Sunday--October 27, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 410
A Day With The Terrorists
In Central Park, New York City
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, October 27 --I spent yesterday with thousands of Terrorists
roaming the 848 acres of Central Park.
Many carried bloody weapons.
The majority wore masks, disguising their
Some had painted faces, making it difficult
to recognize them.
Central Park, which comprises 6 percent of
the land mass of Manhattan Island, opened its gates yesterday to the
Terrorists. From 11 a.m. until nearly 4 in the afternoon, they were
allowed to roam along the paths and walkways, leaping out and threatening
You could hear their screams, the shrill of
But it wasn't all Terrorism.
Woven into the shrouds of Terrorism were
threads of Vigilance.
Sentinels of Vigilance with their Shields
of Vigilance and Swords of Vigilance were there to counter the Terrorists.
Outnumbered by at least, according to my Kentucky-windage estimate, the
Vigilant were about a third of the Terrorist contingency.
The Sentinels wore the uniforms of
Spider Man, Superman, Batman, Sponge Bob, Wonder Woman and numerous Angels
There were also Dogs of
Vigilance on the prowl,
some disguised as cows, others brandishing their
"Masked Marvel" hero costumes, warning the Terrorists that Vigilance would
not be afflicted by Fear, Intimidation or Complacency.
It was all in fun. It was
the annual Halloween Day at Central Park, offering tens of thousands of
children and their families an opportunity to climb into disguises of
either the Terrorist or the Vigilant, the scary and macabre or the bold
I joined my wife, daughter and
three grandchildren, Matt, 6, Sarah 4, and Angus, four months, on an
overcast, already damp day to where children learn to face Terrorism.
Stationed throughout the park, from
72nd to 60th Street, were a host of different "scary stations" where
costumed children and their parents could participate in a variety of
Halloween events from spoon slime races, Halloween jewelry making, spooky
face painting to a haunted house filled with ghouls who leapt out in a
mist to scare the light at heart.
In the midst of a world that
seemingly has gone mad, it was an ironic event to see children walking
about with "monster" costumes that stirred within them the "Beast of
Terror," and simultaneously comforting to see other children choosing
non-Terrorist costumes such as Sponge Bob, or Batman, or Wonder
Between the poles of the Ghouls of
Terrorism and the Vigilant Protectors were the innocent--the little girl
dressed as Minnie Mouse, the little boy dressed in a Winnie The Poo
costume, the Cinderellas, the happy clowns and angels.
Others wore no costumes
and were just there to watch, enjoy, or be scared.
As the autumn leaves fell in the
crisp wet wind, showering down like golden toasted snowflakes as the wind
gusts sang through the overhanging trees, you could hear the sounds of
both glee and fright as children played, or stood in long, patient lines
to get their face painted, or enjoy a hayride, or inch closer to the Chess
and Checkers building that housed the scariest of all places--the Haunted
by Vigilant face painting
Not too many years ago, Central Park
was indeed 848 acres of true bloody Terrorism. Rapes, murders,
muggings was its notoriety. Over the past decade the city has been
transformed through the Vigilance of its mayoral leadership into a
Disneyland--including the presence of the world's largest toy store in
Time's Square--Toys 'R Us, and the world's largest McDonald's just a block
away on 42nd Street.
As I took hundreds of pictures of the
kids and events, my mind clicked to the recent sniper attacks that had
immobilized a community of 4 million people in Maryland, where a man and
his ally, a 17-year-old, had just been captured as allegedly killing ten
random people and wounding another three.
I wondered what they had dressed as on
As children, had they chosen the
"Terrorist" theme or the Vigilant one? I wondered.
gun for kids
The sniper in Maryland had brought up a
troubling question--was he a Terrorist or just "terrorizing."
The dilemma is trying to define a Terrorist
versus a serial or psychopathic killer. Terrorists are alleged
to have a cause, while a serial killer may just kill for sport, such as
Ted Bundy who picked only on victims who were brunettes. In
the case of John Mohammad, the alleged sniper, he was treated as
both--employing resources of both local, state, and federal law
enforcement, as well as engaging massive anti-terrorism resources
including spy planes hunting for him overhead.
I found the arguments as hollow as a
pumpkin carved by the magic of one of the artists at Central Park who
could transform a mundane orange ball into a variety of fun or ghastly
Terrorism is all about infecting its victims
with Fear, Intimidation and Complacency. They compose
ranks of bullies who prey on the weak, defenseless, vulnerable, sticking
knives or guns in people's faces, threatening them, and then telling them
if they don't do this or that they'll hunt down their children and
families and maim or kill them. They thrive on turning human
statue into masses of Jell-O. They like to leap out from
behind trees with ghoulish masks and scare a three-year-old into shrieking
Stephen Spielberg is one. His movie
Jaws has Terrorized thousands from every swimming in the ocean in peace.
Our older daughter, the mother of three who has faced guns pointing in her
face in El Salvador, and risks her well-being working with the homeless in
New York City from a variety of threats from disease to muggings--is more
afraid of the ocean than she is someone attacking her.
The parent who angrily turns to his or her
child and shouts: "I wish you were never born," or, the elegant,
wealthy couple on the Upper East Side who pay a nanny to raise their
children while they're busy on cell phones making money and teaching their
children the important of social status while neglecting the child's
desire to be loved for who he or she is, rather than what he or she can
become, both rank in the Terrorist spectrum.
Fear of loneliness, Fear of not being
loved, Fear of failing to meet parental expectations, Fear of not being
good enough, Fear of not having loving arms to comfort the Terror of the
mind--all add up over time into a State of Terrorism that can explode in a
number of ways, from psychopathic killing, to child abuse, or to a never
ending sense of Intimidation and utter Complacency that smothers the human
spirit, and chokes off Vigilance's Courage, Conviction and Right Actions.
The professors of forensic science are
starting to lump Terrorism into one bowl--those who inflict Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency upon others.
It is far too easy to dissect something
into so many parts that putting it back together becomes impossible even
for those who cut the patterns in the first place. We need
simple definitions of Terrorism, not complicated ones. We need
to realize that Terrorism is not about foreign nations attacking what
intelligence officers call "soft" or "hard" targets. A
"soft" target is a random citizen, like those at the World Trade Center,
or the Russians who went to see a musical and were held hostage, or woman
sitting on a bus bench in Maryland just before the sniper shot her.
"Hard" targets are the President of the United States, those who have lots
of security around them, as though their lives were more valuable than the
bus driver who was shot, or the 13-year-old boy who was at school.
When I saw the "Terrorism" costumes worn by
many of the young children at Central Park, I shuddered. I
wondered why a parent would stir the Beast of Terror in a child by letting
him or her don clothing that gave him a "fantasy license" to feel he or
she could Terrorize others with impunity?
Of course, people say, it's all in fun.
But is it? Is letting a child dress as a ghoul with the intent
to Terrorize others breeding the power of the Beast of Terror?
As a Marine, I know I had this sense of
unlimited, god-like power in Vietnam. In my hands I carried a weapon
that could kill anything. I also had a "free fire zone"
authorization, which meant "if it moves, kill it." After a while,
such unlimited power of life over death overwhelms you. Inside
us all is our primal nature, and its key is a mask, a cause, a resentment,
a sense of hurt, a need for revenge, a desire to show others we are
"somebody," a thirst to "prove our power."
I was watching the World Series last night.
I saw the pitcher and batter in a duel over who could Terrorize the other
more. Could the pitcher create more Fear than Courage, more
Intimidation than Conviction, more Complacency than Right Action in the
batter? Or, could the batter focus only on Vigilance, and
drive the Fear of striking out from his mind, shove aside the Intimidation
of curves and sliders and change ups so that he only saw the seams of the
ball in slow motion, and instead of becoming Complacent and swinging at
air or just standing there as a strike popped into the catcher's mitt,
could he drive the ball into a pocket or over the fence?
This is professional Terrorism and
Vigilance at its best--civilized combat, where each player is trained to
combat their Beasts of Terror and call upon the Sentinels of
Vigilance--the Babe Ruths, the Mickey Mantles, the Satchel Pages, the Pete
Roses to guide them, urge them, protect them
I found it even more fascinating that
the Giants had a dugout filled with children--their children--supporting
them. They were the Children of Vigilance, rooting on their fathers,
Why would a Parent of Vigilance let a
child dress up in a Terror costume--representing a witch or the Devil or a
ghoul? The single intent of such a costume is to bring Terror
Power to the child--to raise its awareness of the Beast Within.
My only answer was Complacency.
Our world today is fighting a
battle that far exceeds the threat of Saddam Hussein, or Osama bin Laden.
Our world is fighting against the John Mohammads. It is
fighting against those who watch the television ads about being
"depressed," and turn their lives over to chemicals to balance out their
sense of emptiness and self-defeat in a pressure cooker that demands "we
In Russia, the Chechnya
Terrorists were met with death, and unfortunately, more than ten percent
of the hostages died in the assault, the majority choking on their own
vomit from the gas the rescuers used to knock out the Terrorists holding
more than 750 hostage.
We can choke on our own vomit
too if we're not careful. We can gag ourselves trying to figure out
what Terrorism is, and to isolate it from ourselves, as though we could
push it away, shove it to some corner where it is "everyone else's
problem" rather than ours, pretending we live "Terrorism Free" because we
are "above it."
No one is above the Beast of Terror.
We all have our dark sides.
We can all be enraged. We can all be
hurt. We can "wish someone else dead." We can all turn from
meek, quiet, unassuming "nobodies" into violent creatures just as easily
as a child can don a mask with a skull's head and fake blood running
through its popping veins and go out to "scare" people.
Most murders are "crimes of passion,"
where one's Beast of Terror rises up from its cauldron and escapes in a
fit of rage. We forget the angry employee who walks into a
building and starts shooting people because he or she lost a job, or was
passed over for a promotion, or has massive financial problems.
We forget too that such Terrorism
exhibited by the Terrorists was bred into them by their parents. We
forget they were taught to feel oppressed, to feel victimized, and to
revenge or avenge themselves.
We forget that often this training
comes in the form of parental neglect, lack of supervision, lack of loving
care, lack of getting down with a child and explaining the relationship
between Fear and Courage, Intimidation and Conviction, Complacency and
Right Action. We forget to feel vulnerable in the presence of
our children, and share with them how we fight our Beast of Terror.
We deny our own Beasts of Terror, and
righteously indignant those who exhibit theirs openly, as though we were
not kin to it, above it, invincible to the same primal forces that drive
the mad to madness. This Complacency for our own emotional
vulnerability camouflages the reality of our own Beast.
Because we offer a home, amenities, food,
money, clothes, we might be lulled into thinking our children are free
from Terror. But we forget Terror is all about
We forget that Terror is bred in those who
feel unwanted, unloved, unappreciated.
That's why the Pledge of Vigilance contains
the power to reverse Complacency. It demands a Parent, a Loved One,
to reconsider the fact that Terrorism is part of our daily thoughts, part
of our daily lives, and part of our children's.
Families riding in
If one studies a single day and counts the
number of times Fear, Intimidation or Complacency sweeps in and out of the
mind, surging like an ocean, one might be surprised at its frequency.
And, in countering those feelings or thoughts, how often do we consciously
call upon the Sentinels of Vigilance to help us conjure more Courage than
Fear, more Conviction than Intimidation, more Right Actions than
And, do we really ask the question--"what's
right for the children's children's children?" rather than "what's right
Each day a child enters a world of
Terrorism. It's part of life. How the child walks
through that world depends on what costume he or she wears.
Vigilance with children
A parent can dress a child in the
ghouls costume by simple neglect, or Compliance. He or she can
let a child go out the door without a loving hug, without whispering in
the child's ear how much he or she is loved, and cared for, and how
important the child is. A child leaving a house without
such a Shield of Vigilance is vulnerable to all the Ghouls of Terror, and,
in retaliation, may become one in self defense.
On the other hand, a child who knows
the Sentinel of Vigilance, his or her parents, has dressed him or her with
love and caring and respect, can leave the house dressed as a Rescue Hero,
or Wonder Woman, or Captain America, or Sponge Bob, or Cinderella, or
Such a child can carry
with him or her the Family's Shield of Vigilance, armed to cast
off the Terrorisms of the day so that when Fear strike, Courage
rushes to the rescue. And when Intimidation slithers in
the back door, Conviction can muscle its way to the forefront,
And when the sense of Complacency--defeat--nothingness--futility--strikes,
he or she can call for the Right Actions, requesting support
from the Sentinels of Vigilance to help him or her do the "right
thing," the selfless rather than "selfish" act.
I believe when
we dress our children in the costume of Vigilance, Terrorism
will shrink to its respective size--that of an ant not an elephant.
As Vigilant Peacemakers
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