Thursday--October 17, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 400
400 Days From Ground Zero
Are we closer to Vigilance or Terrorism?
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, October 17 -- It has been 400 days since Ground Zero Plus.
That's 9,600 hours, 576,000 minutes and 9,216,000 heartbeats later.
We haven't yet found Osama bin Laden.
We haven't yet attacked Iraq.
But we do have a sniper
randomly killing people, Terrorizing the citizens surrounding Washington
D.C., shooting men, women and children.
Troopers search for clues in sniper attack on 13-year-old boy
We are also facing stiff
competition at the United Nations regarding authorization to attack Iraq.
Currently, the U.N. Security Council is in debate--Russia, China, Britain,
France and the United States all have different agendas regarding
authorizing attacks on Iraq. The council has allowed
non-council members to sit in on the debate and input why a war in Iraq
would be good or bad. Even Kuwait, the country America
liberated from Hussein's invasion, is calling for U.N. weapons inspectors
to "negotiate" their way into the country rather than risk a war that
would spill over into its country.
The American public is
also hedging. After a strong State of the Union address
at the beginning of the year, President Bush's ratings were in the high 80
percentile favoring action against Iraq. Now, they have
dropped to the 60 percentile range, and are dwindling.
Despite all attempts to
bring peace to Israel and Palestine, suicide bombers still strapped on
dynamite and seek to find Paradise by blowing up their enemy--the women,
men and children of Israel.
morgue in Bali
In Bali, Terrorists set
off car bombs that kill 182 youth in a land known to be "Paradise," but
now is stained with the blood of the innocent.
Saudi women voting
in blood for Hussein
elections in which it claims 100 percent of the voters pour out to endorse
Saddam Hussein as their leader, and support his leadership for another seven
years. Some women vote with their blood to punctuate their commitment to
a leader who, without hesitation, gassed over 50,000 of his own people,
the Kurds, to quell an uprising.
It seems forever,
these 9,600 hours, 576,000 minutes, 9.2 million heartbeats from Ground
My mind is easily snapped back to September 11, 2001 when I heard a
low-flying jet screaming overhead. I remember the sounds of the
straining engines above me hurling at 500 mph toward the World Trade
Center. I still see bodies leaping from buildings, and the
roar of Hell as the icons of commerce collapsed, smothering us in a blanket of ash, turning
day into night, life into instant death.
For me, it has been
nearly one million (1,000,000) words written on Vigilance versus
Terrorism. It has a been a daily recounting of the dangers of
Terrorism, and the absolute, unconditional demand for Vigilance as the
only combat to it that will last over time, that will protect the
children's children's children.
Unlike politicians, I
don't see bombs and bullets as the means to extinguish Terrorism--not real
Terrorism, that is. I see them as an expedient way to warn
Terrorists of the wrath that will be imposed upon them if they threaten or
attack or support the attacks on America and the world, but a bomb crater
or a body blown to bits by one is not the ultimate solutions to expunging
Terrorism from the land. In fact, it feeds the Beast of Terror who
energizes his bile with revenge, hatred and retaliation. He loves to
pluck an eye for an eye.
Iraq and Osama bin Laden
are only tips of the Terroristic Iceberg. They are mere sharp points of the Beast of Terror's sword that, when dulled or broken
can be reshaped again and again into their original form by the Beast of
I believe the Children of
Terror wait eagerly to step into their father's shoes.
Thus, the dilemma of 400 days
post Nine Eleven--how to convince the Children of Terror to become
Children of Vigilance? How to convince the world to become Citizens
of Vigilance, rather than Victims of Terror?
Just the other day I saw a
Child of Terror.
Butterflies on Fifth Ave
It was on prestigious Fifth Ave in
uptown New York. You see many things in New York City.
Just before I noticed the Child of Terror, a stream of butterflies skated
down 5th Avenue. They were dressed in purple with butterfly
wings attached to their backs, carrying signs promoting MSNBC.
Perhaps a hundred of them skated down the avenue, dodging taxis and
I was en route to buy my wife a wedding anniversary
present. It was cold. I had three layers on--T-shirt,
sweatshirt and down vest. At the corner of 39th and 5th Avenue an
older man was shuffling up the street, bent over as he moved his spindly
legs painfully, one shuffle at a time, snailing his body forward.
garbage bags for pants. His left foot was wrapped in a white,
battered slipper, his right foot was locked in a old leather sandal.
A dirty blanket was draped over his hunched spine. He stabbed a bent
aluminum cane ahead of each step to balance his forward, pained shuffle.
A rope tied around his waist dragged a plastic milk crate full of cans he dug out of each trash can he passed.
His name was Willy. He
wore a sign around his neck, scrawled in hesitant letters, telling all
passersby he was sick and old and hungry and needed help. In
his left hand he feebly held up a tattered, empty orange juice carton
seeking funds from the thousands who swept by him wearing suites and ties
and fine dresses, and warm clothes.
I stopped and followed Willy for a while,
not gawking at him, but rather reminding myself that Terrorism isn't the
venue of nation-states thousands of miles away, but rather exists in
pitiable predominance right under our own noses. Willy was certainly
Terrorized by both disease and an apparent life of extreme hardship.
As I watched him shuffling in agony, his spidery legs smaller than those
of the statute of
Gandhi in Union Square Park, I
listened to him blessing people who put nickels, dimes, quarters and
dollars in the orange juice carton.
"God, bless you...and your
"God, bless you...and your family."
Willy didn't need the signs draped around
his neck--or the one tied to the plastic milk container he dragged behind
him like an aluminum sea anchor--to let the world know he was in dire need.
Willy was our walking Terrorism Poster--our Child of Terror--a signet that our problems are
rooted here, in our own soil. Willy could have been a beggar
in India, or Afghanistan, or any country known for sickness, poverty and
desolation of the human spirit.
I noted that the crowds of people
pushing their way up and down the sidewalks didn't make a wide Complacent
swath around Willy. Most of the time they do around the
marginalized, disenfranchised souls who invade the upper edges of society..
Instead, people were walking close to Willy.
Many stopped to put alms in his beggar's cup, and paused for a brief moment
rather than rush away. It was as though they wanted to hear Willy's
blessing: "God bless you...and your family," issued in a such a faint Voice,
you knew was not long for
this earth, and yet a Voice filled with love and compassion.
I took some clandestine pictures, shooting
my camera from the hip rather than raising it to my eyelevel in an obvious
gesture of photography. I didn't want to demean Willy, spectacalize him.
I followed him at a snail's pace for about
a block and a half. Under normal New York walking speed, I
could have traversed six times the amount of blocks.
Willy's every move was pained.
When someone left him something, Willy stopped and laboriously
ratcheted his head toward them to thank them in a weak, but sincere Voice
that could be heard above the din of the traffic and the ambient clatter of a city whose cacophony is known to drown
But around Willy was an aura of reverence, a kind of hollowed sanctuary that
radiated from him, causing people passing by to respect rather than abhor his sight.
I began to see Willy not as a beggar, a frail,
wounded creature of HIV virus seeking pity from his fellow brothers and
sisters, but more as a Sentinel of Vigilance, a symbol of humanity on its
last legs, traveling through the madding crowd with a simple message:
"There but for the Grace of God go I."
People seemed to feel the radiance of Willy's
Courage to walk up the streets of wealthy, busy humanity in threadbare
clothing, dragging his milk carton behind, his toothpick legs wobbling
with every step. His face was not twisted in pain or his eyes
rimmed with anger at those passing by as is often the case of those others who hold out cups and
shake them at you as though you owed them.
Willy was different.
I wondered if maybe he was
Jesus in disguise, or Buddha, or Mohammed--one of the great religious
icons returned to earth and walk it in beggar's clothing to evaluate
whether the sparks of humanity still exist, or if the world had retreated into
a complete selfish shell, ignoring the gift of health and wealth and
righteously denying the poor and battered their respect.
If Willy was one of these Messiah reincarnates,
he was chalking up a lot of pluses for humanity on Fifth Avenue.
The Saddam Hussein's, the bin Ladens, the
al-Qaeda's--they seemed to turn to soft wax, as though Willy's candle of
human spirit and his willingness to walk the last mile of his life up
Fifth Avenue meant more to the future of the world than the eradication of
those Beasts of Terror who thumb their nose at America, and challenge our
leaders to reduce them to ash.
Willy was offering the world of Fifth Avenue a
message: that Terrorism is a home front battle, best fought with a Pledge
of Vigilance rather than a bomb or bullet.
For those wrapped in the
cloth of self-pity or self-pain over their own past, present and future,
Willy's presence was symbolic that one can drive Fear, Intimidation and Complacency
away even in the worst of life's pains. Willy was, without
question, walking death...life wrapped in the swaddling cloth of near
I thought of the abuse that Willy might have
suffered as a child, either from a physical or emotional level, that
caused him to demean his body and mind to such an extent that his life
became a walking disease of pain and suffering. I wondered if
his life would have turned out different had he been a Child of Vigilance
rather than one of Terror?
Then I thought of the resurrection of Willy.
I thought about the man mustering up the will to walk up Fifth Avenue with
a orange juice carton and garbage bags for leggings, and shrouded by an
old blanket. I thought of his Voice saying, "God, bless
you...and your family" as though he were the Pope of the City, offering those who paid him
tribute a moment of humanity, a moment in which the barriers between rich
and poor, fortunate and unfortunate, crumbled. It was his added
blessing, "...and your family," that made me pay close attention. He
was not just talking about the "family" of the people, I thought, but the
"family of humanity." He was blessing the children's
On Nine Eleven, barriers between
people fell. Rich and poor helped one another.
Educated and uneducated walked hand-in-hand through the rubble.
Enemies became allies. Conservatives and Liberals
became brothers and sisters. On that horrific
day, some 400 days ago, humanity became one--a group of Vigilant
people working as one to save and heal the souls of the lost,
regardless of differences.
Willy reminded me of that day.
He reminded me that the Circle of Vigilance was still strong,
that its links were still intact.
I slipped up beside Willy
and put some bills in the container. Willy turned
his head slowly, like an old sea turtle might crawling up the
beach he was born upon to take his last breath before he died.
Willy looked at me with soft cataract eyes and said, "God,
bless you...and your family. God, bless you...and your
There was no doubt. He
was a Sentinel of Vigilance, if not for all others, at least
Sniper Of 1492
- 2004, VigilanceVoice.com, All rights reserved - a