February 28, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 170
Restarting Your Day From Ground Zero
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, Feb. 28--It has been 170
days from Ground Zero Plus One.
mark is nearing. It will arrive in nine days.
I measure Ground
Zero Day as a Zero. It was a day when the clock
stopped. September 11th is a "O" on my calendar.
Each day I've
written a story, or a reflection, or an opinion about Terrorism
and Vigilance. I began with Day "O" and have
filled the pages of the Vigilance Voice with an attempt to fight
Terrorism with certain tools that counter both the Physical
and Emotional threats Terrorism imposes upon our society and
I have no idea
if anyone really cares, but I do, my wife does, and that's what
Like all people,
I live with my own Terrorisms. Life is riddled with
them. They take little shapes and forms in the beginning,
and, unless nipped in the bud, they can grow into giant Beasts
that haunt us throughout our lives, climbing on our backs and
making our journey through life dark and onerous.
things happen in our lives we can choose to wallow in them or
learn from them. Terrorism is about wallowing in them.
Vigilance is about climbing out of the belly of the Beast of
Terror and living life in the sunlight, not the shadows.
Over the past
few days I've caught myself wallowing in self-pity, a sense
of gloom surrounding me, a feeling of nothingness enveloping
my psyche. I had nothing specific to tag the feeling
to the wall. It was one of those sensations you
can't put your hands around, and trying to capture it was like
trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.
being haunted, stalked by Terrorism.
us all are demons, guilt, sins, remorse of what we wished we
had been, or should have done, or wished we had accomplished,
or think we never will. Some call it unhappiness,
others the Devil, some simply name it depression or bad Karma.
nomenclature, it has claws. It has jaws. And
its breath is fetid.
When I can't
identify the source of such a feeling, I know it's Terrorism--some
fragment of Fear, or some element of Intimidation, and a great
portion of Complacency. It makes you walk with your
head hung down, with your mind numbed, with thoughts swirling
about as though all the gravity in your brain has been short-circuited.
It's a "bad feeling."
To battle it, I try
and find the source. What is it that is imposing
its weight on my day such as to make me want to ball up in the
fetal position and just lie there helpless? I have
to fight it, whatever its reason, or it will consume me and
the day's beauty, the day's joy.
Nine Eleven taught
me something I had forgotten--that we only have today.
To waste a day is perhaps to waste the rest of your life, for
life comes and life goes.
Vigilance is about
learning to live in the NOW! It's about finding ways to
wash away the Terror of a moment, or the suffocating fear of
a thought that cripples you, and shove it out into the light
where the Truth of its existence can banish it, as though it
were a vampire who abhors the sunlight. Terrorism
sucks the blood of life from all its victims.
A child worrying
about being accepted by his or her peers can walk in the shadows
of life all his or her life, cowering to the opinion of others,
feeling less than because of what a mirror in the eyes of others
reflect upon him or her. Adults can feel that
past problems have so victimized them they have no choice in
life than to suffer the consequences of the past, chew on it,
gag on it until it chokes out all that is beautiful, joyful
I find Terrorism extremely
insidious. It creeps up on me and then grabs me violently,
wrestling me down. Sometimes I feel its fangs in
my neck, sucking at my Courage, my Conviction, my ability to
take Action. It always hopes to render me
powerless, to make me sad within, to make me want to give up
trying to improve, to suffocate my will and hope in the future.
Over the past nearly six
months, I have been fighting to understand Terrorism's attacks.
I haven't mastered the art of early recognition yet, but I am
fully aware of the shadows and can hear the footsteps when it
That's when I go back to
the Zero in Ground Zero. Someone once told me that
I could restart my day any time I chose during the day.
He was a jolly old Irishman, a man named John Flood, who had
been Terrorized as a child in Ireland.
His mother, an Irishwoman, had married an American.
They went to live in the United States where they had children,
including John. The marriage failed and she got divorced.
Upon her return to Ireland she became an outcast because of
the divorce. Her children suffered.
The schools looked down on John as being the son of divorced
woman, and when it came time for his educators to choose to
advance him or to end his education because he wasn't "trainable,"
they chose to exclude him from further education. He was
in the sixth grade.
John refused to be Terrorized.
He tended sheep to earn money for his family, and made an alliance
with the school librarian. Each day he would check
out a book and take it home, and began to read and educate himself
in the fundamentals of science, art, mathematics, literature.
"I always saw myself as
a great teacher," he told me, "and I would minister
to the sheep, lecture them on things I had read as though I
knew everything. Those were the smartest sheep in
all of Ireland."
Despite the political and
religious prejudices John and his family suffered, he had the
courage, conviction and took the actions to overcome his fears,
complacencies. By the age of sixteen he had artfully
schooled himself . Then World War II broke
out. John, an American citizen by birth, lied about his
age and joined the Army. He became a paratrooper
and landed in Normandy and was awarded a Bronze Star.
After the war he enrolled
in college, and told the admissions department his high school
records were destroyed in a bombing. He passed the entrance
tests with flying colors and went on to become one of the finest
professors in the land, the dean of a great college and was
instrumental in the formation of the Community College system
His life had been filled with
struggles. And, he had fought his own Terrorisms
of many forms.
John became my mentor in life.
He constantly told me: "Cliff, you haven't had your
best or worst day yet. Be prepared for both, over and
He taught me ways to counter
my own Terrorisms. The best tool he offered was
the ability to restart my day, to scratch out what had happened
and wipe the slate clean, and then to move on, afresh, a new.
He would add: "Don't forget, you never had a bad
day, just bad moments. Never let a bad moment or set of
moments kill a day. There's too much too live for."
That's the Zero in Ground
Zero. When I have a bad moment, I try to think--"Ground
Zero!" I try to remember I can restart my day
at Zero. By doing this, I can put the horror or
pain or anguish or fear, or intimidation or worry to bed and
move ahead with a clear mind and sharp focus.
It's as though I have the ability to arrest the Terrorists in
my mind, slam them in jail, lock it, and go about my business
of living without worrying about them escaping.
It also means when
I'm attacked again by other Terroristic Thoughts, I can put
them in jail too, to await trial.
Ground Zero Plus
170. I like that. It reminds me
we all have a chance today to be Vigilant, even if we weren't
yesterday. It also means I can put my demons in
jail, and live today happily, with purpose rather than regret
September 11th taught
me to remember Vigilance.
When I do, I think
of my friend, John Flood, who passed away, talking to the sheep,
teaching them. I sometimes pretend I'm a sheep,
hearing him say: "Restart your day, sheep.
Live! Live! Live!"
Go To Feb 27 "Crawling in the
Guts of Vigilance Via the Guts of Terror"