|There are times when
the Beast of Terror isn't welcome. Those are the times when the
Parents of Vigilance form a tight-knit Circle of Vigilance and defy
the Beast's entrance into their children's hearts and souls.
Last night was one of those evenings when the Beast of Terror was
banished by the Shields of Vigilance. They stood tall and strong
as Courage, Conviction and Right Actions held off Fear, Intimidation
14, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 458
No Room At The Inn For
The Beast Of Terror
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City,
Dec. 14 -- Ever try and play hooky from God?
I did. And one of His nun's caught me.
Caught me cold. Caught me red handed. And, I
I'm not a religious man by dogmatic terms.
I wasn't raised in a particular church or felt that religion was a
meaningful part of my upbringing. Quite the contrary, I
resented it because my parents lived in a world of Terrorizing each
other with words and fights that drove whatever "loving God" concept
out of me at an early age. The fact my real father
abandoned me and I didn't like my step father who adopted me didn't
help. Or, that my grandmother was what I considered a "Bible
thumping sin castigator" seemed to drive me further from the spiritual
I was never baptized as a child and felt no
allegiance to any church or belief system, and, by all definitions was
a secular humanist, one who believed the individual not some "higher
power" ruled destiny.
Representing the Hope of the World
En route to Vietnam I came face to
face with some body bags--frozen green lumps of former human beings
turned into blocks of ice zipped up
neatly in a pale green bag. At the time my dog tags--those
things you wear around you neck with your name and blood type on them,
and, your religious preference--stated I was a "No Preference,"
meaning I didn't belong to any religious belief..
When I found out that guys with No
Preference on their dog tags got the last body bags if there was a
glut of deaths, and, if they ran out, the Catholics and Protestants
got them first, I rushed to the Church, took a speed course in how to
become a Catholic, and, became what I call a Body Bag Catholic--that
is, if a bullet ended my secular humanism, I wanted to be first in
So, by all twists and turns of Destiny, my
relationship with nuns is basically non-existent. About
the only nun I've ever had any contact with is Sister Lucy, my
granddaughter's "principal," the head of a pre-school she attends.
Sister Lucy is always raising money for her
struggling school. It is a loving school, with children of
all different cultures and backgrounds, some Catholic some not.
The teachers at the school range in diversity about equal to that of
the United Nations. In fact, when you take your child or
grandchild to the school, it's as though you were placing him or her
in a U.N. day care center.
ever-hustling positive Sister Lucy
Sister Lucy is always hustling.
It's positive hustling. She's looking for ways to raise a
nickel here or a dime there to either put on a new roof or add new
padding to the poles in the playground so the kids will not bop their
head. Of course there's the rent
and payment of the teachers, and all the other little costs that
attack any CEO in running any business, whether it be profit or
When Sister Lucy found out I liked
photography, she enlisted me to come and take pictures of the kids in
classes for the newsletters the school puts out. I
couldn't say no. Sister Lucy as a woman, a business woman, regardless
of her Catholic Nun habit, is not one you say no to. When
the kids are selling candy to raise funds for the school, Sister Lucy
stands out on the sidewalk and approaches passersby. She's not a
teller she's a doer.
Turning her down would be like
turning down Jimmy Carter who came up and asked you to help him build
a house for the homeless. I just couldn't fathom saying
no, regardless of any beliefs I might hold that might try to oppose
such an act. They would all melt under the request.
Oddly, I was trying to duck out
from going to my granddaughters preschool Christmas play last night.
Sister Lucy had sent out a flyer telling the parents the school was
going to have a photographer shooting pictures, and discouraged
parents bringing their cameras.
In fact, the flyer said, "No
friends of the children
The play is held in a small
room. It is crowded and hot. There is barely room for all
to be seated. My bulk--6-4 and 270 pounds--seems to take up the
volume of at least two and perhaps three others. Plus, if I
couldn't shoot pictures as I usually did, I would be frustrated,
gnawing nails in the back corner all through the play.
I planned, however, to stop by just
before the play and shoot pictures of my granddaughter and her friends
before the event, and then disappear to Starbucks and write. Following
the play I would hook up with the family again. It seemed
an agreeable plan to all since it wasn't a rejection of my love for my
granddaughter, and since everyone knew I would probably be grumpy
because there was a "no camera" rule and I resent rules
Earlier in the
week I exercised my citizen's rights as a reporter
A few weeks earlier I had a street
confrontation with New York's finest. I was taking pictures of
the police arresting a man for stealing. They had him in handcuffs and
a throng of cops surrounded him on a busy street. I was all the
the street shooting pictures when a NYPD officer told me I couldn't
take pictures. Of course, that started it.
I told him I could, that I was a journalist
and I wasn't interfering with the arrest. I reminded him about
Free Speech and the citizen's rights to report police events in
public. Well, he didn't like that. We ended u face
to face and he threatened to arrest me. I urged him to. I
told him I wanted to go before a judge, and that as long as I wasn't
interfering with the "color of blue" he had no right to censor my
right to report. It got heated. I threw out my hands
and said "arrest me."
performers doing their best
Finally, a woman cop in charge
broke it up and told the cop-in-my-face to cool it. So,
when someone tells me "you can't take pictures" my first response is:
"Oh, yeah! Arrest me!"
My family knew I harbored those feelings
regarding Sister Lucy's "no picture mandate."
So, yesterday morning as I was sitting in
Starbucks editing my stories and researching new ones, I got a call
from my son-in-law. It seemed one of the teachers who was
going to take digital pictures wasn't able to, and Sister Lucy had
called him to request me to take them for the school.
I burst out laughing as he told me that Sister
Lucy was waiting for him to call her back and let her know if I
could do her "that special favor."
I thought about the irony of it all. Here I
was, sulking like a little kid from whom the nun took his sucker, and
in the midst of my sulk the nun comes back not with the one she took,
but with a hundred other suckers she took from all the other kids and
gave them all to me. I was to represent all the parents
who didn't bring their cameras. I was appointed by Sister Lucy
to be the "Infinite Eye."
told my son-in-law: "How can I say no?"
He replied: "You can't."
I replied to his reply: "Okay, tell her
I'll be there."
I mean, there is no way you can say "no" to
Sister Lucy. In her hallway of the school is pictures of her
with the Pope. Shaking his hand. Also, she
cajoled former Vice President Dan Quayle to visit her school.
I'm sure she's so dogged that if the CIA asked her to find Osama bin
Laden she could muster enough Spirits of Vigilance to find him
somewhere, only she wouldn't let anyone hurt him. She would
probably make him sell candy to raise funds for the school for
eternity, and to sit quietly in the back of the class until all his
penance had been paid, which would take Eternity Plus. She might
even wear out a gross or two of rulers on his knuckles in the penance
I knew most of the kids and all the teachers.
When I arrived I looked out on the sea of faces
of parents staring at me with my camera. They didn't have theirs
but I had mine. I felt their cold eyes glaring. Hmmmmm, I
thought, this isn't good.
I held a quick conference with Sister Lucy
and double checked her permission.
granted to photograph the children
"Sister," I said, "Since everyone else
doesn't have a camera and I do, they may wonder why I got to take
pictures and they didn't. So is it OK if I put a sign on the
front of my shirt and back of it that reads--School Photographer--in
case there's a riot over my taking pictures?"
Sister Lucy nodded seriously,
ignoring my jest. "Yes, good idea. Good idea."
I hastily scrawled a sign in
primitive letters: "School Photographer" and clipped one
to the front of my FDNY T-shirt and my wife pinned another on my back.
Now, I was a combat photographer. My flack jacket was my sign.
I would be accepted on the front lines without fear of being sniped.
Ah, I went about my tasks of capturing the magic of the children.
I have taken many photos of my life
of both the living and the dead, of both the horrors and beauty of
life and of monumental as well as tragic events.
But last night, Friday the 13th, 2002, was
In the past, I had taken shot in the back,
over the heads of people in the crowded room. They were OK
shots, but not spectacular. Any photographer knows a great
picture can only be had by shoving your camera right in the face of
the subject. It seems the farther the lens is from the
subject, the less emotion in the result.
I was lying on floor, inches from the
kids, shooting up at all angles. I could shove my camera right
in their faces, take oblique shots, stand next to them as they sang
and recited their Christmas songs and stories and see the glow in
their eyes and hear the magic in the muffle of their Voices as they
struggled to remember the words.
children recited and sang
I shot 325 pictures, as fast
as my camera batteries could recycle. I shot angles with
the statue of Mary and Baby Jesus in the foreground. I shot with
and without the flash. I shot with expanded exposes.
Sweat poured off my forehead as I ducked and weaved, trying not to
block or interfere with the parents' view of their precious progeny.
The kids were all different colors, a palette of
humanity's diversity, black, white, brown, yellow and all various
mixes and hues. They were washed and scrubbed and polished
and preened. Some were happy and boisterous, others
reserved, some shy and only little one cried. The teachers
coached and orchestrated their songs and sayings, and I felt as though
I had been placed in the Womb of Vigilance, amidst all the children's
children's children of whom I write daily.
In the Womb of
For those two hours of shooting every kid I
could to ensure every face was represented from all the classes, and
all the teachers and parents were equally captured on my digital
disc--for those two hours I was in the Sentinel of Vigilance's Heaven.
It was as though the children were not
representing a certain religion or culture, but instead the Hope of
them all-- Christian non-Christian, Western, Eastern, Northern,
Southern--it didn't matter what corner of the face of the earth--the
kids were there from them all. They were the hearts and soul of
Vigilance--they were the future of the world.
When I was finished and came home, I
downloaded the pictures and stared at them in awe. They were
magical pictures, all of them. Some were just a bit more
magical than others because of composition or lighting or the angle or
looks in the kids' eyes, but they all had pixie dust sprinkled on
them. They were all about the Pledge of Vigilance, and the parents in
the room, and grandparents and loved ones were the Parents,
Grandparents and Loved Ones of Vigilance.
I felt light headed.
Sometimes, in the quest to be a Terror
Hunter, I forget I really am a Vigilance Hunter. I hunt
for moments when, like last night, the beauty of the children's
children's children blossoms so bright that one is star struck.
There was such awe in the pictures I took
last night. The faces of the children were the faces of
the children in Iraq, Iran, Africa, Asia, North and South America, the
Antarctic, Palestine, Jerusalem, Moscow, Chechen, Bangladesh, Nairobi.
They were the Children of Vigilance,
the Grandchildren of Vigilance, the Great Great Great Grandchildren of
There was no
room for The Beast of Terror
In the room last night were all those
who died at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, and in all the wars and
battles from the beginning of time. The room was filled
with Spirits of Vigilance, flowing as though on the wings of the
little angels that hang on branches of trees in thousands of homes.
But there was one clear absence in
One attendee refused to walk through
That was the Beast of Terror.
There was no room at the inn for him
The 13th And The Clouds Of Terrorism
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