Nov. 3 -- Ground Zero Plus 53
"Mommy, Daddy, What's A Terrorist?"
What is your response when your children ask you, "Mommy or Daddy,
what’s a terrorist?"
I thought long about this answer. It could be a quick one that leaves a
child walking in the shallowness of a hurried explanation, or, it could be
an answer that provides depth and learning and wisdom about how to live life
without fear or intimidation or suffer the pangs of complacency. Here
is some suggested dialog.
"Mommy, Daddy, what’s a terrorist?"
"Imagine a big, deep dark hole. Inside it are all
the bogeymen you can imagine. Tell us about some bogeymen you can imagine?"
"The kind that hide in the closet at night?"
"What other kinds?"
"The ones that come out when it’s dark?"
"Okay, how about some more…let’s say, what makes you
"The dark, Mommy. And the shadows, Daddy. They’re
"Well, terrorism is about being afraid. Terrorists are
bogeymen. They like to sneak out when you aren’t looking and scare you. They
like to make people cry and be sad and worry."
"They aren’t nice people, are they?"
"No. Because they don’t care who they scare. They scare
little children, old people…babies. They don’t care, that’s what a terrorist
"And they want to hurt people, too, don’t they?"
"They don’t care who they hurt. Do you know what a
"Kind of, I think."
"Tell us what you think a bully is."
"Like, somebody who pushes you around. Or takes your
toys. Makes you cry?"
"Very good. What else do bullies like to do?"
"They like to pick on people smaller than
"And hurt their feelings."
"Yes, and some terrorists want to hurt people
very badly. Sometimes they make things explode and fall down, and hurt lots
of people just to make a point."
"They want to show people they are strong by hurting
the weak. Just like a bully. And they think that making people afraid of
them gives them power."
"Like, if I was afraid of them, they would win
"Yes. All bogeymen use fear to win their game. They
think if people are afraid of them, they are strong and powerful."
"But how do you not be afraid of a bully, Mommy,
"First, you think about what fear is all about. When
you’re afraid of something, it has power over you. Like if you are afraid of
a big kid taking your toy, or feel small, don’t you? Like you can’t do
anything to protect yourself?"
"Yeah, I felt like that."
"What if instead of being afraid of a bully, you
saw a bully as an ant pretending to be an elephant? Think about it? When
people are mean and cruel to other people, they really aren’t big are they?
Aren’t they really small people?"
"Yes, but I’m still afraid of them?"
"You're not afraid of them, are you, but of what they can
do to you, right?"
"Yes. I don’t want them to take my toy and break it. Or
push me. Or call me names. That hurts me."
"What if a bully took your toy and smashed it? You
could do one of two things. You could cry and feel bad and be afraid of the
bully, or, you could just stand and look at the bully and smile, and know in
your heart that the bully was just an ant. And your toy wasn’t so important
that it was worth making you cry, because you can always get another toy,
but you can’t always erase fear."
"You mean, don’t cry when someone steals my toy, or
"Exactly. If you cry, then the bully wins. The bully
has created fear in you. He or she has made you sad. But if you look at the
bully as bully, a little ant dressed up like an elephant, then you see the
bully for what he or she is--just somebody trying to scare you. Somebody
trying to make you sad and afraid."
"But, I don’t think that would be fair. Why wouldn’t I
get mad at the bully?"
"You could. But if the bully was bigger and stronger
than you, he or she might hurt you. Instead of getting mad, think of about
learning from the bully."
"What would I learn from a bully?"
"You’d learn not to be afraid. You’d learn how to face
your fear. Like, if you wake up afraid at night, you can lay in bed and cry
or you can do what….?"
"Turn on the lights?"
"That’s right. When you’re being bullied by someone,
imagine you are in a dark room and afraid. Instead of crying, turn on the
"How do I do that?"
"See the bully as an ant pretending to be an
"Then I might laugh."
"That’s the light of truth. A bully is someone
who tries to make you cry, tries to hurt your feelings by saying bad things
about you, or being mean to you or others. If you remember the bullies are
just ants pretending to be elephants, it will help you not be afraid."
"So a terrorist is an ant pretending to be an
"In a way. A terrorist is just a big bully— one who
wants to really hurt people. And the more he hurts them, the more fear he
creates. So, if we’re not afraid of bullies…"
"Then they really can’t hurt us—not inside,
right, Mommy, right Daddy?"
"That’s right. And there’s one last thing to always
remember about a bully who’s trying to scare you with threats and words."
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will
never hurt me!"
"I heard a good one too, Mommy and Daddy. I’m rubber
you’re glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks on you…."
"Very good. So, what’s a terrorist?"
"An ant pretending to be an elephant!"
"That’s it. And how do you fight a terrorist?"
"You see the ant…not the elephant. You don’t let them
make you afraid."
"Perfect. Now, are you ready to go to bed?"
"Not unless you leave the light on!"
"If you can always believe ants are elephants,
you’ll never be alone in the dark again."
"Well, just for tonight, Mommy and Daddy, I want to
keep the light on!"
Nov. 2--Ground Zero Plus 52
FIVE THOUSAND PLUS SILENT CHEERS FOR THE YANKEES
It had to be them. Five thousand plus
silent Voices cheering on the Yankees. What else could it be?
Two nights in a row? The ninth inning? Like some fairy tale
story. Out of the ashes rose the Phoenix Bird.
I had fallen asleep last night. My daughter
called to tell me the game was tied. I tried to stay awake, but since
I get up at four or five each morning to work on the website, much after
midnight is tough. And, again, I had that lingering doubt, that
insidious Complacency that we "just couldn't do it again."
Vigilance wanes around midnight for me.
I hoped they would win. I wanted them too. But there is that
incredible logic rolling around one's head that suggests the impossible and
improbable is not possible or probable. I miss my childish
visions when I did believe the
"cow could jump over the moon, and the dish
could run away with the spoon." But this morning, it was made a fact
to me again--The Sentinels of Vigilance work even when I sleep.
I laughed at myself. Here I am, trying to promote Vigilance and
becoming Complacent. The Sinner trying to be a Saint.
Ah, but what was refreshing was to realize that I had no power over the
Sentinels. They had their own agenda. They were going to prove
to me and the world that Hope and Belief and Faith and Courage and
Conviction and, most of all, Action works even in the 12th Inning of Life.
Yesterday, I had pumped out nearly a hundred press
releases about the website. Uploaded files to get the site listed on
hundreds of servers. And written some well-known government officials
who fight terrorism politically and militarily, with my cry to add a grass
roots battle to their agendas--the Parents of Vigilance.
I felt like the Yankees with Arizona three runs on the
board in the Ninth Inning. What I didn't remember was there were
5,000 silent souls cheering on their home team. I didn't
remember Vigilance overpowers the Complacency.
Skeptics may chalk up this win to just "luck," or
"fortune," or maybe an inexperienced pitcher for Arizona who threw the wrong
pitches--all logical, sound, skeptical stuff.
But I'm going to stick to my Friday-morning
quarterbacking. And that is that there were 5,000 silent
Sentinels of Vigilance reminding the Yankees "it ain't over 'till its over."
Today, I awoke with the belief that one day the Parents
of Vigilance will spread its wings. Maybe I'm in just too big a
hurry to win a long-fought battle. Maybe I'm in the first inning
and think it's the Ninth? I have to take lessons from my environment.
I have to see the Yankees as my symbols of Vigilance, reminding me if I wait
and work, and swing the bat, that I'll make a hit and drive the ball of
Vigilance into the stands. And, I need to take the cotton out of my
ears, and listen to the Voices of Vigilance...those 5,000 souls who have
risen up from the ashes of destruction as Sentinels of Vigilance to remind
us all--"it ain't over 'till it's over."
Nov. 1—Ground Zero Plus 51
Yankees win WITH Courage, confidence & Conviction
I felt the complacency last night about the
bottom of the 8th inning. I was about to go to bed even though we
happen to have a Derek Jeter signed baseball sitting on our hutch.
It seemed to me it was over. But I forget Joe Torres' hat says, "It
ain't over 'till it's over." I forgot about Vigilance. I
forgot the Sentinels of Vigilance were rooting for the Yankees.
Complacency in its most base form attacked me. Just as I was
about to chuck it in, my buddy Jeter took the plate. Two strikes, two
outs, no hits in the game...a big slump...I just didn't want to see the pain
of my Sentinels of Vigilance not being there for me. I felt like the
kid who stopped believing in Santa Claus. The, the pitch came.
And Jeter whacked it. And it flew, like the spirits of the all the
5,000 Plus spirits rose out of the World Trade Center and drove the wood
into the ball. Up and up and up the ball soared, and then the
crowd began to cheer. And I cheered. And cheered. And
cheered. Jeter hadn't forgotten the formula to fight
Terrorism--Courage, Conviction and Action. But I had. The first
step, Courage...had turned to Fear the Yankees would lose; the second step,
Conviction had become Intimidation that the other team was better, stronger,
more deserving, and the last and most insidious, was the Complacency that I
was tired of believing in the Sentinels, that maybe it was all fantasy--that
Santa didn't really exist---and I didn't take the Action...I resigned myself
to go to bed and wake up to the horrible news the Yankees had lost... but
then...the world changed. The ball soared, my spirits
soared...I was renewed. Even if you're not a Yankee fan,
you have to admit there was magic last night.... From the womb
of the World Trade Center I could hear the birth of belief....I felt the
power of the Sentinels reminding me to stay Vigilant. Because
"it ain't over 'till it's over..."
Oct 31—Ground Zero Plus 50
The Scariest Day Of The Year-When We Forget!
Halloween! To some, it is the scariest day of the year. It
is the time the ghosts and goblins come out of the dark shadows, their hands
in the air--loud "boos" ringing in the dank dark night.
For me, tonight, Oct.
31, is scary because it marks Ground Zero Plus 50. It is just
fifty days and a day ago that Terrorism attacked America's security, pounded
its pride into a mass of twisted rubble and thousands of innocent
killed. But it seems like a century ago.
September 11 was a day
the reputation of America as a "safe and secure" nation died and the "ghosts
and goblins" of Terrorism leapt out of the shadows of death's shroud to
squat on America's doorstep.
What scares me most about
today is the fear, apprehension and concern I have that so many are slowly
forgetting the purpose of the attack fifty days plus ago. The
Second Tuesday of September hallmarked a violation of our domestic peace, a
destruction of our internal security. It was a warning shot across our
bow that we no longer enjoyed the Freedom From Fear. It was an
horrible announcement that we were now part of what the rest of the world
knows as "strife and rife" in their daily lives. As some said that
day, "Welcome to the real world, America."
Day Of Maturity
September 11 besides
being a day of tragedy was also a day of "maturity." It was at 8:46
a.m. that morning when America was told to expand the muscles of its
Courage, Conviction and to take Action for the future of its children.
At 8:46a.m on the Second Tuesday of September, America stood on the
threshold of manhood and womanhood, looking back at its innocence as a child
might who had been protected for hundreds of years by its isolation from the
rest of the troubled world. It was the day that Americans knew they
could die at the hands of some foreign invader in the peace and quiet of
America stepped out of
the clothes of a child that day, and into the icy blast of maturity. A
child grows up in a cocoon of security. He or she lives in the
parents' house, enjoying the protection of the "family." Then,
one day, the child leaves the "nest." He or she ventures out on
a journey of maturity, where mother and father no longer provide the
shelter, security or constant vigil over them.
For many, leaving the security
of "home" is a scary day. Perhaps the scariest of all days.
It is the day a child realizes he or she is "alone" and "responsible" for
their own behavior. When a child and leaves the "nest of
security," the world is often cold and frightening, brusque and rough.
Often, the child gets his or her nose bloodied. He or she makes
mistakes and must huddle in the quiet of the dark to figure out the
solution--unable to wrap his or her arms around mommy or daddy or have them
comfort and protect them.
September 11 was a day like
that. On that day, the terrorists smashed their planes into America's
immaturity, forcing us "out of the nest of comfort and security" and thrust
us into the cold reality of a brutal world that will indiscriminately kill
women and children without blinking an eye. It was the day we realized
there are those filled with such hatred they would terrorize the weak and
helpless from the shadows of darkness and then scuttle away in the aftermath
to seek more darkness to hide within until the day or night arose where it
decided to strike out again, and again.
September 11 was a day
America was supposed to grow up.
But no one really wants
to "grow up." America, as a nation, is no different.
After hundreds of years
of developing the richest, safest, most powerful nation in the world, who
among us wants to think a third-world tyrant can make us quiver, or turn our
spines into Jell-O?
Instead, many of us chalk
up the experience of September 11 as a tragic day in our history. We
begin to push aside the anthrax scares as the work of some frustrated
terrorist trying to capitalize on the disaster. We grow
tired of the news telling us nothing can be done, that we are ill-prepared
as a nation to fight it. So, we turn off MSNBC and switch on the
World Series. We can hardly wait for the new television programs to
launch so they will take our mind off this "Terrorism News" that has gone on
now for over fifty days non-stop.
We ask: "Will it
ever end? When can we get back to "normal?"
IT'S SCARY TO FORGET TO REMEMBER
This "Complacency" makes Oct.
31 the scariest day of the year for me not because it is Halloween, but
because it is another day when thousands of Americans are slip off the slope
of Vigilance and slide into the quagmire of Complacency.
It is a day when thousands of
people are making the decision that since we have bombed the Evil One and
shown the world we can and will retaliate against terrorism, these "external
actions" provide sufficient warning to future terrorists that if they try
and attack America again, we will pulverize them into ashes also.
At the same moment, the Attorney
General announces the impending attack of more terrorism.
Whom do we believe? Do we
believe our gut feeling that we need to get on with life and put this
terrorism behind us, this paranoia, this fear of fright, or, do we huddle in
the caves of self-imposed fear in Two Boots, Montana where the last
terrorist we saw was a bearded motorcyclist with California license plates?
S0LUTION TO THE DILEMMA
I believe the simple solution
to this dilemma is to form the Parents of Vigilance. Our nation's
battle with Terrorism is not focused in the Middle East as we might want to
believe, but rather in our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities.
Terrorism has two faces--the external and internal. And it takes
many forms to weaken and destroy us
The child who is scared of
people, or frightened he or she is too fat, too thin, not smart enough, not
rich enough, not liked enough--suffers a Terrorism that is far deeper than
the fear of anthrax or a World Trade Center repeat bombing.
The battle with Terrorism
begins within a child's sense of "security" as a person. The Parents
Of Vigilance is about preparing a child to cross the threshold of manhood or
womanhood with pride and dignity, to make them ready to deal with Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency in all aspects of their lives. It's not
just about preparing for anthrax or bombings from crazed enemies from afar.
The attacks on September 11 awakened us to a much more important
issue--strengthening the resolve of our children to fight Terrorism within.
REBUILDING A NATION OF PRIDE AND DIGNITY
If we use the tragedy wisely,
we can rebuild in our youth a pride and dignity that will help reduce crime,
violence in our school and stifle growing drug usage among teens.
Vigilance of a parent toward his or her children can only help sew the
fabric of the family back stronger. Such an effort is not based
in Defensive Paranoia, but rather Offensive Growth. By growing
closer to the innermost fears and feelings of our children-- creating
Sentinels of Vigilance that stand to protect them from the enemies of Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency both "within and without"--we turn tragedy into
victory; we salute rather and bury those who died on the Second
Tuesday of September.
On this, the Fiftieth Day Plus of
Ground Zero, I ask you to think about not turning away from the events of
September 11 as moment in time--but rather to view them as a lesson for the
future. Let September 11 stand as your moment of awakening.
Let it be the moment you, as a parent, commit to help your child, your
grandchild, your niece, your nephew, your cousins and loved ones grow
stronger, prouder, more self-sufficient human beings who can fight Terrorism
in every quarter with a champion attitude, and champion result.
Let this Halloween be your reminder
the scariest day of the year is the day we "want to forget" what happened on
September 11 and the reasons why it happened. If we do forget, the
victims are our children and their children children's children, and we, who
forgot to remember, become the real terrorists.
Oct 30—Ground Zero Plus 49
The Cancerous Cell Of Terrorism’s Denial
into my friend, Joe, the former Israeli Intelligence Officer. I
saw him at Starbucks, near Astor Place, where I do my writing and Joe reads
his paper and has his coffee. “How you doing, Joe,”
Joe never smiles, at least, not about Terrorism. “Did you see
this. I told you. Americans do not understand. They are in
denial.” He stabbed his finger at the lead story on the left
side of the New York Times. It was a poll taken of Americans who
doubted that there was a real “threat” of more terrorism. “This
is what they want,” Joe said. “They know Americans don’t want to
believe they are vulnerable. It is like the turtle, pulling its head
back into the shell. I tell you, Cliff. This bothers me.”
I understood what Joe was
saying. Each day I write about Terrorism, the more I realize the
insidious nature of it. I survived cancer six years ago—colon
cancer—but I know it only takes one cell inside me that is laying dormant to
come to life and the cancer can attack me again. Insurance
companies know it too. They redline people like me. If you
have cancer and are “cured,” you now become a statistic, liable to get it
You become vulnerable.
You might think you’re like everyone else. You might pretend you’re
cured, but then you open up the statistical tables and look at the facts.
You’re history. Your odds drop because of the first attack.
I likened my own
experience to September 11. America was diagnosed with Terrorism
Cancer. It attacked our security system. It ate out the
heart of our invincibility. Now, we want to deny it. We want to
pretend it just happened, and it’s over. We want to pull our
heads into the turtle shell.
I understand. I
don’t walk down the street wearing a Cancer Survivor pendant. I
live my life as though I never had cancer, with one exception. I
absolutely know it can attack me again. I know there could be that one
cell rolling around inside, waiting to attack again. I know I’m
not invincible. And that makes me Vigilant. I am a Parent
of Vigilance about cancer. I don’t deny its presence.
I don’t hide from its reality.
Instead, I try to
live each day to the fullest, knowing that it could be my last.
I don’t think this in negative terms, but in positive ones. I
want to end the day saying: “I had a great day of life.” And I’d
love to have more than my fair share of them.
I could have chosen to
ignore cancer. But I haven’t. When I reply to your
question, “How are you?” I respond with the finest statement a human
being can say: “I’m alive.”
Terrorism is alive.
It is as alive as a single cancer cell. And, America will have
to face the facts or one day, when Terrorism attacks again, Americans who
shoved their heads in the shell will not be prepared to deal with it.
However, if they become
Parents of Vigilance today, and start working on building their fortress of
Vigilance, then Terrorism may just find another host—a country more
concerned with denial than acceptance.
29—Monday—Ground Zero Plus 48
A SALUTE TO THE ASHES OF THE SENTINELS
I watched the families
carrying the ashes from the World Trade Center today.
They walked slowly with the remains of their loved ones mixed
with the remains of other loved ones, symbolic of how so many
died for the children of this nation and the world.
to tell them that those who died had risen above death into
legend, as Sentinels of Vigilance--bold reminders that Terrorism
cannot kill the spirit of Freedom, or destroy the innocence
of a nation.
their children, grandchildren, cousins, nephews, nieces, mothers
and fathers, grandparents, uncles and aunts—all their loved
ones—to know that the Ashes of Destruction were the soil of
I wanted them to realize that America and the world had taken
their deaths and converted them into a living memorial that
would last for centuries through Semper Vigilantes.
And to tell them that the box of ashes they carried was the
fertilizer of Faith and Conviction for so many children who
would come to see their deaths on the Second Tuesday of September
as a symbol of sacrifice rather than a horrible tragedy.
I stood and saluted when I saw the loved ones walking by.
I saluted the Vigilance they, the survivors had shown, clinging
to the belief that there must be some reason for the senseless
death of so many. I saluted the Sentinels of Vigilance
because I knew they had not died in vain. I knew their
memories would live as long as Fear, Intimidation and Complacency
tried to take away the security and safety of the children of
October 28—Sunday, Ground Zero
THE INNOCENCE OF
CHILDREN IN THE FACE OF TERRORISM
My wife and I took our grandchildren to FAO Schwarz famous toy
store on Sunday. It is my favorite place to view
the innocence of children. FAO, located on Fifth
Avenue and 57th Street in New York City, is a sanctuary
free of Terrorism. I take the children there frequently
because they have constructed a world where the merchandise
is designed to excite the imagination of a child, and to sweep
an adult back in time to those days when he or she was free
from the worries of adulthood.
FAO had a playground inside the store, where the kids could
play various games and dedicate their “playtime” to various
We were handed a Pledge sheet to record the children’s play
time and to allocate any dollar amount to that “playtime” as
we might have pledged to pay so much a mile for a charity walk,
or so much for every box of cookies sold. The catch
was the kids got to select the charity. It was FAO’s way
of teaching children to “give back” for the freedom they enjoyed
to have the “right to play.”
I thought about all the children in the world who might not
have the time to “play” in such a safe and secure and beautiful
environment as FAO Schwarz in New York City. I thought
about the children in Afghanistan, or in Guatemala, or in rural
China, or in Bangladesh—or those children you see on late night
television being proffered so that you send in some money to
sponsor a child’s well being.
at my grandchildren, and the herds of other children they were
interacting with, and I saw smiles and cheer and joy gushing
from them. I thought how important it was to protect
them from the Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies of life.
But protecting them did not mean eliminating those Fears, Intimidations
or Complacencies. It meant teaching them how to
deal with them when they attacked them. It meant
reminding them they had the choice to replace Fear with Courage,
or Intimidation with Conviction, or Action with Complacency.
I saw the power of Action come to life. My five-year-old
grandson and three-year-old granddaughter wanted to play with
Train display FAO Schwarz strategically leaves out so children
can interact with the toys and beg their parents to get them
one. At the display table a little boy had all the
cars attached to an engine and were pulling it around.
Sarah, our granddaughter, stood watching, intimidated by the
larger boy who was busy pulling his long train.
Matt, our grandson, asked the boy to share one of the trains
with Sarah. There was no response by the boy as he continued
to chug-chug the train around the tracks. Again,
Matt asked him to share one with Sarah. Still no
Finally, Matt said in a stern Voice, “You share with my sister
or go home.” The boy looked up at Matt and then
Sarah, then turned and walked away, leaving the trains for others
to play with.
While it might have been a minor incident, it was also a major
one. Matt had become, in that split second, a Parent
of Vigilance. He screwed up his Courage, had Conviction
his sister should have the right to play with at least one of
the Thomas Trains, and took the Action to tell the other boy
not once, but three times to share.
I was glad to see the “big brother” sticking up for the “little
sister.” I was glad the other boy realized that maybe
he should share. And I was glad there wasn’t any confrontation.
And, I wondered how many children might not have someone to
stand up as a Parent of Vigilance for them? I wondered
how many children shrink back in the corners of life, fearful
of standing up for themselves because they never had anyone
do that for them—show them the importance of Courage, Conviction
I was glad that my grandson knew how to employ his.
It made my day.
October 28—Sunday Night—Ground
Zero Plus 47—
YANKEES INTIMIDATED BY THE FANGS
I was trying to wash my mind of President Bush’s words—rid us
of the Evil One—as though cutting off the head of the Snake
of Terrorism would kill it. As if there weren’t lots of
other snakes out there, eager to sink their fangs into our vulnerability.
Baseball helps wash my mind, because I’m not a sports fan.
But ever since we moved to New York City nearly two years ago,
I have grown to appreciate the New York Yankees and root for
them, despite my overall complacency about being a “sports fan.”
to see Fear and Intimidation and Complacency written all over
the Yankees as they made error after error in their title bout
with the Arizona Diamondbacks. They missed balls,
didn’t bat, and pitched those balls that that flew out of the
I knew that feeling of fumbling, trying to do it right, everything
going wrong. I was struggling myself to get my webpage
broadcast to the world. I was fighting to get sponsors
to help support me financially. I was trying to write.
I was trying to edit everything so it was perfect. I was
trying to figure out how to use Microsoft Front Page so I could
keep the website looking great. I was trying to find a
type program so I could make the logo glisten appropriate to
its mission of alerting the world to Vigilance. I was
trying to lose weight as my hunger for Ben & Jerry’s was
overpowering my desire to be slim and trim. My hair was
beginning to fall out, a strand at a time, revealing more and
more of my scalp, reminding me I was on the back side of life’s
Yes, I understood the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency of
a World Series battle where you hear nearly sixty-thousand Voices
cheering on the other team.
And then I listened to the sports broadcasters, vilifying the
Yankee third baseman for not making this play, or that play,
and how if only he had, the tide might have turned.
I began to think, “if only I had done this sooner, or that better,
or this with more Vigilance, or hadn’t got Complacent the other
day, or taken Action sooner… Then, I remembered
that the Sentinels of Vigilance were rooting for the Yankees.
There were an extra five-thousand fans in the stands, quiet,
strong, defiant figures that no one could see, but they were
there, whispering into everyone’s ears—“it’s not who wins, it’s
how you play the game that counts.”
I could see them in the stands, their eyes scanning the horizon,
the outfield, the infield, protecting everyone there from the
fear of Terrorism.
I saw the American Flag being unfurled, and the honor guard,
and heard the national anthem and “God Bless America” being
sung. I saw the flags in the stands being waved.
I heard the cheering of a nation eager to get back to its business
of living with Courage, Conviction and Action.
And I realized that on Wednesday the Yankees would come home,
to the site where Terrorism struck a deadly blow to the belly
of America’s dignity as an impregnable nation.
I knew the Yankees would rise from the ashes of defeat.
Whether they won or not was the point. What was
important was they were champions. And champions
can never be defeated in the long run. I thought
about what the Olympiads say before they compete: “Let
me be victorious or my attempt glorious!”
Yes, I thought, “Let Me Be Victorious Or My Attempt Glorious!”
Go Yankees! Go with Courage, Conviction and take some
Action with the bats!
Oct. 27, Saturday—Ground Zero Plus 46—
IS CONSTITUTIONAL TERRORISM ON THE LOOSE? Or,"G-Pa,
How Come You Didn't Fight For My Rights?"
the President sign the bill that would expand law enforcement’s
ability to eavesdrop on Americans. There was a glow about
the table where the other politicians huddled to get a pen from
the President as a souvenir. I felt the waves of
“Internal Terrorism” ripple through me as the President said
this was an act against “the Evil One,” and gave it no face
or name. I still am waiting to see the evidence
justifying “war against the
Evil One,” not to justify it to me, but to justify it to
my grandson and granddaughter who think they are "citizens"
of a country that asks its people's opinions before it acts
in their name. No one asked me.
But what really sent shudders through me was the President’s
comment that the bill would remain in force for four years,
and that it was up to Congress to extend it then.
Was this the same Congress that ran and closed session while
the Senate remained, fearful of an anthrax scare?
Then I threw my thoughts to my children and grandchildren, and
wondered if it was right to stand by and let little pieces of
freedom chip away under the smoke and rubble of an “alleged
war.” I wondered if others were concerned.
I didn’t hear much on the streets. I didn’t see people
standing on corners arguing pro and con about the impact of
another “quick” decision by Congress that affects our freedoms
and rights. I wondered if bin Laden was chuckling
in some cave somewhere, happy that Terrorism was seeping into
the cracks of the Constitution, weakening the People’s rights
and strengthening those of Totalitarianism he had garnered under
the "Sword of Truth," fighting the "Evil Ones"
of the West?
G-Pa, How Come You Didn't Fight For My Rights?
I wondered how I could explain my own complacency to my grandchildren
someday in the future when they asked, “But G-Pa, how come you
didn’t fight for my rights back when…” I wondered what any parent
might tell their children why we didn’t all shudder with the
same horror when our Citizen’s Rights were attacked with the
same force of three jetliners crashing into the World Trade
Center and Pentagon. I wondered if perhaps the reason
we didn’t get alarmed was nobody could see the fire and smoke
and crumpled bodies caught in the Constitutional Crack that
might eventually collapse into rubble as more pens strike more
bills and the Constitutional Terrorism insidiously increases.
26, Friday—Ground Zero Plus 45—
CITY, SENTINELS OF VIGILANCE,
NEW YORK CITY.
crunching my way through Microsoft Front Page, trying to learn
all quirks and nuances of getting my webpage listed with search
engines so people might read what I write daily. My guts
were twisting as I wrestled and fought with the format, convinced
that as the smoke died and the rubble of the World Trade Center
was carted off, the world would lose its interest in Terrorism
as the worst enemy of America in its history. I
felt like a headline grabber, trying to jump on the crest of
the wave before it dissipated and became again, the calm sea
Then my wife showed me the article on how the citizens of Oklahoma
City had not forgotten their Terrorism. The article pointed
out how they stood vigilant in their community so they wouldn’t
forget. Some of them even flew to New York to lend a strong
shoulder to the surviving families who lost loved ones.
I wondered if American families at night, when the children
said their prayers, or when the parents spent those blessed
moments tucking them in, if they talked about vigilance to the
I wondered if they taught the child to pray for all those who
suffer from Terrorism’s many forms? Or, told them
how Courage is forged out of waste of Fear? Or, that Conviction
struggles to life through the walls of Intimidation like a blade
of grass wiggles it way up through the cracks of concrete?
Or, perhaps that Action is the child of Complacency, and how
it causes some of us to get up out of our chairs and make a
stand for what we think is right after getting tired of watching
something wrong go unchecked for so long?
I wondered if when I woke up the next morning and started to
worry (be afraid) no one would either a.) read the webpage,
or, b.) care about what I had to say, if I would grow the Courage
to keep writing and struggling with Front Page and pounding
out my beliefs in spite of all the reasons to chuck it in and
go about “life as normal.”
Then the phone rang and my granddaughter, age three, who is
in the process of finalizing her toilet training, bragged to
me about “going poo-poo.” I began to laugh.
And then told her how proud I was of her, and how I had to get
to work. I wasn’t complacent any more.
25, Thursday—Ground Zero Plus 45—
READY FOR ANYTHING, COUNTING ON NOTHING!
the screaming of sirens, and the wail and howl of emergency
vehicles storming up the street. I leapt up; ready
to rush to where ever it was to see what ever it was first hand.
I jumped on my cell phone and found out it was nothing major,
at least not from Terrorism. I sat back down, wondering
why I had this urge to be there when something happened, to
They say the open casket is validation to the rumors of death,
and that some people will not believe another has passed unless
they see them in their final resting-place. Maybe
it was the journalist in me, or the combat correspondent who
loves to be in the thick of the fight so that whatever story
I write is not built on hearsay, or rumor. I had
already witnessed people leaping from the World Trade Center
as it burned, and been there when the buildings collapsed, and
seen the bloodshed and violence and its aftermath. Why
would I want to see any more?
Maybe, I thought, I don’t want to forget. I don’t
want to let the memory of that day ooze from my mind, make me
think Terrorism has evaporated, or the need for Vigilance has
lost its appeal as the days wander by and the American flags
that once draped the city of New York slowly disappear.
Then I heard on the news that the three-hundred suspects the
FBI was investigating were all cleared, or let free. And
there was a sense of discouragement among our law enforcement
systems that arrests would not be forthcoming as they had in
Oklahoma City after that attack by one of our own.
I hated to think how many more attacks would have to occur before
Americans stood up and began to huddle as Parents of Vigilance.
I wanted them to form networks that would rival any Terrorist
cell structure so that an impregnable wall of Courage, Conviction
and Action stood between them and their ability to strike fear
in the hearts of our children.
Maybe Complacency settles in after any disaster, just as the
odds of lightening striking twice in the same place twice can’t
happen, or won’t happen, or is unlikely to happen. My
instincts told me otherwise.
I knew the Beast of Terror was lurking out there.
He was waiting for the anthrax scares to disorient us, take
our attention away from what he was really up to.
Whoever was behind the anthrax was only keeping Fear and Intimidation
and Complacency alive. A letter here, a package
there, delicately placed to maximize the press, to scream headlines—just
a game to keep us off balance, fuel to frighten us, to drive
us into the shell of fear a little deeper, to make us cower
about opening a letter or shake when we found out there was
enough antibiotics to cure us if we got it.
I wondered about the children at night. What did they
think? They might say anything, but how could they
not know that fear hung in the air? And what could
I do? One little Voice? Then I knew what I
could do. I could keep reminding myself and others
that we can’t let up on telling ourselves and our children that
we don’t have to live in fear. And that those who
are trying to make us afraid are bullies. And to ask them
what they think of bullies. And to ask them how
they would handle someone who tried to bully their brother or
sister, or someone they loved, or cared about, or just a stranger.
In such a discussion I would not tell children how to defend
themselves, but instead, I would listen and learn. I would
be amazed at how they told me they would handle it, and I would
know the children understood Courage and Conviction, and would
hope that they would never have to take Action, but if that
was necessary, I would know they had the foundation to do so.
And, if they had trouble answering me, I would lead them through
the discussion, ending up in the same place, the same destination—knowing
they knew about how to handle a bully.
24, Wednesday—Ground Zero Plus 44—
IS AMERICA ALONE IN FIGHTING THE WAR ON TERRORISM?
our allies, Great Britain, had committed four-hundred troops
to help out America’s fight with Terrorism. Wow, I thought,
four-hundred troops. And a few more in reserve.
The press made a big show of them storming onto the shore from
landing craft. Four-hundred, I thought, from a land of
nearly 60 million. Not bad. Then, I
remembered my friend Tony, originally from Israel. He
was my college roommate. He called me after the
attack and said: “America is alone. When the rubber
hits the road, America will have no allies.” I laughed.
We had four-hundred British allies. What more did we need?
I remember coming home the day President Kennedy was assassinated
and he was standing in the kitchen listening to the radio.
Tears streamed down his eyes as he stood in a full salute—for
how long I do not know. I only know I was embarrassed
I didn’t feel the same way—that same patriotism for the loss
of an important leader and friend. So I stood at
attention with Tony and saluted also, but no tears came because
I didn’t have the emotions then that Tony had.
When I saw the four-hundred British commandos charging ashore,
and the press lauding how Great Britain was an ally with America
in the fight against Terrorism, I couldn’t salute.
It seemed such a pittance. Then
I heard Tony’s words ringing in my ears right after the attack
on the World Trade Center when he called me from Canada
to see if I was all right. In the conversation he
warned, “Cliff, don’t think the world will support your fight
with Terrorism. In the final analysis, America will
stand alone. No one wants to get involved.” I thought
of his statement as I watched four-hundred troops appearing
by the press to be the support of a nation.
I wondered if America would stand alone in the final analysis.
But, I realized we never have to be alone. We have the
Sentinels of Vigilance watching. Five-thousand souls from
the attack, bonded together, whispering in our ear, “Stand Vigilant…Stand
Vigilant…” There are nearly a hundred million (100,000,000)
households in America. Each has the potential to
become a Parent of Vigilance. There are nearly three people
Since Terrorism is an assault on the security of a community,
a neighborhood, a home, a family, the children—I felt good knowing
the British didn’t need to be our ally in the fight against
Terrorism. If only ten-percent of America’s households
became a Parent of Vigilance, we would enjoy ten million combat-ready
troops. Terrorism would not have a chance if and
when that happens.
To: "The Scariest Place On Earth"
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