The first version of the killings came from Mexico City media. “Massacre in Tamaulipas State,” said the news anchorman. Seventy-two corpses had been discovered on a ranch in San Fernando municipality, all showing signs of a mass execution.

A ranch is seen in San Fernando in Tamaulipas state where according to a Mexican navy statement 72 bodies were discovered by Mexican marines in San Fernando, Tamaulipas state, in this handout photo released by the Attorney General's office August 26, 2010. The corpses were found by Mexican marines at the remote ranch near the U.S. border, the Mexican navy said on Wednesday, the biggest single discovery of its kind in Mexico's increasingly bloody drug war. REUTERS/Tamaulipas' State Attorney General's Office/Handout  

 The blindfolded and hand-tied bodies of people thought to be migrant workers lie at a ranch where they were discovered by Mexican marines in San Fernando, Tamaulipas state, in this handout photo released by the Attorney General's office August 26, 2010. REUTERS/Tamaulipas' State Attorney General's Office/Handout

News of executions, macabre assassinations and kidnappings are commonplace in northern Mexico, but this headline was not. With journalists’ reflexes we began to plan a trip to what suddenly became the bloodiest theater in the drug war. In the past two months a candidate for governor was gunned down, two mayors assassinated, grenades exploded on city streets and the cousin of a media mogul kidnapped. In one weekend 51 people had been murdered in infamous Ciudad Juarez.

People walk past a covered-up body of a dead man on a street near a shopping center in Ciudad Juarez August 15, 2010. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

My editors asked me if I wanted to go to Ciudad Victoria, where the government announced it would send the 72 bodies for identification. I knew the routine. In less than an hour I was headed out the door to the airport with my equipment and a hastily-packed suitcase, just as my youngest daughter arrived from school.

“Where are you going Papá?” she asked. “Can you take me with you?” My daughter is still a child.

“I can’t take you. I’m going for work,” I told her as I touched her cheek, avoiding her big eyes as they searched out mine.