Freedom from Terrorism's Gallows
 Anniversary 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

Cliff McKenzie
   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 terrifying experience.

        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 hunter's snare.
       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 hired 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 secretary.
      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 dollar  '41 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.  So I 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.

My 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 change.
      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 cervical cancer, 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 at life."

       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 children.
        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 Terrorism.
       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 existed.
       Today, such doubts have vanished from my mind.
       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 shines.
       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 children's children.
       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 them.  
      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.

Grandparents of Vigilance

       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 grandchildren.
        I am.

       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 runneth over.  



Nov. 6-- America's Iron Fist Minus A Silk Glove

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