potential memorial sites over the years, but the location has now been confirmed. A Newtown resident donated 5 acres of land located about a quarter of a mile from the elementary school to the town for the memorial, Lyddy said.

But while the location has been decided, the concept for the memorial is still unknown. The commission invited members of the public to submit design proposals through Dec. 15.

"We didn't want to limit the creativity," Lyddy said. "We wanted a process in place that would fairly examine and evaluate the designs that came forward."

Designers have been asked to avoid submissions with the numbers "12/14" or "26", religious or political connotations, depictions of victims through images or sculptures, extensive use of metal or concepts with a playground.

The memorial's goal is "honoring those lives lost," Lyddy said.

"It's not based on the events or the shooter. We never talk about that. It's always based on the individual," he added, saying that the commission hopes the designs "really depict the lives that were lost."

"They were such individual unique lives. Some of them were educators. Some of them were students. That's first and foremost -- that we remember those lives," Lyddy said.

College students and architects are among those who have already submitted designs, he said. The commission expects there to be a total of 100 to 200 designs to be evaluated.

'No perfect answer'


But the process of creating a memorial has led to differences of opinion among Newtown residents.

Nick Heron, 23, who works at a liquor store in Sandy Hook, said he is in support of a memorial being built, but wishes it could have been built on the site of the school itself. A new building for Sandy Hook Elementary School was rebuilt on the same property.

He called the rebuilt school, which opened in 2016 and features state-of-the-art security systems, a "big waste of money for our town." The school was funded by a state grant and cost $50 million.

"I thought that was something that should’ve been done a while ago,” Heron said of a permanent memorial. “I think it was something that’s long overdue."

Fredericks said she is also in support of a permanent memorial.

"I believe that everything in our life that impacts us should never be forgotten,” she said. “I know, for the majority of people, this won't be forgotten, but there will be generations to come that should know that these were special people and this is a tragedy that they went through.”

She conceded that a drawback of the memorial would be if it attracted visitors "for negative reasons."

"People came to town right after it happened -- you would see people from other areas and they'd have their kids and they'd be taking pictures next to all the memorial pieces," she said. "That made me sad because it wasn't like you were at Universal Studios. You tell someone to smile as you take a picture of something that's really a tragedy."

What's most important to Bob Schmidt, a 35-year resident of Newtown, is that the commission has moved "slowly."

He said he went to some of the memorial commission’s early meetings to see if the committee members "were going to go about it in a respectful, delicate way."

"And I was pretty convinced that they were going to go slowly and try to listen to as many people that wanted to speak to them," Schmidt told ABC News. “I think it's necessary to have a memorial to show our respect and a place for people to go and pay their respects and grieve. I think it's an important thing, but I still think we have to go slowly."

He added that the memorial “may be hard” for some grieving families.

“I think there's no perfect answer,” Schmidt said. "Because if we ignored it and didn't have a memorial, that'd be offensive to the people who suffered the loss, to many of them. But I think we have to pursue this as slow as possible so that every voice can be heard, any objection can be heard."

'A beautiful place'

In January 2018, the commission and an advisory panel will begin evaluating the designs, a process Lyddy expects to take a month or two.

There's no specific deadline for when the committee hopes the memorial will be built, but Lyddy said he expects it to be done in a year or a year and a half.

Lyddy stressed that the commission is not in a rush to complete it.

"We want to get this right," he said, adding that such a process involves input from and open communication with the victims' families.

Though the town is now five years removed from the tragedy, it is still fresh in the minds of many.

"You think about it and it hurts, because you know the hurt that so many other people still feel," Fredericks said. "You can't help but sense their pain or feel their pain.”

Newtown is a "beautiful place," she added, "with genuine people who've loved and lost."

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Mario Tama/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Puerto Rico's official death toll from Hurricane Maria -- which slammed into the U.S. territory as a Category 4 storm in late September -- has risen to 64, the island's Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced Saturday.

The announcement came the same day that the Federal Emergency Management Agency said federal assistance in Puerto Rico has topped $1 billion.

The death toll increased after the government on Saturday attributed two additional deaths to the storm.

"These deaths that are certified today as indirect deaths related to Hurricane Maria are the result of investigations into cases that have been brought to our consideration," DPS secretary Hector M. Pesquera said in a statement.

The official death toll remains heavily scrutinized by critics, who believe the figure is significantly higher.

The New York Times on Friday published a review it conducted of daily mortality data from Puerto Rico’s vital statistics bureau. It discovered that 1,052 more people than usual died on the island following Hurricane Maria’s landfall. Figures like this -- in addition to reports that there was an increase in cremations and bodies at morgues -- have many people questioning the official death toll.

One of the two deaths certified Saturday occurred in Orocovis, located in the interior Central Mountain Range, the DPS said.

"The person died the day of the hurricane, and the body did not pass through the Department of Forensic Sciences (NCF) because a doctor in the death certificate certified as natural his death," according to the DPS statement. "The deceased had multiple health conditions and relied on an oxygen machine. In the early hours of the day of the hurricane, the power went out in the residence, and when the relatives went to see the person, they found him dead."

The statement continued, "In a review of the case by the NCF and by the interview with the relatives, it was determined that the death is indirectly related to the hurricane."

The other death was reported in Morovis, located in the island's central region. The individual died the day the hurricane hit the island, according to the DPS. A doctor initially certified the death as natural on the death certificate, but the NCF said it later evaluated the documentation to authorize the cremation requested by the family members.

"The person had health problems, but suffered complications during the day of the hurricane," reads the statement. "Due to the inclement weather conditions, the ambulance took a long time to reach the residence. This death is added as indirectly related to the hurricane."

Also on Saturday, FEMA said federal assistance to Puerto Rico as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria has topped $1 billion.

FEMA said more than a million Puerto Rican residents registered for FEMA assistance. FEMA also said it has provided funds to more than 366,000 families in Puerto Rico, including:

- More than $259 million in financial assistance for rental and repair, or to rebuild residences

- More than $251 million for grants to repair or replace damaged personal property or to pay for disaster-related necessary expenses and other serious needs

Other FEMA assistance provided also includes:

- More than $39 million of low-interest disaster loans provided to more than 880 survivors and 50 business owners through the U.S. Small Business Administration

- More than $58,000 approved for Disaster Unemployment Assistance to 12,000 residents

- More than 19,000 Blue Roofs installed

- More than $1 million in flood insurance claims

In addition, more than $470 million has been obligated in FEMA Public Assistance grants to provide emergency generators for critical facilities, and to reimburse municipalities for debris removal and other necessary government expenses related to "life-safety missions."

Puerto Rico's electrical grid remains problematic: Its electrical grid generation took a hit Friday into Saturday, dropping nearly 20 percent to just 49 percent, according to the Puerto Rico Power Energy Authority (PREPA). That figure later increased to 56.6 percent. PREPA said Friday that the electrical grid was generating 68 percent of its capabilities.

PREPA spokesman Carlos Monroig told ABC News Saturday night that the generation number is “dynamic and changeable.” Monroig said the generation fluctuated based on time, weather and the use of power by government, residential, commercial and industrial spaces.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Firefighters across Southern California made dramatic headway on Saturday to gain the upper hand in the week's battle against six major wildfires powered by brutal Santa Ana winds that have dragged the state's fire season well into Christmas.

On Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown surveyed the remains of Ventura's Thomas fire which has charred 148,000 acres and 231 square miles is now 15 percent contained, fire officials said.

The governor advised that these fires and prolonged fire season stretching well into December is becoming the norm.

"[We're] facing a new reality in the state," he said. "It's a horror and a horror we need to recover from."

He also noted that the years of drought and climate change the result, he said experts say is that "California is burning up."

From here on in California, Brown noted, fires are going to be more "intense" and penetrate lives and property.

"Individuals need to come together to make our communities livable," he added.

The breakdown of the blazes and shift in winds have afforded firefighters in the region with much-needed respite.

The newest blazes, the Lilac fire in San Diego County and the Liberty fire in Riverside County which is 20 percent contained as of Saturday afternoon, are also being fueled by continued Santa Ana winds and low humidity, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

With the good news on the horizon, ABC News meteorologist Daniel Manzo stressed that the forecast for those fire-ravaged areas remains serious. Extreme fire danger will remain in the region through the weekend. Red Flag Warnings have remained in effect for much of Southern California with peak wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph. Low relative humidity –- as low as 5 percent -- is likely through this period, as well, Manzo said.

Winds could exceed 50 mph in the mountains east of San Diego. This area will be of particular concern for fire growth on Saturday night and Sunday.

Red flag warnings have been extended across much of Southern California through Saturday, and high wind warnings are in effect for mountain and valley areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Winds gusted to over 60 mph in Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Thursday, causing embers to spread even more. Gusts were in the 30 to 50 mph range in San Diego County. Much of Southern California is also experiencing humidity levels in the teens or even single digits. Relative humidity in San Diego on Thursday afternoon was just 5 percent.

As nearly 8,500 firefighters battled the first four large wildfires, two new ones erupted Thursday and spread rapidly, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Overall, the six blazes have burned more than 175,000 acres and forced over 212,000 residents from their homes.

A 70-year-old woman was identified Friday as the first victim of the fires.

The Thomas fire in Ventura County, the first to ignite, has burned well over 100,000 acres and is expected to intensify because of the increasing winds. The Skirball fire is small, but its threat to heavily populated areas of Los Angeles has drawn widespread attention.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and 17 schools on Los Angeles' west side were shuttered through Friday. At least 265 schools have been closed. UCLA canceled classes Thursday because of the Skirball fire.

Thomas fire

The Thomas fire in Ventura County, the largest of the six blazes, started Monday night as a 50-acre brush fire in foothills east of Santa Paula and grew to 10,000 acres in just four hours, authorities said.

The fire had burned 148,000 acres of land by Saturday morning and was just 15 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

More than 88,000 residents were evacuated, and 15,000 structures are threatened by the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Thomas fire spread to Santa Barbara County late Thursday, prompting California Gov. Jerry Brown to issue a state of emergency for the county, the third to be designated.

There were 3,993 firefighting personnel on the scene of the massive blaze.

Authorities said 537 structures were destroyed in the blaze and 118 more were damaged.

Officials were concerned about part of the Thomas fire heading northeast and threatening a nursing home in Ojai. The 25 residents and staffers there were evacuated as a precaution, authorities said.

Creek fire


The Creek fire, in the Kagel Canyon area above Los Angeles' Sylmar neighborhood, has scorched 15,619 acres of land, destroyed at least 105 buildings and damaged another 70. Over 150,000 residents were evacuated and some 2,500 structures are threatened, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze was 80 percent contained as of Saturday morning, and 1,964 personnel are fighting the flames.

The Creek fire was responsible for the death of almost 40 horses at Rancho Padilla, according to ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles. The horses were trapped in a barn that burned to the ground as the owners were evacuated with no warning.

All evacuation orders and warnings were lifted by Saturday morning.

Rye fire

The Rye fire has scorched 6,049 acres in Santa Clarita, west of Valencia. The blaze was 65 percent contained as of Saturday morning, though 5,460 structures are still threatened by the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

About 2,000 residents were evacuated, though mandatory evacuation orders in the area have been lifted.

There were 813 personnel on scene battling the Rye fire Saturday morning.

Skirball fire

The Skirball fire has burned just 475 acres of land so far, but its proximity to Los Angeles and responsibility for briefly shutting down the infamously crowded 405 Freeway has drawn national attention.

The fire is threatening the Getty Center, a museum in western Los Angeles. Officials were focused on keeping the flames from jumping the freeway and heading east. The blaze was 50 percent contained as of Saturday morning, and firefighters have managed to keep it from breaching containment lines.

Six structures were lost in the fire, with an additional 12 damaged. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the flames, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Los Angeles County declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon because of the Skirball fire in the city's Bel-Air neighborhood.

Lilac fire

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Friday that flames from the Lilac fire were growing at a "dangerous rate" in San Diego County, where 4,100 acres of land have been burned thus far. At least 105 structures were destroyed and 15 were damaged by the blaze, while an additional 1,500 are threatened.

The fire was 20 percent contained as of Saturday morning.

AlertSanDiego, the region's cellphone emergency alert system, had sent out 23,000 evacuation messages as of Friday morning, including for new evacuations in Oceanside.

Officials said the Lilac fire began late Thursday morning near Fallbrook and had grown to 50 acres in just an hour. Peak gusts had reached 66 mph Thursday afternoon in Pala, California, near the blaze, contributing to the rapid spread of flames.

Four civilians had suffered injuries and were taken to local hospitals, though authorities could not confirm the severity of the injuries.

Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency in San Diego County due to the Lilac fire, his office announced Thursday afternoon.

Liberty fire

The Liberty fire, located in Riverside County near Murrieta, north of Temecula, has scorched 300 acres of land. It was 90 percent contained as of Friday night, according to the Murrieta Fire and Rescue.

Seven structures were destroyed in the flames, but authorities have lifted all evacuation orders for the area.

One woman, Lauren Fuga, said she watched in shock as the Liberty fire burned down part of her home in Murrieta.

"I just, I'm at a loss for words," Fuga told KABC-TV through tears. "It's so horrible. You never think that it's going to happen to you, and it can."

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WJTN Headlines for Monday Dec. 11, 2017

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