On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was sitting in the conference room of the Del Rio News-Herald.
For years, the editorial staff and the publisher of the News-Herald met to discuss what would be in that day’s edition. We were an afternoon paper then, so the news of the day was typically from the night before.
As we exited the room, a relative of our then-managing editor Rosa Delgado called and asked her if she was watching television. She replied that she wasn’t and then proceeded to turn on the television we had in the newsroom.
We saw as one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York was smoking after it had been struck by an airplane. Our sports editor then, Bill Jewell, was a retired United States Air Force chief master sergeant and a former air traffic controller and he was puzzled as to how something like this could have happened.
A few moments later, a second plane smashed into another tower and at that point everything we had planned for that day’s edition changed. Soon came word of the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of a fourth plane in a field in Pennsylvania and the computer that monitored news from the Associated Press began spewing slug after slug, short descriptions of developing and completed stories, about those awful incidents and the aftermath.
That evening I watched then-President George W. Bush speak to the American people and explain how this was an attack on our country. I knew then that we were going to war, and I was all for it.
The country was swept up in patriotism after that. Radio stations played patriotic music, like “God Bless America” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and censored songs that spoke of destruction or mayhem, like AC/DC’s “Safe in New York City.” U.S. flags sprouted up everywhere and our military was revered and respected for going off to fight against a new enemy that existed to destroy our country and our way of life.
My dad served in the military. My brother, my uncles, cousins, friends all served in the military. I was in firm belief that they were right and they were doing the right thing.
The reality of war didn’t hit home until I covered the death of Raymond Losano, a young man I went to high school with and whom I had lost contact with until I received word he was killed in an attack in the Middle East in 2003. I saw the civic center filled with mourners, his coffin draped with the U.S. flag.
The scene repeated itself four years later with the death of Oscar Sauceda Jr. I covered Oscar when he played football for the Rams and spoke with him when he worked in the diner portion of Jett Bowl. I was informed of his death while I was driving back to the office and had to pull over to process it.
I’m no dummy. I know war isn’t glamorous. I know it’s young men and women, often times from working class families, sent overseas to fight the battles our political leaders caused through their actions and their decisions. The men and women who serve in our military do so because they believe in serving their country and because it could lead to better things in their future. It could mean money for college or learning a trade they could apply to life after the military or it could become a career for them.
But war is nothing anyone wants. It is a necessity when no other alternative in conflict exists and it never gives back but only takes. To welcome war is to welcome loss.
Right now there are families here in Del Rio on edge because the conflicts rising in the Middle East could signal a new call to war and it’s their children, their sons and daughters, who will be sent to answer that call. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall, keep those families in mind. Pray for the safe return of all our troops and pray for a peaceful solution to this new conflict.
Brian Argabright is the sports editor at the Del Rio News-Herald, where he has worked for the last 22 years.