Straight Talk

HOLD ON, MR. EX-RESIDENT
ABC News veteran Sam Donaldson will be the grand marshal in the Las Palmas Del Sol Sun Bowl Parade in El Paso November 22.

Have you been the grand marshal of an El Paso parade before? No, this is a high honor. Let me tell you something. I was raised on a farm in New Mexico, but I was born in El Paso—that's where the hospital was. I still have properties in New Mexico, so I go through El Paso and Albuquerque frequently.

Naturally, the events that took place on September 11 are still on everyone's mind. Where were you when you heard the news? I was here in Washington in my office, which is located across the river from the Pentagon. We saw the smoke, though the Pentagon is far enough away that that particular devastation was not right in front of our eyes. But I started working the phones to try to find out what I could. All of us did that, of course.

What has surprised you most about the aftermath of the attack? I was in Roswell, New Mexico, yesterday. I went to high school there. It has a small airport—it used to be an Air Force base. The only airline that services Roswell is Mesa Airlines, and Mesa uses these prop planes. But you can't get within fifty yards of the Roswell terminal now. They have thrown up concrete barriers. I'm not telling you or telling them that they're wrong to do it, but I don't think most security people believe that Osama bin Laden will make Roswell, New Mexico, the next target. And yet all over this country, people are reacting in ways we never thought we'd react. The fear that's out there—whether it's Roswell or El Paso or what have you—is genuine. Don't misunderstand me; I'm not poking fun at it for one instant. But now we are coming to grips with this idea that we are going to be attacked by people who don't like us for whatever reasons.

Did you notice that some stations were unprepared to deliver serious news? If you're talking about radio stations, a lot of radio stations don't care about serious news. You know, in recent years, the radio talk-show hosts who seem to gather an audience are the ones who are extreme and tell dirty jokes or curse or impugn people's ancestry or their religion. Maybe, just maybe, what has happened to our country now will diminish the appetite for that. (See El Paso .)

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