On August 27, 1994, five agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration were lost in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Their plane crashed in the Huallaga Valley, the place where sixty percent of the world's cocaine was coming from at the time. Most of it ends up on the streets of the United States. At the time, you could have called that place the heart of darkness.
A newspaper headline the next day told of the five agents. They came from five different cities in the United States. There was a lot of pain in that disaster. The pain of the people who worked with them, the people who hiked a long way into the jungle to recover their bodies. The pain of their families. The pain their boss Mr. Constantine felt when he got this news, when he informed the families, when he attended funerals in five different cities, when he went back to work the next day.
Lest you think that this tragedy was without purpose, in fact during the 1990s, courageous Special Agents like these and many other law enforcement professionals in America, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and other nations affected by international drug trafficking had the satisfaction of seeing coca production in Peru brought down by sixty percent. An extraordinary achievement.
The Southern Cross is a constellation of five bright stars that is seen in the skies of the Southern Hemisphere. It helps sailors find their way on the ocean the same way that the North Star does in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Cordillera is the vast chain of mountains that runs from North America all the way to the tip of South America. In the United States and Canada it forms the Rocky Mountains. In South America it is called the Andes.
The nations in the northern part of South America through which the Cordillera runs are the source of the coca used to produce cocaine. The plant is native to that region.
THE SOUTHERN CROSS
Frank Fernandez, Jr.
Jay W. Seale
Frank S. Wallace, Jr.
Juan C. Vars
27 August 1994
From under the shining Southern Cross
Comes news to us of tragic loss.
Five lives in service to the law
Are vanished in the jungle's maw.
Was it turbulence, malfunction or simply pilot error
Above the foothills of the Cordillera
That caused this dull surveillance mission
To end with "mayday" its last transmission?
Who knows? What difference could it make
Were it crime, mischance or just mistake?
The Andes' vast magnificence
Is dwarfed by the significance
Of what they risked and dared and undertook
And what we've lost.
O, there should be a lengthy book
To tell the tale of these and all
Who in our time have harked the call
To take up arms and travel far
To lands where no familiar star
Is in the heavens shining.
How long were they in far Peru for home and loved ones pining?
In a world so full of hopelessness and so devoid of song
Where do we find these stalwart souls
Who tilt at windmills and chase impossible goals?
Whose deeds inspire us all to hope
That time will come when we'll no longer in darkness grope?
No more hurt. No more grief. No more messages of loss.
In southern latitudes the seaman finds his way by Southern Cross.
He scans the firmament above for that familiar constellation.
Tonight, he'll be astonished when he sees its augmentation.
Not four, but five new shining stars before his eyes
From the very heart of darkness will rise.
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