Editorial: The most important story
What was the most important story in Carroll County during 2004? That's a subjective call.
It seemed that hardly a week passed that law enforcement officers in the county and its cities weren't busting up meth labs -- 40 all told by the end of the year. That's a big story, because it affects so many members of our communities in so many ways.
The biggest story could have been education, as schools struggled with burgeoning enrollments while awaiting answers from the state on what the future of education in Arkansas would look like.
The top story could have been about water -- dirty water, that is. Legislators, environmental specialists, county citizens and local elected officials all became embroiled in the debate over the cause of deteriorating water quality in our streams and its causes.
Certainly among the top stories here involved elections for county judge and sheriff, and while we saw little of the mud-slinging fervancy of the national election debate, it did fuel an interest that caused record turnouts.
We learned in journalism 101 way back when that the most important stories are the ones that affect the most people. So many people were affected by the continued plague of meth; every parent and every taxpayer knows that education will cost him and her money; pinpointing and solving our water pollution problems is something everyone needs to become familiar with; and everyone has an opinion about the election, be they "fer" or "agin" the winners.
Yet the story that struck us as the most important for Carroll County in 2004 seemingly affected just one family. It was the death in battle of Lt. Michael Goins, 23, son of Jim and Tammy Goins of Oak Grove. If not the subject of conversation over coffee or at dinner, the Iraq war was, and is, the cause of constant fear for the families of those chosen to do battle there. "Only" 1,351 American servicemen have died there. "Only" 10,000 others have been seriously wounded. Of the 125,000 U.S. soldiers on the ground there, Lt. Goins became one of those casualties. His death broke the hearts of his family and all who knew him, and it brought home to everyone here all too vividly the reality of a war going on halfway around the globe, described to us nightly via the marvel of television.
Lt. Goins was the exception, not the rule. He was an over-achiever, valedictorian of his senior class, captain of his high school football and basketball teams. And he was a military man, through and through. He was a representative of our best and brightest. All the more appalling that a person with such promise and with a lifetime of achievement ahead should perish in a battle in a cause most of us are still trying to sort out.
The funeral procession for Lt. Goins from Green Forest to Berryville stretched for miles. The impact of his loss stretches beyond words.