Tuesday.. January 15, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 126


            HELENA, Montana, Jan.15—The first woman governor of Montana was presented a Parent of Vigilance armband worn by Cliff McKenzie, New York City Combat Correspondent Team News Editor, a survivor of the Ground Zero terrorist attack on September 11.
             McKenzie, a former U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondent during the Vietnam War, and his wife Lori, a native of East Helena, presented the vigilance armband to Governor Judy Martz following the Last Chance Pachyderm Club's annual banquet and officer installation on Jan. 14 at Jorgenson’s Inn in Helena.  The Pachyderm Club is a Republican organization devoted to building and strengthening the Republican Party.
            “I’m honored to receive it,” the governor said after learning McKenzie had the armband specially made immediately after the attack and has been wearing it daily in remembrance of the thousands killed that day.  “I saw people jumping from burning buildings and the insanity of a war zone that day,” he recounted.  “I thought we were all dead when the buildings crumbled. It was like the end of the earth.”
             Surviving the attack, the 58-year-old combat veteran and his wife launched a website to counter the effects of terrorism on both children and adults.   The website,, promotes the Pledge of Vigilance.   It is a vow McKenzie and his wife designed for anyone concerned about protecting children from the physical or emotional vulnerability to terrorism.
             “Terrorism’s fallout is fear, intimidation and complacency,” McKenzie said after presenting the Governor Martz with his armband.   “It must be fought with courage, conviction and action," he said.  "We fight terrorism on an emotional as well as physical level,” he added.  Governor Martz's record and concern for children sparked him to give Montana's first woman chief executive officer the armband.  Her chairmanship of the Montana Promise mentoring program for children, and her work inspiring young people to achieve as she has in both the Olympics and politics, earned her his recognition.  The governor is one of four current women holding down the role as leader of their state, and was a former Olympic speed skater.
             McKenzie presented the armband following the installation of new officers in the 12-year-old Pachyderm Club.  In the center of the black armband is an American Flag.  Above the flag are stitched the Latin words “Semper Vigilantes,” and below it, “United, In Death And Life!”
             McKenzie, former senior vice president of marketing for major national companies, designed the symbol immediately after the attack.   “Semper Vigilantes”-- “always vigilant”--was chosen to represent the need to never forget the lesson of Nine Eleven.  Latin, he said, implies immortality.
            “As a reporter, I believe history is the best measuring device for the future,” he commented.  “When I researched the word vigilance  I found that nearly 2,500 years ago a Greek poet, Simonides, immortalized a heroic group of Spartans who gave their lives in the battle of Thermopylae against hordes of Persian terrorists attacking their country.   The poet turned their sacrificial deaths into legend," McKenzie explained.  “He sculpted them into Greece’s Sentinels of Vigilance.   Those who died on September 11th are America’s Sentinels of Vigilance.  I believe they sacrificed their lives to remind us to always fight fear with courage, intimidation with conviction, and complacency with action.”
             The words: “United, in Death and Life!” at the bottom of the armband, he says, are to remind us our worst enemy is complacency. 
         “I prefer to think of those who died on Nine Eleven as Warriors of Vigilance rather than victims of a tragedy,” he said.  “If we think of them as the Greeks did their heroes, their memories can live forever rather than just one day a year when we mark a calendar for a national holiday.   Vigilance is a minute-by-minute necessity.  That’s the legacy they left."
            His website address-- --is an acronym for New York City Combat Correspondent.  "I thought I had retired my war reporting thirty years ago until September 11th occurred," he said.  "Now, I have given myself a new title and a new mission--fighting terrorism with words. My grandchildren’s safety and their emotional security drive me to publish every day,"  he said.
           On the website, McKenzie spells out the principles of vigilance he believes are necessary for Americans to protect themselves from emotional and physical terrorism of all shapes and forms.  He calls for Parents of Vigilance Clubs to be formed in neighborhoods and communities, and for homes to display the logo of Semper Vigilantes as a daily reminder to fight all forms of fears, intimidations and complacencies.
             The six-foot-four-inch, two-hundred and seventy-pound McKenzie apologized to Governor Martz for the size of the armband he has worn for the past four months. 
            “I wanted her to have the original one.  It's a real veteran,” he said.   McKenzie was impressed with her commitment and conviction to standing up for what is right  in the face of criticism.  “One of her most powerful platforms is her concern for the children of the state of Montana, and the security of their future.  Taking personal responsibility for one's actions is the key to her leadership.  To be a Parent of Vigilance we can't afford to pass off the security of our children, our communities, our neighborhoods, our states or nations to government or the media.   We must shoulder that responsibility personally, and the governor symbolizes that pioneer spirit of vigilance.  That's why I gave her the armband." 
             Residents of New York City for the past two years, McKenzie and his wife moved to New York from Dana Point, California to be near their two daughters and two grandchildren following a portion of Mrs. McKenzie's ongoing treatment of breast cancer.  They have been married for 35 years and are currently visiting Mrs. McKenzie’s parents, Stan and Char Lane, residents of The Waterford, in Helena.  Stan Lane was formerly the general manager of the ASARCO plant in East Helena.
             McKenzie says he has adopted Montana as his surrogate home state.  Born in Oregon, he traveled around the country with his military parents, never feeling he had roots in any particular state.  Upon his return from Vietnam in 1966, he married the former Lori Lane of East Helena in her hometown.  He has visited the state frequently over the past thirty-five years.  
        “I’ve always had an affinity for the rugged individualism of Montanans,” he stated.  “September 11 reminded me the backbone of America needed to be reinforced by people with the courage to protect our Constitutional Rights. Montana symbolizes the strength of America's resolve.  Plus," he added with a smile, "I love fishing in Rock Creek and the Gallatin.”
             While McKenzie writes and publishes his “Ground Zero Combat Terrorism Diaries” daily, his wife commands the editor’s desk for what she terms “The Sophia Diaries.”
             A former microbiologist and survivor of breast cancer, Mrs. McKenzie skews her stories on how parents, grandparents and loved ones can best buffer the impact of terrorism on children.   
            “I baby-sit the children almost every day,” she said.  “Children have an intuitive understanding of the suffering and pain of terrorism.   We conduct G-Ma school, and have conversations about many things.   The children as did many of their friends witnessed the terrible destruction of September 11.   I do my best to relate to others those stories I believe can help children live with the constant threat of emotional and physical terrorism in a positive, constructive way.”
           The McKenzie's have two daughters living in New York City.  The older, Sabra, is the mother of the two grandchildren.  She is currently attending New York’s Union Theological Seminary and will receive her Masters In Divinity this May.   According to Mrs. McKenzie, her daughter and her husband are both staunch peace advocates.    On the obverse, the McKenzie’s other daughter, also a resident of New York City, is a federal special agent who carries two nine-millimeter Glocks and is constantly busy hunting down and arresting criminals.
         “We joke with friends that we have the best of both worlds in New York City,” Mrs. McKenzie said.  “One of our daughters carries a cross down the streets, and the other carries two guns.   We feel very protected.”
          The McKenzie's are returning to New York City on January 21st.   They are currently publishing their webpage, daily from Montana.


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