National media should have focused on Goliad tragedy

Oct. 28, 2012 at 5:28 a.m.

Ken Conklin

Ken Conklin

Between the early morning hours of July 20 and the night of July 22, two American tragedies played out. One was incessantly exploited for a week or so via the world wide news outlets. The other was extensively covered by The Victoria Advocate but otherwise relegated to the back pages of other newspapers. I felt the second tragedy was a much more disturbing event and should have garnered headlines and discussion from the national media. I was motivated to submit a version of this piece to the Washington Post and, when they did not run it, to the Atlantic, which also ignored it.

The tragedy the nation learned of took place in the Denver suburb of Aurora. A gunman took the lives of 12 people and maimed scores of others. That evening, the NBC Nightly News showcased Brian Williams in front of the cinema where the mass shooting took place. Ominous music added to the drama as Williams made impactful statements such as "in one of the worst mass murders in this country's history" and "the town of Aurora will never be the same." The segment was titled with something like "Massacre in Colorado." More than half their scheduled broadcast time was devoted to the story.

The second American tragedy took place during the evening of July 22 out on Highway 59 near the tiny Texas town of Goliad where 15 victims of human trafficking died when a pickup truck lost control and crashed. In an alternate universe, here is how I imagined this second tragedy should have been reported:

The Monday, July 23, editions of major newspapers include a front page headline "15 Dead in Texas." The NBC Nightly News opens with Brian Williams on U.S. Highway 59 in front of a makeshift memorial made up with colorful flowers and candles burning for each of the victims. And although today's drama-laden newscasts personally turn me off, NBC would title the segment: "Catastrophe in Goliad."

The coverage would go on to explain that the pickup truck was crammed with 23 likely illegal aliens. Williams would conduct an on-the-scene interview with a 38-year veteran Department of Public Safety Trooper Gerald Bryant who says when he drove up the dark stretch of U.S. Highway 59 on Sunday night that this scene was something he could never have imagined - a one-vehicle wreck, 15 fatalities.

The printed media coverage would reference interviews with some of the survivors. One interview might be with 16-year-old Mario Pango-Tol, of Guatemala, and go something like this: Speaking through an interpreter at DeTar Hospital Navarro in Victoria, the distraught survivor explained how he and his friends Victor and Juan were stuffed in the back of the pickup with the other petrified and exhausted people. They were going very fast because it was explained they had to get to Houston before they were caught. He didn't understand what they were running from because they were finally free. They were in Los Estados Unidos. Their dreams and aspirations would be filled. But now he did not know what would happen. He did not know that his friends Victor Tomas Pablo-Jorge and Diego Maydoqueo Tipaz-Jorge were dead.

Another survivor, Miguel Lares-Zetina also of Guatamala would explain that he had left his home town two months prior after giving his family's life savings to a person who promised to take him to El Norte. His village was very proud of him. Along the way very bad people stopped his group and took any remaining money he had. They also took several young girls with them. He never saw the girls again.

There may be several reasons why this story was not extensively covered. But, the main reason is that it is just something we mainstream Americans cannot empathize with. Most of us do not understand the level of desperation required to motivate one to leave the known world behind in order to build a better life. We just think, how stupid to put 23 people in a pickup truck. We can, however, identify with sitting in a movie theater eating popcorn contemplating our vulnerabilities.

The week following these two American tragedies. I was in Washington, D.C., showing friends the sights and the monuments of our capital. The impressive displays represent acts of honor, perseverance and patriotism who made us the nation we are today. The monuments depict those that were inspired by their dreams of a better life in the future. The Goliad victims simply wanted the same thing.

I also noticed the flags were at half-staff and learned it was to honor the 12 victims of the tragedy in Colorado. I chose to remember all 27 victims of those tragic days. Vaya con Dios.

Ken Conklin, of Daleville, Va., is a manager in the technology industry. He is a regular guest columnist to the Roanoke Times. He can be contacted at



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