Richard L. Watson

September 27, 2001

Yesterday I took my neighbor for an aerial tour of the nearby Texas coast.  This morning, I realized the present day importance of the historical sites that we flew over in the light of the terrible terrorist attack on our country.  

We flew northeast from Aransas County Airport at Rockport up Matagorda Island over the bombing ranges that trained our Airforce from WWII to the early 70’s, over the long closed military airfield on the north end of Matagorda Island, and circled the huge Civil War earthworks near the abandoned lighthouse on the north end of the island.  Those earthworks were erected from the Gulf to the bay to protect the Confederate fort on the north end of the island.  As we flew on, we passed Pass Cavallo where the French explorer LaSalle lost one of his ships.  We flew on to Matagorda Peninsula over another WWII training airfield and then over the site where LaSalle lost the Belle, his flagship.  

A short distance further we passed over Palacios and its WWII airport which is still in use for general aviation.  Flying west we looked at the Fort St. Louis excavation where LaSalle and his men built a small fort for protection after they lost their ships.  We looked at the shoreline of Matagorda Bay, where Indianola was once one of the most important ports in Texas and where many of the German immigrants landed on their way to settle on the coastal plains and hill country of Texas.  As we returned to the airport at Rockport, we looked off, over Copano Bay to the site of El Copano, one of the first ports in Texas.  It was built by the Spanish to serve the mission at Refugio and the mission and presidio at Goliad.  It later served the Texians during the Texas revolution from Mexico.

From the early efforts of LaSalle, to the brave aviators of WWII who were training to defend us from the monstrous threat of Hitler and Japan in the 1940’s countless men and women risked their lives for their futures and eventually the future of America in this small part of the Texas coast.  We are now facing the greatest threat to our country and to our freedom and security since WWII.  This time the enemy is among us, but we are many and they are few.  There are three hundred million of us.  The attacks of September 11, 2001 managed to kill only about 7000 of us.  That is only 7 people out of three hundred thousand people.  Let us not be afraid.  Above all, let us honor all of those who risked their lives or died for freedom by not relinquishing ANY of our rights and liberties in the name of security.  Once gone, they will be gone forever and the terrorists will have won.  The men who died at the historical sites we flew over, or died later after being trained at those sites would expect no less from us.

Benjamin Franklin was prophetic when he said: “Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."  Let us honor his memory and the memory of those who have died for our freedom and refuse to allow any of our liberties to be curtailed.