Death and Destruction in my Hometown

April 18, 2013 1:57 PM

Last night I stayed up watching the updates of the fertilizer factory explosion outside my hometown of Waco, Texas. In fact, the blast was in the little town of West (originally called West Station), where my mother was born.

West and Abbott (Willie Nelson’s hometown) aren’t far from each other and Mom was acquainted with Willie before he became big. As a child, I was introduced to the delights to be had at Nemecek’s Meat Market, where we’d get bacon and sausage, and Kolacek’s Kolache Kitchen, where we’d get the traditional sweet rolls filed with apricots or prunes. Obviously, there’s a strong Czech influence in the area and I understand I have a second cousin that ran the Czech-American Social Club.

So, it was jarring to senses on many levels to see the footage and hear the details of the horrific explosion last night. It affected me as a former firefighter as much as it affected me as a native of the area.

However, every time I hear Waco mentioned in the news, I know I am about to hear something bad. Ask yourself what you thought of when you heard Waco mentioned. Did you think of Waco natives Steve Martin, Jennifer Love Hewitt or Dr Pepper? Did you think of Baylor University and its great athletes like Britney Griner and Robert Griffin III? Did you at least remember The Waco Kid from “Blazing Saddles?”

I bet you didn’t.

Since the anniversary of the final fiery raid is tomorrow, I’m sure there will be retrospective stories done about it. They will draw a link to the Oklahoma City bombing because Waco was one of the incidents cited by OKC bomber Timothy McVeigh two years later.
Even this week, television commentators who ought to have fact-checkers, tried to tie the Boston Marathon bombing somehow to Waco. Then, backtracking, they tried to tie it to Tax Day and therefore to right-wing militia and Tea Party types (as though those are the same thing).
Grasping for specious connections does not serve the public discourse and it disrespects the memories of those who lost their lives in any of these incidents. Instead of trying to draw these pompous parallels, maybe commentators should seek to understand and explain each incident on its own terms.
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About drronthomasjr

Dr. Ron Thomas, Jr. teaches journalism at Full Sail University in Orlando, FL. Dr. Thomas also heads Thomas Consulting Group, a consortium of professionals in leadership, crisis management, and media relations.
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