Wednesday--October 23, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 406
Taking A Terrorism Walk
With My Grandson
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, October 23 -- Today I take my grandson into the world of
snipers, Terrorists and madmen. We're going for a walk
along Times Square.
I have a choice of dressing in him a
warm jacket, or a flack jacket.
I can also choose to teach him how to
duck and run when the bullets start to fly, and how to use my cell phone
if I take a bullet for him.
Going to Toys 'R Us or FAO
Schwarz could be a life-threatening journey. Who knows if the sniper
from Washington D.C. hasn't driven or even bussed or flown to New York
So what do I do?
Do I tell the six-year-old who is
madly in love with the Rescue Heroes that they are only play, imagination
toys and can't help him? Or do I pretend he's safe in the
cocoon of his imaginative friends--Jake Justice and Billy Blazes
It seems a lot of people are
concerned that American families are overreacting to the sniper attacks.
The deluge of media hype has made fear of the sniper greater than fear of
Newsweek just ran a poll that
found 47 percent of Americans very or somewhat concerned a member of their
family being a victim of sniper violence while 43 percent opted for fear
of a Terrorist attack. Women's fears were even higher, 56 percent,
as were minorities, 58 percent.
Magazine, noted for its number-crunching articles, took a swipe at
America's "logic of irrational fear." It reduced the risk of being
shot by the sniper in the five counties where the killing has occurred as
one in 344,000, based on a population area
around Washington D.C. of 3.1 million. The author went so far
as to annualize the random sniper attacks, creating a theoretical murder
rate of 7.5 per 100,000 people. In 2000, the murder rate without a
sniper was 3.4 per 100,000.
However, the majority of murders in the five counties
encompassing the Economist's statistics had a low murder ratio.
The highest was Prince George County, and the remaining four averaged 1.4
That makes the odds of being killed
by the Terrorist Sniper nearly six times higher in counties outside Prince
George, where most of the shootings have occurred.
But the big point the Economist
was making revolved around "irrational, illogical statistical fear."
From a numbers viewpoint, the amount of fear versus the risk was
disproportionate. The odds of dying in a car accident or being
seriously injured in one rivaled being shot by the sniper.
Economists call overestimating
unknown risks, "risk-ambiguity aversion." Since the sniper
shoots at random, and has no predictable pattern, everyone is a potential
target whether they have a seat belt on or not. The
author went farther to explain that if half the people stayed at home, it
would increase the risk of those who went out by reducing the mass of
I found only one article this morning
that cited the real source of Terror. It was in the Christian
Science Monitor where the author of the piece noted that killing
people wasn't the goal--injecting Fear was.
It would be easy for
me to create Fear in my grandson today. I could give him a
full-course from my Marine Corps training on how to hit the deck and roll
when a gunshot was heard. I could teach him how to belly crawl
along the crowded New York City sidewalks, and remind him to say his
prayers before we left just in case God locked the gates to all those who
forgot to say "hello" before they died.
I could tell him horror stories of the
"unprepared" and how they stand out of the crowd; And teach him to
walk with confidence, always moving and not standing still so he would
make a difficult target so hopefully a sniper would fix his crosshairs on
someone else. I could tell him about the twisted nature
of one who preys on people, and why that person shouldn't deserve to live
after he's caught, and why executing him would protect the world from that
animal's primal thirst to kill for fun.
I could try and condition him to see blood
gushing out of a person's head who got shot a few feet away from him, and
why he shouldn't be afraid if he saw someone crumple and writhe in agony
as death's claws sunk their nails into the person's heart, and their body
went limp, life exhausted by a random killer.
To supplicate him, I could use the Economist's
figures, and show him the odds of being shot as minimal, and tell him I'd
never won the lottery so I was outside the "statistical loop," not one of
those people who catch the numbers on the good side of life, so the odds
of me catching them on the bad side should be equally low.
My wife aghast at
Kid's Ready-to-use Kids combat gear
And, I could go on and tell him how
the sniper has vowed to kill children by saying "none of your children are
safe." I could remind him he's a small target--bone-thin, only
six--and that the sniper would probably pick someone older, bigger to
insure he killed him or her rather than miss a shot on a smaller target.
I would, of course, have to tell him I couldn't
carry him on my shoulders until the sniper was caught, because being
six-four, with him on my shoulders, the sniper would have a much easier
target. Plus, I would have to walk slower with him riding
above me, and make it easier for the sniper's crosshairs to focus on his
head, neck or belly.
On the Vigilant side of the
coin, I could show him how to swivel his head in search of a glinting
rifle barrel, or a strange movement on a rooftop or from a window.
I'd show him how to ratchet his head, jerking it slightly a degree at a
time so his eyes could focus on the unexpected, alert for anything out of
the ordinary. I could tell him to pretend his eyes were laser beams,
scanning, always scanning for the impending threat. He would really get
into that I am sure.
In our backpacks, we could place compresses and
pain relievers if either of us got shot, and I'd show him how to tie off a
wound, and, how to say the last rites, to rub a cross into my forehead if
I got shot and died in his arms.
Yup. I could teach my grandson real
Terrorism Vigilance before we went to 42nd Street, or to the Children's
Zoo at Central Park, or, to Tompkins Square Park, or to FAO, or to the
Museum of Natural History.
Or, I could just ignore it all.
And have a fun day with my grandson, teaching him how to have
more Courage than Fear, more Conviction than Intimidation, and
take more Right Action than fall into the pit of Complacency.
I think instead of giving him a Fear-based
background on how to defend himself against the odds of being
a sniper a victim, I'm going to insure he has his Rescue Heroes
in his backpack (in case we both need their help)..
And, before I go, I'm going to re-read
my Pledge of Vigilance, just to remind me what my job is as
a Grandfather of Vigilance.
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