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A year's worth of news crammed into 4 months

April 20, 2003|by BILL KOHLER

Easter and spring are known as times of rebirth and renewal.

There's the reappearance of robins, the emergence of flowers in the garden and leaves on the trees and the return of a green tint to our lawns.

This past winter makes spring even more welcome. The Tri-State area suffered (or enjoyed, for the brave among us who like to ski and engage in other winter exploits) through one of its worst and - what seemed like - longest winters in years.

Yes, we needed the warm sun, the crack of the bat at local schools and ball fields and the sound of mowers gnawing through high grass in our neighborhoods.

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It truly is a time of starting over.

Except in the news business.

We've had a year's worth of so-called big stories in the first four months.

Many of these bigger news stories were on the national and international front lines, but we've also been covering some very important developments in Washington County as well as in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Much of the local news has focused on budgets and cuts. State and local governments have lopped, nipped and tucked to avoid raising taxes or to keep them from being increased even more.

We swore in new governors in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Yes, we even got a Democrat for governor in Pennsylvania.

We saw a resolution to the messy John Howard retirement issue in Washington County.

We read about the rise and fall of a medical malpractice insurance crisis in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Some will say the issue is far from resolved as doctors continue to pay high premiums and insurance companies will continue to raise them.

We saw a Shippensburg, Pa., firefighter die in the line of duty.

We cheered as West Virginia State Police Trooper Robert J. Elswick returned to Martinsburg to continue recovering from a near-fatal gunshot wound to the head.

We suffered through one of the worst snowstorms in years.

We read as the Jefferson County (W.Va.) Board of Education's deal to get the promised 60 acres for a second high school in the county from a developer fell through.

On the national front, we watched as seven bright lives were snuffed out when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in a bright blue February sky as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.

But the first quarter of 2003 starts and ends with war in Iraq. We heard the threats from Bush administration officials. We heard the denials from Iraq. We heard about resolutions and inspections.

We saw vigils calling for peace. We heard cries of support for our troops. We saw tears from family members as their loved ones departed from the 167th Airlift Wing base in Martinsburg, W.Va., and hundreds of other bases around the country.

Then we heard the loud sounds of war and the protests around the world. The combat phase of the war lasted only a few weeks, sending Saddam Hussein into either oblivion or hiding.

What have we learned?

1. America was not fooling around this time and is following through with ridding Iraq of its regime.

2. War is costly - in lives and in the billions of dollars spent fighting it.

3. War is ugly. There are no real winners, just survivors. The looting and anarchy in Baghdad was expected, I'm sure, but it doesn't make it any easier to stomach. And where are Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?

So where do we go from here?

Let's hope that the rest of the year contains as much conflict resolution, honesty and harmony as there were death, deceit and disharmony so far in 2003.

Let's hope that more of our troops are sent home sooner rather than later.

And finally, let's hope that by this time next year, some editor will be writing a column about how the first four months of 2004 were much better than the first four of 2003.




Bill Kohler is Tri-State editor of The Herald-Mail. You can reach him at 1-800-626-6397, extension 2023, or at billk@herald-mail.com.

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