July third started like most days in Laredo. The sun crept slowly over the horizon, turning hot darkness into brutal, heat-drenched daylight.
Estella Garcia woke, steeped in sweat, just as the pink gauze of heat began to fill the sky. Her son, Ernesto, liked to call her early on weekend mornings. She was used to rising early to take his call. She often wondered, though, whether it occurred to him that, while he might naturally awaken at six o’clock in his New York apartment, it was only five o’clock in Laredo.
Even though she expected the call, the phone’s ring jarred Estella. She answered the phone with, “Buenos dias, mijito! How’s my favorite boy?”
“Hey, mom! Things are rockin! I get my performance review today and it looks like it might be a real good one!”
“A performance review on a Saturday?”
“Every day is a work day here, mom. And, besides, it’s my six month anniversary; boss told me he wanted me to come in today to talk about my plans for the future. Sounds promising!”
“That’s good news, mijito! When are you going in? Will you call me after your review?”
“Of course! I hope it’ll be news of a promotion and a raise. I really think he likes my work and my work ethic, mom. He gives me kudos a lot, you know? I just think things are looking up.”
“I’m very happy you’re doing so well, Ernesto! I was afraid when you went to New York you would have a hard time finding…”
The call ended in mid-sentence. Ernesto tried several times to call again, but got the same recording each time: “We’re sorry; you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again.” After the fifth try, he gave up, assuming something had happened to the phone lines somewhere between Manhattan and Laredo.
There had been no threats, no suggestions, no indications of any kind of a planned attack. It simply happened. Suddenly, at 5:15 a.m. Central Time, much of Laredo, Texas and its Mexican counterpart, Nuevo Laredo, disappeared in a hellish inferno.
Roughly one third of the 240,000 citizens of Laredo, Texas and 375,000 citizens of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico were killed instantly. Another three hundred thousand died within the week after the blast.
Ernesto learned a few months later that his mother had been one of those who perished several agonizing days after the blast; she lived through hell, her final days and hours a brutality no human should ever experience.
ISIL or ISIS or whatever they were calling themselves at the time claimed responsibility for the event. It didn’t matter who said they did it, though. What mattered was that revenge be exacted as quickly and as overwhelmingly as possible. That, after all, is the primary driver of US foreign policy.
[THIS HAS BEEN SITTING, ALONG WITH ABOUT A HUNDRED AND TWENTY OF ITS FRIENDS, ON THE BACK BURNER. THAT’S WHERE IT WILL STAY FOR NOW.]