From Terrorism's Gallows:
The Beast of Terror resides inside all of us. How
do you keep it on its side of the street? It took
me 13 years of sobriety to learn how to manage it.
You can learn much faster. Read this compelling
story of how to Fight Terrorism with Vigilance!
Thursday--November 7, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 421
My Anniversary From Terrorism's Gallows
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, Nov. 7 --Thirteen years ago, November 7, 1989, I sat with a gun
to my head, unable to pull the trigger.
It was my most hollow moment, my most
The Beast of Terror had me in his jaws.
He was shredding my soul, gnawing on the last ounces of humanity left in
my ravaged body. I could hear his roar, feel his fiery fetid
breath singing my flesh. I was sinking in the quagmire of
Terrorism, gagging on its slime, trapped like a wolf whose only way of
escape is to eat his foot off to free him from the steel teeth of the
It wasn't a pretty sight. All
the marrow in my body had been sucked out by the Beast of Terror, and even
though I am six-feet four, a strong 265 pounds, I felt like a speck of
dust, a nothing, a nobody.
I lived in a beautiful $500,000 home in
Laguna Niguel, California. I had been earning over $300,000 a year.
I had a beautiful loving wife, and two marvelously bright, and talented
daughters. I had risen to the top of my profession, the senior vice
president of marketing for the world's largest real estate franchise with
more than $50 billion a year in gross product sales (residential real
estate). I directed the expenditure of a global image budget exceeding
$250 million a year, 10 percent of which was spent on national media, the remainder
in local and regional markets. Our sales force exceeded 100,000.
On the outside, I was a model citizen.
I was a former U.S. Marine with more than a hundred combat operations.
I participated in local community activities and coached girls softball.
Our home was the center of activity in the community, enjoying a constant
flood and ebb of kids coming and going--welcomed, appreciated.
I was respected by my peers, told I was a "marketing genius," and had
achieved an ultimate height for a guy who struggled to be "somebody."
I spent time with world leaders as part of my
business, inviting Buckminster Fuller to spend a day with me. I
Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford to come and speak to over 15,000 of the most
powerful real estate tyros in the world. I rubbed shoulders
with Bob Hope, Johnny Cash and a host of Hollywood stars we used to
promote new marketing campaigns. Warren Buffett's daughter was my
To some, I was invincibly strong. I
had the world by the tail. For a kid who grew up shining shoes and
mowing lawns, and barely made enough money to buy gas in his twenty-five
Chevy, I had come a long way from when I
graduated from high school with a "D" average. Despite my
background, I climbed out of the
feudal lower class I despised, and reached social nirvana. I fought
desperately to escape my past--that feeling of being unworthy, less than, not
belonging to. I wanted to replace my inner isolation and emptiness that haunted me.
fought my way into college, took remedial classes, and graduated.
I sought to live life as though I
had no past.
What I didn't understand
then, but know now, is that inside me prowled the Beast of Terror.
He grew stronger daily, feeding on my sense of futility as a human being,
consuming every negative thought I had about myself and regurgitating them
back in larger and more ugly visions that I tried to stuff, deny, bury.
The Beast of
Terror was massing his strength to defeat me, to
shake me off the ladder I had climbed and, when I fell, to stomp on my
chest and roar victoriously.
On November 7, 1989, I had had enough of myself.
I had grown to hate what was inside me--that feeling of inner emptiness, of
being a failure in the "eyes of others," of not having any "self worth,"
despite all the facades I built around me suggesting I was a
"pillar of human strength." I grew ashamed of looking myself
in the mirror.
I resorted to the bottle--to sucking in
large quantities of alcohol to try and numb the sense of unworthiness that
plagued me. I began to drink in the morning, afternoon,
evening, and then twenty-four hours a day, day end and day out.
I was trying to "kill the Beast of Terror" within, trying to anesthetize
the pain of my tortured soul. I had become a "nobody" in spite of
vainglorious attempts to be a "somebody."
A few years earlier I purchased a
$1,000,000 life insurance policy. In the lowest pit of my
Dante's Inferno, I reasoned that because I had fettered away the money I
had earned, and never felt comfortable in the high-powered business world
I thought I would conquer, that if I left my family the insurance money, I
would heal the scars of being such a failure. I measured my
life not by what humanity I had inside me, but what I wasn't on the
outside compared to others I elevated above me. I was, from
that vista, a loser, a failure. I could hear the Beast of
Terror's Voice whispering those words in my ear--"Loser! Failure!
Cheat! Fake! Mr. Unworthy! Scum Bag!".
I had no idea that the ugly side of human nature had taken command of my
being, and was driving me into the quagmire of self destruction.
Often, I would turn the shower on boiling
hot, and lie naked on the floor of the shower stall in a fetal position,
crying, trying to get the boiling water to wash my insides. All it
did was scald my outsides. I found myself not only drinking
booze, but cologne and Listerine--anything with alcohol--in an attempt to
drive the pain away. My soul felt like Jell-O. When I
tried to nail it to the wall, it just oozed down, amorphic, like the slime
I felt I had become.
My loving family begged me to get help.
My ego shouted "No!" I refused their open arms, their tears
and sadness that their father and husband had crumbled into a mass of
nothing after years of being strong. I was confused too, for
my life seemed to nose dive. I wondered why God would give me
such gifts, and then rip them from me like some Terrorist Tyrant abusing a
child. I became a zombie, the dead walking.
Finally, I decided the only way out was death.
I couldn't stand living another day in my own self-imposed Hell. I had to kill
the Beast Within before he escaped. As I lost more and more
self-control, I feared he would harm my wife, my
children, the world. My anger grew more volatile, my self-hatred more
retaliatory. I had never been violent with my family, never struck
out, never considered physical abuse of any kind--but the Beast Within was
now at the end of his leash, about to break it, to rage upon those closest
to me. I could feel it, but I couldn't control it.
I knew I had gone mad.
On November 7, 1989, I loaded my gun.
I sat at the kitchen counter staring at it. I tried to drink the
last drops of booze to muster the courage to pull the trigger, but the
booze had stopped working. The pain no longer could be dulled.
I put my finger on the trigger and the
barrel in my mouth. I cried. But I couldn't pull it.
No matter how hard I tried, my fingers seemed to freeze.
For a man who has seen as much death and
destruction as I have, and been a participant in it, it's hard to believe
I couldn't muster six ounces of strength to squeeze off a shotgun round
that would have ended my life. Death laughed at me. In a
final cry of desperation, I picked up the phone and called a man who had
offered me help two years earlier. His name was Charlie Doud,
a former Marine fighter pilot in the Korean War. By the grace
of God he was home that day and answered as I babbled, "God Help Me!"
As Destiny would have it, my wife came home from work early that day.
I collapsed in her arms. She dragged me to a hospital and admitted
me to an alcoholic recovery ward. That's when my life began to
In retrospect, I believe it was the
Sentinels of Vigilance who froze my fingers from pulling the trigger thirteen
years ago today. I believe they had something in store for me,
something I least expected, that I would become a Terror Hunter, and my
weapons used to capture the Beast of Terror would be a Pledge of
Vigilance, a Shield of Vigilance, and a belief in the future of the
children's children's children.
But the journey to discovering that
realization would be hard-earned. It would take a dozen years
of sobriety, a dozen years of struggling through bankruptcy, foreclosure,
colon cancer, chemotherapy, a year of law school, my wife's breast and
failed attempts to find a satisfying profession, and a move to New York
City to be near our grandchildren and surviving the World Trade Center
Terrorist attack before I would realize why I was given the "second chance
Sobriety is difficult. It requires one to
focus on his or her self worth, not his or her self worthlessness.
Over the past dozen years, I have practiced the 12 Steps of Recovery in my
daily life, to the best of my ability. I have learned to
"sweep" my side of the street, and try my best to keep it clean.
I've learned there is a line within us all. On one side is human
dignity, on the other is the domain of the Beast of Terror.
One side is bright and sunny. The other dark and dank.
Sometimes, the line gets fuzzy. Sometimes
there is only a pinhole of light to see your side. Sometimes you
step over it. But there is always an option to return to your
side--the sober side. I learned that sober means "clear thinking."
Before, my thinking was muddled. I believed my thoughts. When
I felt terrible about who I was, or what I wasn't, it consumed me.
It drove me down, squashed me into a bug.
Today, I know when I think of myself in low ways,
or start to defile myself for not being "perfect" or meeting other's
expectations, I am only hearing the Voice of the Beast who resides on the
dark side of the street. It's a signal for me to return to the
sunshine and honestly sweep my side, to clear away the cobwebs of thoughts that try
to make me feel "less than," or "unworthy," or full of "shame" or "guilt"
that I'm not "perfect" in my eyes, or other's eyes.
I have also learned the word "sobriety"
means my "cup runneth over" (Psalms 23:1,5). It means that life is about
living it to the fullest one minute at a time, and when one starts to feel
depressed or lonely or disenfranchised, or a nail and everyone else is a
hammer, it is time to say STOP THOUGHT! It is time to
"restart" the day, to draw a line between the Beast of Terror's thoughts
and to look at the world and life as a great gift, and to pay respect to
that gift, for the gift of life is fragile.
Circle of Sobriety
On September 11, 2001 as I sat in the ashes
and rubble of the Terrorist attack, thankful I was still alive, I saw the
Sentinels of Vigilance rising above Ground Zero, forming a circle of
sobriety--men and women with clear thinking, and one purpose--to serve a
beacons of hope that their deaths would not be buried in sad memories, but
rather be kept alive as monuments to Vigilance.
Watching the smoke rising, and the
swirl of millions upon millions of pieces of paper dancing in the
updrafts, I was sure they were doves, symbols of something far more
powerful than any sight I had ever witnessed except the birth of our two
I realized at that moment that all
the travails of my life had a reason, that the journey through alcoholism
and my dozen years of recovery without a drink, and practicing the 12
Steps in my life on a daily basis, had opened my soul to see the world in
a totally different light.
On that day, I saw Vigilance rising above
Prior to that event, I had not been quite
sure the Beast of Terror wasn't stronger than I. I had felt I
was wrestling with it, and that one day I would succumb to its power.
But as I saw the Spirits of Vigilance rising up from the ashes, forming
the Circle of Vigilance, I knew they had more power than the Beast of
Terror. I knew that I had allies in my battle against my own Beast.
I'm not a religious man in many ways. I
don't subscribe to religious dogma. But I have always had an
affinity to the Spirit of Life. Growing up in Oregon, I felt a
kinship to the Indians belief in the Great Spirit, and while I am not of
Native American descent, I adopted that belief. I have used
nature as my altar, and creatures as my example of the "good" in life.
The 12 Steps asked me to find a Higher Power, and I did my best to conjure
one, but until I saw the Spirits of Vigilance rising up in the smoke and
ash of Nine Eleven, I had held reservation that such a Higher Power truly
Today, such doubts have vanished from my
I know the Spirits of Vigilance are alive
and well for me, and for anyone who seeks as I, to keep his or her Beast of
Terror at bay.
Alone, I cannot fight the Beast.
The reason I attend 12 Step meetings is to garner strength from others who
suffer the same problem as I. Collectively, we have more power than
any one alone. And over the past twelve years prior to
September 11, I learned that to stay sober I must give away what I had.
The paradox of sobriety is that to keep it, you have to give it away--you
have to share your experience, strength and hope with others.
You have to be selfless than selfish. If you aren't, then you
return to the isolation of the self, just you and the Beast.
And, that's a losing battle, at least in my case.
The Sentinels of Vigilance reminded
me that I am not alone. They reinforced everything I had
learned to that moment that life was about giving not taking, that it was
measured by your insides not your outsides, and that to keep what you have
you have to give it away.
Through the 12 Step programs I
learned the primary mission was "to stay sober and help another alcoholic
achieve sobriety." I practiced that mission to the best
of my ability, learning how to stuff my selfishness and let selflessness
appear. It is very difficult. Most alcoholics don't want help.
But the goal isn't to "convert" but rather to "try to carry the message."
In the fallout of September 11, I
realized that there was a far greater disease than alcoholism that stunted
human beings right to evolution. It was devastation from the Beast of Terror.
It was the feeling of being "unworthy," "unloved," "abused," "different
than," "different from," "victimized," "ugly," "shameful," etc. etc.
It was all those feelings that rob the human spirit of Hope that he or she
is unique, that he or she can achieve anything as long as it is of worthy
value to others.
The signposts of Terrorism are Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency. These are big words that
encompass many sub meanings--but they all imply a depreciation of the
self, and a sense of powerlessness over life. These are works
of the Beast of Terror, for Terrorists thrive not on blowing up things,
but in striking Fear, Intimidation and Complacency in the hearts of those
who are vulnerable to their attacks. They inject or stimulate
one's own Beast of Terror to rule over their victims, to make them cower,
to drive them into shelters where the darkness, not the light of life
Equally important are the signposts of
Vigilance--Courage, Conviction and Right Actions. These three
cancel Terrorism's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
But Vigilance offers one more element in its equation that adds the great
value to its formula. That is, that Right Action is that which
promotes the safety and welfare of the children and their children's
It is easy sometimes to have Courage,
Conviction and Right Action to protect ones self. But to extend that
Courage, Conviction and Right Action far out into the future, to the
future generations, takes additional effort, greater consideration, more
belief in selflessness than selfishness.
Leap of Vigilance
That is the message the Sentinels of
Vigilance offered me last year. They offered me a new lease on
life --a new leap of faith--to spend the rest of my days on earth fighting for the Right to
Vigilance by all the children. And to reach that goal, the first
step is that parents must become Parents of Vigilance. To build
Children of Vigilance, we must be role models of Vigilance.
That means each person must learn to
control and manage his or her Beast of Terror before attempting to pass on
those lessons to children, so their children can pass them on to their
children, ad infinitum.
It means we need tools to recognize
our Beast of Terror when it raises its ugly head and breaths its foul
breath on our worthiness as human beings. It means we need to
learn to fight off the feelings of unworthiness, self depreciation, self
flagellation, self denouncement that tend to rob our children of our love
and care and consideration.
Parents who abuse their children either
physically or emotionally are so ensnarled in their Beast of Terror they
take out the battle on their offspring. It can be as subtle as
not hugging a child at night or in the morning and saying, "I love you,"
to not showing up for their soccer game, or to the school play, or
breaking a promise, or forgetting that when they go to sleep at night
without a loving story the bedroom belongs to the Beast of Terror who
hides in the closet and waits for the lights to go dim.
It can also take more vicious degrees.
Parents can yell at children, tell them they are stupid, berate them, even
say, "I wish you never born." They can hit them, molest them, ignore
But when a person thinks and practices the
Principles of Vigilance, he or she begins to realize that his or her own
Terrorisms were rooted in childhood. Troubled adults were
troubled children. As long as I can remember, I never felt
loved by my parents. My mother would argue this, but she knows
nothing about me. She never became my friend. She never
crawled inside me to learn about who I was, or what my fears were, or how
and why I was intimidated. She never helped me realize I had a
Beast of Terror within, and how to guard against its desire to debilitate
me, to make me feel so alone I slept in the bottom of the bed under the
covers to foil the Beast into thinking I wasn't in my bed.
She never asked me what I dreamed to be, or why.
The reason--she was never taught how to do that.
It wasn't her fault, it was her parents' fault, and their parents. My parents did the best they could with the
tools they had--but they had none. If they had, they would have
given them to me.
In retaliation for my lack of tools, I spent my
life trying to manufacture and give what I didn't get to my children.
They were rudimentary tools, but better than nothing. The key
one I gave them was being proud of who they were, despite what others
thought of them. Today, they are models of independence,
hopefully able to pass on what they were taught. They also are aware
of the Beast of Terror. They saw it rise up in their father late in
his life, and roar. They've seen my best and worst
sides, and understand they have two sides too.
I know a little about the Beast of Terror,
but that's not who I spend my time with these days. My time is
dedicated to the Sentinels of Vigilance. They saved my life
thirteen years ago, and may well have save my life a year ago when I was
near death's door at the World Trade Center. Had I been
another half a block closer, and I might not be here today.
I pay tribute to the Sentinels of
Vigilance daily because I believe that each of us has a mission in life
that supercedes our desires to make money, live comfortably, and watch our
children grow. We have a much more important obligation to the
future of the children's children's children.
When my wife and I decided to leave
Orange County, California, nearly three years ago to live in New York City
to be near our grandchildren, I had no idea that I would be a Grandparent
of Vigilance. Or, that I would be concerned with all the children
And I owe my life and my
purpose to the Sentinels of Vigilance who have guided me to
learn to live a sober life--to think clearly about the future.
I urge all who want
to enrich their lives to take the Pledge of Vigilance.
By learning how to battle the Beast of Terror, your life and
the children's lives will be one of ultimate sobriety--all cups
6-- America's Iron Fist Minus A Silk Glove
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