Wednesday--October 2, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 385
Snipers & Grandsons
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, October 2--When you get a call that a sniper is shooting people
just a block from your grandson’s school, you stop what you’re doing and
head toward the shooting spree.
I heard the sounds of helicopters around 1 p.m. I thought the
President must be in town, for low, swooping chopper sounds usually signal
Vigilance for Dignitaries. What I didn’t know was the helicopter was
searching for a Terrorist—not one from Al Qaeda—but a former police
officer, 33-year-old Brian Barrigan. Barrigan was dismissed from the police
force in 1997 after testing positive for cocaine use.
He shot a pre-school
teacher, grazing her arm, as she was walking with another teacher and a
number of children. Then all hell broke loose.
A Level 3 alert was called, mobilizing task forces including
city, state and federal law enforcement.
SWAT teams, bomb squads, and an army of police on the ground and
in the air converged a block near my grandson’s school—unsure what was
happening—there to protect the citizens of New York City, especially the
My wife was on her way to pick up our grandson, Matt, from his
first grade class. His mother was working at the church, and his father
at his job. I got a call from Matt’s father, worried about his son’s
safety. Immediately, I received another call from our other daughter, who
is a federal special agent here in New York and Matt's mother's sister.
She was on her way to the school.
I packed up my camera and rushed out the door. I wore my New
York State Patrol shirt, just in case I needed to go through the police
The jammed streets of
New York City were bustling as normal. There was no panic, for few
people knew what was happening. Earlier, I had scanned the television for
“breaking news” and found none about the sniper. I thought that odd in a
city where a Level 3 alert was underway.
I got to the school and it was locked. The children were
detained within the sanctuary of the gymnasium until the sniper and
any threat to their safety was under control. To enter the school, you
were directed to a back door on another street, exiting in the farthest
direction from potential danger.
Inside, the children were lined up by classes. Teachers
orchestrated order. No one was allowed to leave until there was an “all
clear” by the police. I waited outside for my wife who was working her
way across town. She had earlier picked up our four-year-old
granddaughter, Sarah, from pre-school about a twenty-minute walk away.
I was betting she knew nothing about the event, since the city seemed
immune to the news a sniper was shooting at and hitting people in the East
I kept in contact with my younger daughter, traveling down the
jammed streets. I told her the scene looked controlled, and to meet me
at the back of the school. I liked the idea she was armed, and her
partner was with her in case something happened. When a Terrorist
attacks, it is good to have firepower at your side in case you become the
We waited for the all clear. The
kids mother and father arrived, worried about the children’s safety.
There we were, mother, father, grandparents and aunt, forming a Circle of
Vigilance around the children.
The woman who opened the back door of the school said to me:
“Haven’t we been through enough. These poor kids.”
I thought about
it. A year and a few weeks ago the children had watched two of the most
magnificent structures in New York City crumble. They had cried with
their friends—children of firemen, police, and citizens who had perished
in the Terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Our grandson had suggested we invite the children who lost parents
to come play at our house, since they would be lonely. Our granddaughter
thought she found the “missing Twin Towers” on a sign painted on a large
truck that passed by the bus one day. She had also cried when Candles of
Vigilance were snuffed out in a Manicure store window she liked to visit
after school and think the thoughts that only three-year-olds (her age at
that time) think about death and destruction and the souls of the
Now, there was a new Ace of Spades in the deck.
Death’s hand reached out
one more time.
It put its cold fingers on the shoulders of the children of my
grandson’s school, and its rippling effect made its way to the eyes and
ears of other children who would wonder why anyone would shoot a school
teacher, or shoot at a bunch of children huddled around her.
The Beast of Terror knows no compunction. Its fangs are
indiscriminate. It can sink them in the most innocent without a blink,
and shake the frail bodies of children without a sneeze of regret.
I watched the teachers comforting the children. They stood
like the Sentinels of Vigilance I know hover over the World Trade Center,
the Pentagon, and lonely field in Pennsylvania. They were willing to
give their lives to protect the children’s outsides and their insides.
They not only were concerned with their physical safety, but their
emotional security as well.
Outside the wall of the school was a sniper, twisted in his
thinking, a man turned beast. He was a man of Terror, opposite the
teachers who stood as signposts of security for the children, symbols of
trust and confidence for the young, innocent.
I wondered if the man with weapons shooting at innocent people
had been raised with a Pledge of Vigilance as part of his home, and was
taught to face his Fears with Courage, and his Intimidations with
Conviction, and that his mission was to take the Right Action in behalf of
the children, and the children’s children…I wondered if such a man would
shoot at a school teacher, and risk the lives of innocent children had he
been trained differently?
No one can answer that question with certainty, but the
probability of a Boy of Vigilance growing into a Man of Vigilance
outweighed the odds he would evolve into a mad sniper, bent on destroying
As I huddled
with my family—my wife, children, grandchildren—and the sounds
of sirens wailed and the beat of helicopter blades slicing through
the sky overhead pulsed through the air, I knew again the Pledge
of Vigilance was the right tool for these troubled times.
I knew that some child, somewhere, sometime, might be brought
up with Tools of Vigilance. I knew that those tools
were designed to beat back the Beast of Terror that lurks in
our Fears, our Intimidations and our Complacencies.
I knew that a child—boy or girl—who was taught the Principles
of Vigilance would find it hard to climb up to a rooftop and
shoot at others, especially children, or their parents, or their
We made our
way home safely. We took the grandchildren to our
apartment as we do each Wednesday. I asked
my grandson if he was afraid. “Afraid of what?”
I didn’t pry.
The kids were playing. Their world was safe.
The Sentinels of Vigilance had shoved the Shield of Vigilance
in front of them.
To Oct. 1--Vigilance Change Not Regime Change
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