March 17, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 187
Emergency Room Vigilance
"Vigilance & The Pill Of Terrorism
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, Mar. 17--"I can't
breathe! My throat hurts. My mouth burns!"
Suddenly, a pleasant
night of friends and family turned into hours of Terror.
Our three-year-old granddaughter had found a "piece of
candy" under the living room coffee table, a small pink
pill that she assumed was "candy" and chewed and swallowed
Minutes prior the
house was filled with laughter, joy and happiness at celebrating
our daughter's birthday party. For the past two days I
had brewed my favorite marinade and soaked chunks of steak in
it for fondue. Gifts were bought. The grandchildren
and our older daughter had brought the two grandkids by for
an evening of fun and revelry.
That all changed
"Mommy, my throat
Thank God for Vigilance.
A critical phone number was posted near our phone, one of many
emergency numbers. 1-800-222-1222!
It's a number anyone should have near
their phone, right next to 911. It's the number of the
Poison Control Center.
I had been showing
pictures of the Saint Patrick's Day Parade on our large-screened
television hooked to my computer. Classical music
wafted through the air, suppressed by the strained Voices and
controlled panic of Sarah, our granddaughter's worried mother,
grandmother, and her Godmother, our birthday daughter.
The fondue was boiling,
all the food was out, and instead of diving into the feast,
Terrorism had struck swiftly, silently, in the form of a little
pill Sarah had mistaken for "candy," and was now gasping
and crying, clutched by her mother, surrounded by her godmother
and grandmother in a nest of protection and controlled panic.
Sarah's mother, was on the phone, trying to control her Voice,
speaking to the Poison Control Center hotline expert, explaining
to her what had happened.
"She is three,
almost four. About thirty-five pounds. She said
it was a pink pill. A small one. She says she can
breathe. Her mouth burns."
In the midst of the
Terror calmness descended as the Poison Control Center told
her to make a list of all the medicines in the house.
Sabra asked Sarah to describe the "candy"
she had eaten. The pill was isolated to three
possibilities. Then we rushed to the nearest hospital,
Beth Israel, on 1st Avenue, in New York City, about ten blocks
from where our apartment was located.
Sarah didn't want
to go. She was crying. "I don't want to go
to hospital. I want to stay at G-Ma's."
Sabra clutched her
closely. "We need to see a doctor," she soothed.
"We're going to Beth Israel Hospital."
Sarah cried wildly.
"I don't want to go to Israel, Mommy. I don't want
to go! I want to go back to G-Ma's."
I accompanied them.
Sabra had insisted the rest of the family remain at home.
Sarah's father, Joe, had recently been to Israel on a peace
mission with the Catholic Worker. During his visit to
help fight for peace with other Catholics showing solidarity
against the embattled country, a popular pizza restaurant where
he had been earlier was bombed by Terrorists, killing and injuring
many. On the mission he and others arranged
for an innocent Palestinian girl who had a bullet lodged in
her brain to be flown to the United States and operated on.
Sarah's mind related "Israel" to "Terrorism."
She thought she was being taken to where her daddy's life had
been put at risk.
For the next three hours
we sat in a crowded waiting room, with other parents, grandparents
and children--coughing, crying, trying to be patient as the
limited emergency room staff took the most threatened children
first. We entered the facility about 8:30
p.m. and left three hours later.
Fortunately, the toxicology
expert was on duty when we arrived, and as we went over the
list of medicines, he assured us that any of those listed did
not put Sarah in any immediate threat, but that we should wait
for three hours to assure she was all right.
She was back to her normal
self as we sat and played dolls at a small, children's table.
When she chewed the pill, it had affected her throat, but the
residual effects were non-threatening.
The Emergency Room was
a potpourri of ethnicity. The doctors were from
the Middle East, a young man and woman. The parents
of one sick child were Hassidic Jews, dressed in orthodox clothing
and the father wearing a large, pie-shaped black hat with ringlets
dangling down the sides of his face.
Another family was Hispanic, another African American, and the
guy sitting next to me with his 13-month old son who was struggling
with an ear infection, was Irish. He hailed from the Bronx.
And finally there was Sarah and Sabra, Irish-English Catholics.
We had given Sabra her name because we liked it, unaware at
the time it was a "Jewish name," choosing it because
of its beauty after discovering it written in my my wife's 'family
register' dating back to the early 1800's.
One of the nurses was an older gay man, fastidiously attending
the frustrations of the parents eager to have their children
seen by the limited, overworked staff on St. Patrick's Day Eve..
As we waited over the three
hours, I studied the waiting room ethnic complexion. Parents
of Vigilance of all races and creeds, some diametrically opposed
in their belief systems, all bonded together in an Emergency
Room Pediatric Waiting Room--the barriers (if any existed) between
them melted by the love and concern over their children.
The rifts that cleave human beings
seemed absurd when it came to the children. None of them
knew any differences between themselves and their "brothers
and sisters of innocence."
They played with the beads together,
and looked into the "funny mirror" attached to the
waiting room desk that made them appear tall and skinny.
One baby cried in pain, calming
only when its mother rocked him in the stroller.
A young African-American boy sat in a wheelchair, rolling it
back and forth. An Hispanic family paced anxiously
outside the waiting room, preferring the openness to the crowded
circle of parents and children crammed in the narrow space waiting
for their names to be called.
I knew that if Afghanistan
mothers and fathers of the Taliban were here, they wouldn't
be concerned about a jihad, but would be focused on the same
agenda as all the others--helping their children become well.
It seemed such an absurdity that adults choose beliefs so distant
from the innocence of childhood, and trained themselves to separate
their beliefs from others.
But the Terror to the child's
welfare erased the sham of convictions to which one might cling
to create "hate," or "anger," or "violence"
against another group. The Vigilance over
a child's safety neutralized the "fear," the "intimidation"
and "complacency" of Terrorism's vile formula.
Finally, we were discharged.
Sarah was in good spirits. She wanted some ice cream,
a good sign that she was back in tip-top shape.
The scare had been good. Sarah's mom went into great detail
to explain why Sarah should never pick up anything and eat it
without asking her mother or father or grandparents or whomever
was watching her.
Sarah nodded. "I will
never do it again," she said. "I will never
eat anything I find again, Mommy, unless I ask you or G-Ma."
Sabra went a step farther with
her Vigilance. "And, if someone gives you something
to eat, and you don't know them, you don't eat it. You say,
'No Thank You', O.K.?"
Sarah nodded. "O.K.
Can we have some ice cream now!"
Out bad comes good if we look
for it, I thought. Sarah's scare had taught her a lesson,
hopefully, about ingesting anything that she found--even at
G-Ma's and G-Pa's house.
It also taught us the importance
of having the number--1-800-222-1222--close
at hand so that in one phone call experts on the other end of
the line can provide direction and guidance. Had
we not called, we might not have known to make a list of all
the medicines in the house so the toxicology experts would have
a spectrum of dangers to review.
This morning I scoured the web
for data on "children poisonings" and found some revealing
information about keeping medicines and household cleaners far
out of reach of children. In our case the "Terrorist
Pill" had been vacuumed up, but the vacuum had been under
the table. The pill must have fallen out of the vacuum
onto the floor.
I also was impressed by the diversity
of the patients and parents. Vigilance, the goal
of protecting ones self and loved ones from Terrorism's harm,
had shown its power once again. Parents of all different
shapes and origins converged to one place--the hospital.
They were indeed Parents of Vigilance, even if they hadn't take
the Pledge of Vigilance. They shed their particular
beliefs for the safety of their child, and were obviously as
concerned about the welfare of other children in that waiting
I wished I could put an 800 number
up by every phone besides 911 or 1-800-222-1222. This
number would be the Emergency Vigilance Number.
When one was struck by the "Pill
of Terror," or ingested some feeling of hatred, anger,
resentment, fear, complacency toward another group of individual
or themselves, they could call it and speak to a "Vigilance
The antidote for the poisons
created by hate and fear of others would be Courage, Conviction
and Action. The Vigilance Counselor would remind
them they were all children sitting in an Emergency Room, concerned
abut the welfare not only of their own "Child Within,"
but reminding them to be cognizant of the "Universal Child
These counselors would have the
person calling make a list of all their hatreds, resentments,
angers, fears, intimidations and complacencies, and then flush
them down the toilet, or rush to an Emergency Vigilance Room
where Sentinels of Vigilance would pump the bile of human animosity
out of their bellies, removing from them the poisons of Terrorism.
To achieve this goal, I would
need to add another digit to the standard seven phone numbering
Go To Mar. 16--Osama's "Last
Stand!"--Serving Up His Head