Nov. 18, Sunday--Ground Zero Plus 68
"Do We Tuck Our Kids In With A Semper Vigilantes?"
I bought a new digital camera and went looking for symbols of
where we are today in our attitudes. The picture below
symbolizes part of the problem. It represents the "lingering terror."
Our children aren’t into the countdown—the “One Down, Two To Go!” headlines
that play like tic-tac-toe, let’s kill ‘em all and wash our hands. But
they are into protecting.
within the children remains, at least in my thinking, as the key to
resolving the war on Terrorism. How are we going to fight the
lingering memories of Terrorism that scar the tissue of the young minds?
Are we going to tell them “it’s okay now…it’s all over?” Or, dress
them up in gas masks?
of all, just go on without a blink? Some may just want the
rivers to smooth out, and float downstream—get back to normal—'forgetaboutit',
as is often said here in New York City.
that we, as a nation, don’t let our children down. I hope we remember
the words “Semper Vigilantes” (Always Vigilant) when we tuck our children
in bed at night. I hope we don’t forget to tell them the stories of the Sentinels
I hope. I hope. I hope.
Saturday--Ground Zero Plus 67
"CAN WE REALLY KILL TERRORISM"
“Did you hear the good
news, Cliff.” Sharda, the owner of the coffee shop I often
frequent to write in the East Village, caught me off-guard with the
“No. What is it?”
By the tone of her Voice, I thought perhaps she had won some lottery money,
or her doctor had given her good news in the face of bad potential, or
perhaps some glorious event in her life was about to be unfolded in my lap.
“We killed him. Bin Laden’s second in command. The guy whose son
married his daughter.”
I took a few seconds to let the “good news” sink in. She was
elated. I was complacent.
“It’s not verified yet, but they think they got him,” she continued.
“CNN gave some good information. And there were Pentagon
“Oh,” I said.
“I’m glad,” Sharda went on. “This war on Terrorism is just about
“Yes,” I lied. “Yes.”
I lied in my affirmative response because the idea of killing Terrorists
didn’t strike me as the end to the war on Terrorism. In many ways, it
was just the beginning. I continue to believe the more of “them”
we kill, ten fold of their children and relatives will fall into line behind
“them,” even more bent on destroying us—their “evil ones.”
Good News! We killed ‘em!
The words rattled around my Semper Vigilantes brain. Long ago,
the idea of killing made me feel like I’d accomplished something. That
was before the war in Vietnam ended in a thud, a whimper, and all the over
one million bodies of both Americans and Vietnamese stacked up on both sides
represented no victory. Killing a single person seemed
absolutely ludicrous to me as a solution to a war against a frenetic people
who thrive on hate and use Terrorism to fuel that hatred.
But Sharda was like so many who had grown tired of hearing the reports of a
war against shadows; tired of the skulking ability of some third-world
tyrant’s ability to escape all the technological and military power of the
world’s strongest nation. In perspective, bin Laden and
his crew of horror-makers were mere ants on an elephant’s ass, yet they
were crippling the elephant. They were causing its people and
its government to look foolish in the eyes of a world that wondered why—with
all its power and might—it couldn’t find a single human being and eliminate
Good News! We killed him!
The joy of it didn’t have any effect on me.
Ironically, as she was saying the words, I glanced down at the headlines of
the Daily News laying on a table. A full page headline
While one ear was hearing the “good news” of the war being closer to an end,
the other was hearing the barking headlines warning that whatever Terrorism
was left in bin Laden, it would be slammed into the heart of America in
revenge. This was the yin and yang of Terrorism. The
hunter bragging he had killed the hunted—the hunted vowing to kill the
Complacency, I thought, comes in many forms. This idea of killing
Terrorism was certainly one of them.
I wondered if people were going to sleep sounder at night, thinking that by
eliminating bin Laden and his gang, Terrorism might just vanish from
I wondered how a Parent of Vigilance would tell his or her child that we had
won the war by killing the “Evil One,” when the child, as all children are
trained, has an innate incapacity to fathom “killing.”
Would I, as a Parent of Vigilance, want to tell my child that Terrorism had
been extricated because we had killed its leader? Would I
want to leave myself vulnerable to my child’s sense of right and wrong, good
and bad, trust and distrust by making such a statement, and then, just when
I thought I was safe, suffer the impact of one of bin Laden’s
children, or uncles or aunts or brothers or sisters attacking us in
retaliation? How would I explain that Terrorism was an octopus—and
that by cutting off one of its legs, seven others still survived?
Of course, the paradox that bin Laden represented all Terroristic acts was
another issue. Killing him and his band of horror-seekers would be
like swatting noxious mosquitoes. What about other Terrorists
around the world? Would they cower in the wake of one
Terrorist’s death when the goal of most Terrorists was to die for their
cause—as a martyr—a symbol of their “Vigilance” against the “evil Western
Empire?” I didn’t think so. One bully pops up to replace the one
who stumbled. Bullies are blind, the last I knew—blinded by hate and
revenge and the desire for attention at anyone’s expense.
These thoughts kept me from reacting with glee when Sharda gave me the “good
news.” Quite the contrary, I stood with a dumb look on my face.
The shock of people thinking that Terrorism could be destroyed was like
pretending that Hate, or Greed, or Lust or Envy, or Jealousy, or Rage could
I’m not a pessimist. I am a firm believer that all of the Deadly Sins
can be put into check with Courage, Conviction and Action, but I am the last
man on earth to contend they can be destroyed. Human nature owns
these emotions and their attendant “evils.” The best we can do
is control, manage, fight them. But destroy them? Hardly
possible. Hardly imaginable. Yet so many wanted it over.
They wanted the yoke lifted off their shoulders—they wanted the Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency to be gone.
The great “terror” I believed was that our country and the news media was
touting the “end of the war”--the end of “Terrorism.” I thought
it a vast disservice to the children of this country to infer, imply and
suggest to their parents that they were safe from the claws of Terrorism by
the simple act of beheading one of its servants.
So what do I see as the solution? For me, it was quite complex.
It meant I had to keep pounding out the need for Parents of Vigilance
in the face of more complacency.
I saw a thick wall of resistance gathering on the horizon, making it harder
and harder to get people to think about protecting themselves when the false
shroud of security would be pulled over them by the idea that Terrorism
could be “killed.”
It meant I might be the lone Voice in the wind—shouting “wolf!”
But if I didn’t do that, I would become Complacent myself. I
would lose my impetus to fight the shadows of Terrorism.
pounded my laptop.
my fingers felt heavy on the keys.
McKenzie—New York City Combat Correspondent—11/17/01
Nov. 16, Friday--Ground Zero Plus 66
"CHILDREN OF VIGILANCE" CONCEIVED
AMIDST THE RUBBLE OF DESTRUCTION
A very close friend of ours excitedly took us to the side the other day and
whispered the good news in our ears. She was pregnant. Her
face glowed. Her eyes sparkled.
weeks,” she replied.
her if she could remember the exact date of conception. She didn’t
know for sure, but the baby would be due in the second week of June—just
nine months after the events of Nine Eleven.
time, I didn’t correlate the dates. I looked at her two
children, both wonderful, full-of-life balls of energy. They were
ready for a brother or sister. This particular friend was indeed a
Parent of Vigilance. She and her husband worked diligently with their
children, giving them tools and systems to fight the yoke of Fear, and
Intimidation and Complacency that attacks so many children without warning,
without preparation. I knew the addition to their family would
be given every opportunity to excel as a human being.
Yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine, telling him about how our
young friend was pregnant, and how happy I was for her, her husband, and
their two children. He nodded and reminded me that life was
filling the gap from the destruction of September 11. He told me
Nature was hard at work to fill the void.
I thought about it, the more closely my young friend’s conception date was
tied to the events of the Second Tuesday in September. I thought
about the Sentinels of Vigilance reaching down and touching her shoulder,
and whispering in her ear: “Life lives after death. This new
life will be stronger, more prepared, more vigilant than ever before in
history. We will be your godparents. We will protect you and
I thought about how
wonderful it would be if all the children conceived on or near the date of
September 11 were given an extra blessing by the Sentinels of Vigilance.
I hoped the spirit of the Sentinels of Vigilance touched all the
parents’ shoulders, whispered to them that “Life lives after death,” and
reminded them that their pregnancy was “magical,” part of the resurrection
of “life after death.”
I hoped the parents of all children conceived in the midst of Terror’s
attempt to smother life know that the seeds growing within the mothers had been planted by the Sentinels of
Vigilance—that those thousands of parents who died were standing beside the
pregnancies, rooting and cheering them on.
thought about all the children conceived out of the smoke and ashes and
debris of September 11, I began to envision them as “Children of Vigilance.”
I saw them brought to the earth out of the smoke and rubble with the purpose
of representing symbols of strength that we, as a people and a nation, will
not stop creating Courage, Conviction and Action in the face of Terrorism’s
Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
I saw, in my mind’s eye,
all the children conceived after the holocaust forming a circle of life
around the empty, gutted physical hole that ripped open the womb of the
earth on that fateful Second Tuesday of September. As I thought
about all the thousands of children conceived during that time surrounding
the gaping crater, with spears of smoke still rising from its bowels, I
could hear their Voices singing--not a song of lament, but, instead a
lullaby of Hope and Faith for the procurement of peace not just in their
lives, but in the lives of all children, everywhere.
As the children
sang—these children born from the rubble of the holocaust—I imagined the
gaping hole being filled with new soil. Instead of twisted metal
and shattered concrete, I saw a lush green field of grass appearing, laced
with flowers of all vast variety and color. Butterflies danced and
bees buzzed and ants crawled and birds sang as the scene unfolded. And
the children—the Children of Vigilance—of all colors, creeds, religions—ran
and played freely and safely on the former scar that eviscerated America’s
Watching over the children
were their parents, and, if you looked closely, you could see their
godparents, the Sentinels of Vigilance. They were looking down,
smiling, cheering, rooting their progeny on, urging them to carry the
message of vigilance out into the world, to stand as living symbols that we
are all “United, In Death and Life!”
Go to November 15 "Marvel Comics Tribute to the Super Heroes of 9-11"
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