On Aug. 12, CNN aired a "breaking" news conference to update
viewers on a matter it considered of global importance: the medical
condition of Jason Priestley -- a washed-up, 32-year-old former TV idol who
sustained moderate injuries during a Kentucky auto race over the weekend.
On Aug. 12, more than 700 mourners from across the country
gathered to mark the tragic murder of Kris Eggle -- a 28-year-old National
Park Service ranger who was gunned down near the U.S.-Mexico border last
week. Not a single national network or cable news station mentioned the
memorial service or the outrageous circumstances of Eggle's death.
Several Border Patrol veterans and immigration officers e-mailed
me with the same frustrated plea: Where's the media? Why does a Hollywood
has-been's car crash deserve endless headline news reports, while a young
man's sacrifice in defense of our borders earns zero national TV coverage?
It is because even after September 11, even after all the
newfound appreciation for cops and firefighters and other law enforcement
officers, we remain a culture crippled by celebrity worship. Old habits die
hard. While Priestley's father and doctors get prime-time air to praise the
actor's "courage," none of Eggle's family members or colleagues has been
invited on Larry King or Peter Jennings' newscasts to tell of the slain
ranger's undaunted heroism.
The park where Eggle had been stationed for two years, Organ
Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona, is considered the most
dangerous national park system in the nation, according to a national survey
conducted by the Fraternal Order of Police. It is a magnet for illegal
aliens and Mexican smugglers; some 200,000 illegal border-crossers and
700,000 pounds of drugs were intercepted at the park last year.
Nonetheless, Eggle embraced his job. He was always cheerful, his
co-workers said. A "model citizen."
A "quintessential American boy-turned-ranger." He baked
chocolate chip cookies for fellow rangers and entertained them with songs
while on duty. Eggle's father, Robert, said: "Kris was where he wanted to
be, and he did what he wanted to do." A native of Cadillac, Mich., where he
grew up on his family's 130-year-old farm, Eggle was an Eagle Scout, a high
school valedictorian, a devout Baptist, and a champion cross-country runner
for the University of Michigan. Former co-workers called the fleet-footed
Eggle the "Coyote" in honor of his running prowess.
On Aug. 9, Eggle's speed and dedication may have cost him his
life. He and three U.S. Border Patrol officers responded after Mexican
police reported that two armed fugitives had fled across the border into the
U.S. A border patrol helicopter gave chase and directed Eggle and the other
officers to where three suspects had ditched their vehicle. The American
officers pursued the fugitives on foot as they ran into nearby bushes. One
of the Mexican nationals was caught; in the attempt to apprehend the other
two, Eggle was ambushed and shot by one of the suspects with an AK-47.
The gunfire hit Eggle below his bulletproof vest. He died at the
scene before an emergency helicopter arrived. At the memorial service in
tiny Ajo, Ariz., this week, Eggle's casket was draped with an American
flag -- and topped with the Stetson hat he wore on the job. He will be
buried in his hometown in Cadillac, Mich., following funeral services this
Eggle's murder is not an isolated incident. Several wild
shootouts in the Southwest have occurred since April. Our borders remain out
of control -- open channels not only for illegal aliens and drug smugglers,
but terrorists, too. Invaders are so brazen, say Border Patrol agents, that
they've cleared their own roads through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Calls for increased border patrol resources, park ranger staffing and
military help have been ignored in Washington. The Bush administration
remains far more concerned with appeasing Mexican President Vicente Fox than
with protecting American men and women at the border.
But I digress from the real news. Back to you, CNN and everybody
else, for the latest on Jason Priestley's broken toes.