Sunday--October 13
, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 396
A Psalm Of Vigilance:
"Use My Years...Use My Years"

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, October 13 -- I knew it was a Psalm of Vigilance the minute I heard the words--"Use My Years..."

         These were the last words spoken by a man who called his wife from Tower One.  He said, "If I don't make it out, use my years."

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, FDNY Chaplain (left) and Monsignor David Cassato, NYPD Chaplain at ceremony Oct. 11, 2001

   FDNY chaplain, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, stood before thousands of firefighters, families and loved ones jammed in Madison Square Garden, delivering the final prayer to date of memorializing the loss of 348 firemen on September 11, 2001.   The firemen represented 12.5% of the deaths on Nine Eleven.   An estimated 25,000 people escaped the buildings before they collapsed, many due to the heroic efforts of firemen and police at the scene.

          The rabbi told a story about a couple who gave birth to a son on August 29, 2002.   They named him  Jarod Mark, his first and middle name.   They picked the names to honor the memory of those who died on September 11,  Jarod is the name of one of the victims in Tower One, and Mark the first name of a firefighter who gave his life in Tower Two.   The rabbi said:  "The parents knew their memories must never be forgotten, and gave them to their child even though they had never met or knew either of the two men who died."
         "Use My Years...."
         When I first heard the rabbi speak the words, I thought he said,  “Listen With My Ears.”   Later, I played the video tape of the ceremony and realized he said:  "I love you....use my years."
          I wondered for a moment if he might have said, "Use My Ears" rather than "Use My Years."  Both, ultimately were the same.   In either case he was passing on the Gift of Life and the Gift of Vigilance to his loved ones.
           I savored the words.  There was something hallowed about them, a message not of a man about to die, but from a man about to live in eternal Vigilance.

       As I went to the gym to work out, the words gnawed their way into my gray matter, nesting, making a home inside the synapses that fire memories and aid recall.  It was as though each word was a hot rivet being jack hammered into the steel girders of my Vigilant Thinking, reminding me to never forget they were not only addressed to the loved one of the victim, but to the world.
      “Use My Years...Use My Ears…”
      I thought about both interpretations.   In one case, he was asking his wife to be his "Years of Vigilance."   As a firefighter, he was always on alert for the Beast of Terror, disguised in flames that threatened the lives of the innocent, unprotected.   Every muscle in his body was trained to react to its threat, to leap up out of a sound sleep and don his firefighting combat gear and attack Fire's Terror.
      He was also trained to prevent fire, by keeping Vigilant eyes on faults that might cause a fire to start.  He had "Ears of Vigilance" also...cocked always to listen to for the crackling footsteps of Fire's Terror, to signal its approach.  
      "Use My Years...Use My Ears..."

       What an epithet, I thought.   What a beautiful Psalm of Vigilance to sing to one's loved one as the Jaws of Terror clamped down, snuffing out physical life and releasing the Spirit of Vigilance to hover above Ground Zero, always watching, reminding all the parents, grandparents and children to "Use My Years...Use My Ears..." to keep Terrorism at bay.
      What he was asking his Loved Ones was to listen for the footsteps of the Beast of Terror, to keep their ears to the ground for its cloven hooves, and to never assume that another held a greater responsibility than they to protect themselves from Terrorism’s wrath.
      He was offering, I believe the “Years of Vigilance" and "Ears of Vigilance” to his Loved Ones, giving them the precious gift of Courage, Conviction and Right Actions to fight Terrorism's fires of  Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.

      The “Ears of Vigilance” listen for the hooves of three horsemen of Terrorism--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.   They listen for the sighs of futility and seeming hopelessness within a human being, signaling that Terrorism has taken root within that person’s soul, defeating his or her self worth, sense of self destiny and made him or her feel as though life is a hammer and he or she is a nail.
       The "Years of Vigilance" represent the fuel to counter Fear with Courage, to employ Conviction to douse Intimidation's roaring flames, and to drive away the Complacency of doing nothing with the power to take the Right Actions, as the fireman did when he put his life at risk to save others.
        “Use My Years...Use My Ears…”
        "Yes," I thought.   "Yes!” What a beautiful final gift to a Loved One.  
       He was passing on Vigilance.   He was telling those he left behind that he was not gone, but instead still “on duty,” still a Father of Vigilance in spirit regardless of the fact his body had been reduced to ash. He was saying his soul, the essence of his humanness lives.   It lives in those who believe he and nearly 3,000 others still live as the Spirits of Vigilance, Sentinels of Vigilance, hovering over Ground Zero, in a Ring of Vigilance, watching, listening for Terrorism’s footsteps or the presence of its shadow, ready to sound the Vigilance Alarm, ready to snuff out the sparks and flames of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency and put in their place, Courage, Conviction and Right Actions.
        “Use My Ears...Use My Years...”
        I thought of my own life.  I thought:  "How am I using my Years?   How am I using my Ears?   If I listen with Ears of Vigilance, do I hear something different?
        Often, I don't.   I listen with Ears of Terror.   I hear myself beating on myself, abusing my self worth, questioning my values.   I catch myself sometimes thinking I am a failure, a loser, old and ugly, useless, unable to make a dent in a world that seems to march on without noticing who I am, or shining its spotlight on what I'm doing.   Sometimes I feel "victimized" by life, thinking: "if only this could have been that, or that could have been this."   I don't listen to the sounds of Vigilance, but to my own self-depreciating Terrorism.       

       They say praying is when you talk to God, and meditation is when you listen.    I pray a lot in the sense I’m always the one who is “mentally talking” to my Higher Power, always the one doing the blabbering.   But I don’t listen—not as well as I can.
        Like so many egotists, I think I can figure out everything—that I’m smarter than most--that I’m Almighty in my ability to understand the world and how to deal with it.  I’m not.
        I need to remember that.
        I need to remember what the Sentinel of Vigilance told his wife just before his physical body died:  “Use My Ears.”    

        I need to listen to the Sentinels of Vigilance with conscious effort.    When I get on my knees as an act of surrendering my ego to a Higher Power, I need to stop babbling my petitions and say the words, “over,” as though I am on a radio, signaling to the Voices of Terrorism to shut up and listen to the Voices of Vigilance..
         If I do, I will hear more clearly the message from the Sentinels of Vigilance.  I will be better tuned to their channel, and be able to carry their message, not mine, to the Parents of Vigilance, the Grandparents of Vigilance, the Children of Vigilance, the Citizens of Vigilance and the Loved One’s of Vigilance.

         Most importantly, if I really listen, I will be able to hear the footsteps of Terrorisms marching in my own mind, and be ready to drive them away with the Courage, Conviction and Right Action they offer to all those who listen.
        "Use My Years."

Demon Of Terrorism

         I thought about that too.   What the fireman was saying is that every minute in life is precious--should not be wasted on the Terrors of Fear, Intimidation or Complacency.   Each of these demons must be cast aside to make room for Courage, Conviction and Right Actions.   To live life fully, all 1,440 minutes of it daily, one must launch his or her day with the glorification of life, and not look in the mirror and grumbled, "it's just another day in the rut.  Nothing will change.  I'm a nobody.   I'll just trudge through this day and hope to get to Friday so I can forget about the yoke of responsibility on my shoulders."

        "Use My Years..." suggests that I must find something greater than my own selfish desires of survival to give life true value...true meaning.   If I don't step outside my own self-centered circle, I will be crushed by "what I haven't done."  I will compare my own station in life to those whom I think have a better one, and forget that my mission on earth has little to do with me, and everything to do with others.

       "Use My Years," means to a fireman to be always Vigilant in the protection of others--to work for their safety and security at the expense of your own, and not seek rewards in the quest other than the satisfaction of a job well done.   It means if I focus the VigilanceVoice on the protection of the children's children's children, and seek in all that I do to extinguish the flames and sparks of Terrorism--both the physical and emotional kinds--I will have the satisfaction in knowing the "attempt," not the "victory," is the key to fulfillment.

       "Use My Years," also means to me to not let Terrorism dominate my thoughts.    It means that when I let myself get "down" over anything, I must right myself.  I must say "Stop Terroristic Thought," and shift my thinking to "Vigilance Thoughts."   I must work on my attitude toward life, seeing each minute of life as a gift, an opportunity of sacrifice rather than one of self-serving.
      It means when someone says: "How are you doing, Cliff?" I respond with either, "I never had it so good," or, "I'm alive," both responses becoming my way of reminding myself to live the gift of life joyously, purposefully, despite all the Terrorists who battle in my thoughts to drive me into Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
       There was much meat in the meal served by the Rabbi Potasnik as he shared the story of the firefighter's last words.   I chewed on them hungrily.   I also knew I had to make myself be present at the banquet table to partake of the meal.

       I knew upon hearing them they were offered as Song of Vigilance I need to sing in my mind daily.  I knew they powerful words, selflessly offered not just to the fireman's wife, but to the world who had "Ears to Listen," and "Years to Live."

        I hoped, in whatever small way, the VigilanceVoice could help those who read it to develop
"Ears of Vigilance," and to use the "Years of Vigilance" the fireman had offered in his last moments on earth.   And, I made a commitment to "use his ears," and "use his years," for they were gifts of selflessness, gifts I need daily.
       “Use My Ears...Use My Years...”

       Yes, I will, Sir Fireman of Vigilance. “Yes, I will!”


Go To Oct 12--Nobel Prize Of Terror

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