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OVERVIEW: Who needs rescuing from the Beast of Terror. Denis Leary has the right idea, and maybe we can all learn what his battle is all about!


GROUND 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.

Denis Leary plays a haunting character I relate to
Denis Leary plays a haunting character I disturbingly relate to

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 Rescue Me.

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.

Tommy Gavin (Leary) with his crew battles fires and his demons
Tommy 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 ugly scars.

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.

I have revisited the horror of Nine Eleven
I 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 of life.

Tommy 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, 2001.

Rescue Me is not about rescuing others.

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 emotional state?

I feel myself straddling the chasm between life and death just like Tommy
I 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 else understands.

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.

Tommy will sleep better when he realizes he is a Sentinel of Vigilance
Tommy will sleep better when he realizes he is a Sentinel of Vigilance

I think I'll send him a Pledge of Vigilance and several of my website 'battles with the Beast'.

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.


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