ZERO PLUS 1069 DAYS--New York, NY, Saturday, August 14, 2004--Denis
Leary plays a haunted New York City Fireman on the hit FX summer
series, Rescue Me.
Leary plays a haunting character I disturbingly relate
His character is disturbing,
confusing, torn between guilt and shame of living while hundreds
of his fellow firefighters died--a common ailment of Ground
Zero Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
He talks to the ghosts
of Nine Eleven, specifically to his best buddy and cousin, Jimmy,
who was killed on September 11, 2001 along with 343 other FDNY
members. He pretends to be "fine," "okay,"
another mere "survivor" but deep within his tortured
soul, he lives in the quagmire of that day's death and destruction,
as though the weight of the World Trade Center had settled upon
his shoulders, and the path he walks each day is littered with
their body parts.
It isn't easy to watch
I relate far too much to
Tommy Gavin, the character that Denis Leary plays. I feel the
same weight on my shoulders, and am haunted by similar memories
and feelings of powerless, uselessness and futility over not
being able to do more to resurrect their memories, to make their
bones turn back to flesh so that the world will not trample
their graves into memorials instead of legacies--icons of Vigilance
that are as alive and healthy as a new born baby's cry for protection
from cold and hunger.
Sadly, Tommy only sees
the viscera of Nine Eleven. He can only see the death and waste
of that day as a reflection of his own life--desolate.
When he comes upon an accident
he sees the dead come to life and hears them talk to him. They
are communicating with that dead part of Tommy's soul, the part
of him that died that day along with thousands of others.
Gavin (Leary second from left)with his crew battles fires
and his demons
I didn't realize I felt
that same until I forced myself to watch Rescue Me.
I didn't want to watch
it for many reasons. The most important is the "fear of
FEAR". All of us attempt to deny pain and suffering. We
instinctively seek to avoid it as a child might a hot burner
after sticking his or her fingers on one in the past that left
The graveyard of the soul
has many bodies, some more grotesque than others. I have seen
much death in my life. As a combat Marine, it was around me
constantly some thirty-nine years ago.
have revisited the horror of Nine Eleven
But on September 11, 2001,
it was right on my doorstep and that of my family, not in some
jungle tens of thousands of miles away.
Some of my neighbors and
friends and people I walked passed daily died that day. So did
the false sense of America's security, and worse for me, the
threat to my children and their Children's Children's Children.
Each day since that event,
I have revisited the horror of Nine Eleven in my own way. I
have kept the Beast of Terror's face an arm's length from my
own so I will not forget to ring the Bell of Vigilance and warn
those who think he or she might have slipped away while he is
only standing in the shadows doing push ups, waiting for the
ripe moment to strike.
I see the Beast of Terror
not just as some suicide bomber or maniac setting off some dirty
bomb, but as a much more nefarious creature who slithers into
the mind and coils around a child's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency,
squeezing and creating pustules of self depreciation that make
a child think he or she isn't good enough, smart enough, rich
enough, loved enough, thin enough, liked enough so that the
child retreats into dark dank caves of the self where the Beast
embraces him or her and becomes a serpentine mentor.
Terrorism is many things,
but the worst of all of its attributes is self loathing, the
feeling of victimization, the isolation from the mainstream
Glavin and I are haunted by the memories of Nine Eleven
Tommy, in Rescue Me, is
such a victim. He lives with his demons, and has no defenses
against them except booze and anger and rage. Everything to
him is a battle that he knows he is going to lose but fights
in desperation despite the knowledge he cannot escape.
There are some slivers
of hope. In the last episode Tommy bitterly went to church and
forced himself to pray to a God he had long ago assumed abandoned
him and others. He was driven there by a critical car accident
in which his daughter was injured.
I realized that I hang
on to thin threads of hope that my demons, my Beasts of Terror,
will one day be put to rest by some spiritual revelation, some
epiphany of comfort where I can lay down my Sword and Shield
of Vigilance and pause in my battle with Beast.
I see the futility of the
battle in Tommy's character. His eyes are haunted by the memories
of Nine Eleven, as I often think the tips of my fingers are
when they touch a keyboard, for I cannot avoid writing about
the horror that exists unnoticed, unaddressed.
It amazes me that people
aren't signing up by the droves as Parents and Citizens of Vigilance--that
they don't daily take the Pledge of Vigilance--that the major
news medias don't splash the headlines with the Need For Vigilance.
Tommy, I think, can't understand
why the world has forgotten about Nine Eleven. I think he is
confused why the world wants to keep rotating at 1,000 miles
an hour when he is stuck on September 11, 2001, and everything
that happens is only a reflection of the Second Tuesday of September,
Rescue Me is not about
It is a cry--like that
of a newborn--a cry for help from the deepest part of the soul.
I cry that cry often.
Recently, I was accused
of trying to deceive an insurance company that I really didn't
have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of Nine Eleven.
I was told by their "paid experts" that even though
I had been given that diagnosis, that it was invalid in their
opinion. They said it was an extension of "depression"
and was not substantially different.
I thought about how Tommy
might react to being accused of feigning his tortured soul.
I wondered what he might do--drive his firetruck into the heart
of the insurance company's building--hack into their computers
and force them to pay everyone's claims times ten--get drunk--blow
out his brains as the rejection was the last straw for his fragile
feel myself straddling the chasm between life and death
just like Tommy
Living with the Beast of
Terror isn't fun. The burden is sometimes more than I can take.
But watching Tommy being played by Denis Leary refreshes is
sometimes refreshing. I relate to his character carrying deep
within his soul this "secret torture" that no one
It is his "dead zone,"
that link life and death, a bridge between the real world and
the netherland, between Heaven and Hell.
I feel myself straddling
that chasm frequently as I try to ressurect the dead so that
the living might recognize what they died for, and that they
really aren't dead at all.
Tommy does that in his
character. Only, he hasn't yet put his mission together with
his Beasts of Terror.
will sleep better when he realizes he is a Sentinel of
I think I'll send him a
Pledge of Vigilance and several of my website 'battles with
Maybe when he realizes
he is a Sentinel of Vigilance and not just a victim of the Beast
of Terror, he might be able to sleep better at night.
And maybe, he'll try to
awaken others who are sleeping while the Beast stalks.
to Yesterday's Story "Join America's Village of Vigilance"
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