Precisely one year ago, on Sept. 12, 2008, 25 people died and many more were seriously injured in a commuter train wreck in California. For two days the horrific accident was front-page news, and then suddenly the story died. By the first week of November, Internet search engines for the most part found only stories that followed the initial crash. News of the individual victims and their lives became virtually non-existent. Even lawsuits filed by survivors with injuries and by the families of those killed were no longer reported on by California newspapers or by national media.
In contrast, the Metrorail accident in Washington, D.C., that killed nine people in June 2009 has received massive media coverage. An Internet search of the operator's name, Jeanice McMillan, yields dozens of results despite the fact that she was blameless in the crash. Why, then, was the larger and more fatal accident dropped from the news in just a few days?
The answer: The engineer, Robert M. Sanchez, 46, was a homosexual, and he was sending a text message to a teenage boy when he blew through a red light, crashing head-on into an oncoming freight train. Because being "gay" is a media cause in America, and particularly in California, virtually no gay crime is reported. Domestic violence involving gays is rarely if ever reported in California newspapers despite the fact that it represents a disproportionate number of police calls. Simply put, the minute the individual who caused the train crash was identified as being homosexual, reporting on the disaster came to a virtual stop.
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On Sept. 21, 2008, the New York Times did publish a 40-paragraph, sympathetic story about the killer engineer, Robert Sanchez, which centered on his diabetes and the suicide of his "partner" in 2003. The dead and injured passengers were not mentioned. In paragraph one of the story, titled "Several Portraits Emerge of Engineer in Crash," it is mentioned that he was sending a text message to a teenage boy at the time of the accident, saying, "He encouraged teenagers who showed their own enthusiasm for the rails. ..." Later, in paragraph five, the Times article mentions that he suffered "grief" over the death of his partner in 2003, the first indication that he was gay. Near the end of the article, in paragraph 39, an individual is quoted as saying, "If he was texting those teenagers, he'd have to have loved his job and wanted to share it with people."
There are lots of older men and women who are "rail" enthusiasts. In fact, there are numerous magazines published for railroad and model railroad buffs. At age 63, I continue to build a model train layout that is slowly taking over the basement of my home. The average subscriber to Model Railroader magazine is by no means a teenager.
Yet in none of the articles is it mentioned that Sanchez sent text messages to mature rail enthusiasts, or that he belonged to any model rail clubs. It seems his only interest was in "sharing the rails" with teenage boys. Let's get real: Bob Sanchez was using his position as a railroad engineer to pick up teenage boys who had an interest in railroads. In his excitement in communicating with a teenage boy by text message he took his eyes off the rails in front of him and killed himself and 24 others while leaving dozens with permanent injuries, some crippled for life.
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My point: Don't expect to hear too much more about one of the worst rail crashes in history. To report on the crash the facts of it would have to be discussed. Since the central fact is that a homosexual engineer was text messaging a teenage boy at the time of the crash, reporting will be greatly diminished. What of those individuals and families who will suffer for life as a result of Mr. Sanchez's actions? Will the New York Times publish a 40-paragraph article about the lives of the victims, their ambitions and their grief? Don't hold your breath.
A year after he killed himself and 24 others, a search on the Internet for the Robert M. Sanchez produces hardly any results. Any references to him do not expose the role that his homosexual behavior played in the deadly crash. Had Sanchez been an evangelical Christian texting a message to a potential convert, no doubt there would be hundreds of derogatory articles in the "mainstream" media about him, including hour-long exposés on ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC. The crimes and reckless behaviors of homosexuals should be treated equally in the media with those of non-homosexuals. The special treatment should stop.
William J. Murray is the chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Religious Freedom Coalition.