CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - "Not one person murdered yesterday," Ciudad Juarez's leading newspaper proclaimed in a banner headline. It was big news in this border city, ground zero in the drug war - the first time in 10 months that a day had passed without a killing.
But by the end of that day, Oct. 30, nine more people were riddled with bullets.
Violent death is a part of life in Ciudad Juarez, a seedy, dust-cloaked metropolis on the banks of the Rio Grande. Bloodied bodies hang from overpasses, and children walking to school stumble across hit men filling targets with lead.
While there's no definitive comparison of murder rates in cities around the world, there's no question Ciudad Juarez is now among the deadliest. It has had about 2,250 killings this year, a rate of 173 per 100,000 residents. That compares with 37 in Baltimore, the deadliest U.S. city with a population of more than 500,000.
The violence began in earnest in early 2008, when Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Juarez Cartel boss Vicente Carrillo Fuentes launched a deeply personal fight over drug routes that their organizations had long shared. Both have lost family members in the fight, and have adopted increasingly brutal tactics as it drags on.
Thousands of troops and federal police rolled into the city by May 2008 to stop the violence, and this year President Felipe Calderon sent in even more, with more than 7,000 soldiers in place by March.
The killings tapered off, but soon rebounded: As the drug seizures hurt traffickers' incomes, they turned to kidnapping, bank robberies and carjackings.
"The city is dying," said Daniel Murguia, president of the local chapter of the National Chamber of Commerce, who uses thick steel bars and surveillance cameras to protect his chain of laundromats.
"For Rent" signs cover the doors of the cavernous nightclubs that once drew thousands of revelers across the border from El Paso, Texas. Most Juarez youths - spooked by the shootouts at malls, bars and discos - socialize only in the safety of friends' homes.
The only businesses that are thriving are funeral homes, opulent two-story buildings with mirrored-glass facades and gilded caskets that have handled twice as many victims of violence as they did in 2008 - and seven times more than in 2007.
Mothers tell daughters to run stoplights at night rather than risk being carjacked. Even in daylight, drivers dare not glance over at the next car, especially if it's an SUV with tinted windows and no plates. Newspaper hawkers hold front-page photos of tortured bodies to their windshields as a reminder to mind their own business.
This year's dead include university professors, an honor student and waiters caught in the crossfire when their customers were shot.
Even emergency rooms, where doctors try desperately to save the victims, are not immune. Dr. Alberto Rios was in surgery last month when gunmen barged in with assault rifles drawn, looking for two men wounded in an earlier shootout. Doctors and nurses ran screaming for cover. Patients scrambled from their beds, taking their IVs with them. Some fainted. The gunmen left after they couldn't find the men, who were armed and hiding in a bathroom.
"We all have a relative, a friend who has been killed," said Rios, whose 17-year-old nephew died in a shootout in July. "This won't end until one gang is in power."
For decades, Ciudad Juarez has been a magnet for poor Mexicans seeking work at factories that make flat-screen TVs, steering wheels and other goods bound for the United States. That mix of opportunity and poverty fueled the killings of hundreds of women whose bodies were dumped in the desert, earning Juarez notoriety in the 1990s.