Wednesday- April 3, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 204
Message Of Vigilance--
In A Bottle From Reno, Nevada...
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City,
April 3--Messages of Vigilance come in many forms.
Some are stuffed in bottles set upon
the oceans of time. Some of these lonely voyagers find their way to shore.
Their mission is to remind those who open them Hope exists, even if it
is trapped in a bottle floating at sea.
Centuries ago in Greek Mythology, Prometheus opened Pandora's Box.
Out of the box flew the Seven Deadly Sins--pride, anger, greed, lust,
envy, gluttony and sloth. Frightened more sins might escape,
Prometheus slammed the lid shut. What he didn't realize was
he shut it too soon, for the last item hidden in the box was Hope, which
would have neutralized and overshadowed the power of the Seven Deadly Sins.
It is easy to give up Hope. It
is easy to slam the lid of Pandora's Box shut too soon.
We can look at the world and shrug
our shoulders, tiring of hearing about all the conflicts in the Middle
East that seem as ancient as the sands of time, or, we can hurry past the
nightly news because the endless parade of crimes reported and oppressions
conducted by others upon the innocent sours our taste for the goodness of
We can also give up on our Dreams.
We can look out at the horizon of our lives and see ours Dreams dwarfed by
Reality--ground down to tiny grains of sand on a beach littered with
bleached skeletons of Dreams that have died long ago, but occasionally
wash to shore as a warning that to Dream again is a futile waste of time.
I call this the Terrorism of Dreams.
This form of Terrorism is to make us feel
we are "nobodies" in a sea of
"somebodies." Trapped in the prison of Complacency that
locks our Dreams from having any chance of growing, we look at the world from inside a
dusty bottle of self-defeat, of self-loathing for "what we haven't done,"
or what we "haven't accomplished." As we scan our lives, we
see the world around flourishing. Others appear to build upon their
dreams while ours have been trampled by time and circumstance.
We get seasick bobbing up and down. Our Sea of Dreams rises
and falls on heaving swells, tossed about by the winds and rains of
"should have dones," or "could have dones." Our lives
are ruts, carved deeper than a grave.
Many of us, including me, often awake to the day
wondering if it will be like yesterday, or the day before--"just another
day of futility in making the dream come true."
On days like that it seems the earth has
ruptured and Hope has been swallowed into its bowels. But Hope
leaves behind an hourglass. It's sand drips down, reminding us that
Time erases the Hope of Dreams, that we are too late to catch the rainbow,
that opportunity has passed and we are stranded.
We wallow in this belief until something happens to change this false,
Some event can renew the thin strands of Hope
slipping through our tired and aging fingers. Such an event can
instill in us Hope
is still alive and thriving--that it might not be dead after all--that we
might not be victims of our own demise, that the shadows of failure have
not covered all our being--yet.
That's where messages in bottles come into play.
When they drop out of the sky with ribbons and bows on them we can see Hope
inside. We can see the final gift in Pandora's Box awaits its
Below, I inserted some excerpts from Reader's Digest 1975 edition of Strange Stories,
The vignettes record how bottles with messages cast upon empty seas have
helped change lives, renewed Hope in those who may have lost theirs, and
reinforced both those who sent the bottles and those who received them.
I need to believe that there is a bottle with a
message of Hope bobbing on the seas for me.
So does any Parent of Vigilance.
If one is to shoulder the responsibility as
either a Parent of Vigilance, a Citizen of Vigilance or a Loved One of
Vigilance charged with the duty to fight off the Deadly Sins of Terrorism--Fear, Intimidation
and Complacency--then one needs to believe in Messages in Bottles.
At least I do.
Vigilance requires reinforcement. It needs
to be shoved up through the wall of Complacency that blocks it.
A parent who teaches a child to replace Fear with
Courage, Intimidation with Conviction and Complacency with Action may not
see the results of such teachings for years. His or her child
may still act in ways that suggest all the teachings have been futile.
The child may not operate on the same urgency of time as the parent or
loved one who administers the Hope and Belief. Vigilance requires
patience, perseverance. In some cases, it may be like waiting for a
bottle to drift ashore with a message in it.
We may never know how Vigilance works in those we
offer it to. It may spring to life at a time when it is most
needed, and we may never be aware of its gestation or birth. All we
can know for sure is we planted the Seeds of Vigilance, that we faced
Terrorism by offering our child or loved one Courage, Conviction and
Action. Whether that is enough to spark the fires of Hope, only the
Universe really knows.
It has taken me over five decades to see Hope.
I struggled all my life to see it, and now I can, if only a glimpse of it
on the horizon.
I understand Hope operates on a time schedule
that is different from mine. I have to be cautious to remember that.
Prometheus slammed Pandora's Box before Hope
could escape. I did too. All I could see for years
was the oppression of the Seven Deadly Sins swirling around my head and
shoulders. Outside I appeared big and bold and courageous, but
inside swarmed the locust of self worthlessness. Clouds of self-defeat
blackened my horizons, shrouded the sunlight of Hope. I was a tiny,
lonely man inside, while appearing bold and brash and fearless on the
outside. I had no Dreams left. My Hope was gone.
On September 11, 2001, as I stood near the
epicenter of Terrorism watching bodies leaping from buildings, hearing the
cries of humanity wailing in agony, watching buildings collapse in a
roar of angry hatred imposed upon the innocent by Terrorists who sought to
cover America in a death shroud, Hope burst out of Pandora's Box.
As Death stalked me that day and I huddled against
a stone building with my arms comforting a group of women crying that we
were all going to die, I refused Terrorism's invitation to be afraid.
I refused to
be intimidated, to fall to the ground in the fetal position of complacency,
writhing in anguish
that I could do nothing to fight back. I refused to resign myself to the whim of our government,
our politicians to resolve the problem of Terrorism. And, I refused
the Terroristic thought that I wasn't worthy enough to fight the battle,
that I didn't have the credibility or the status or name necessary to
stand at the forefront of a hand-to-hand combat with Terrorism's Emotional
and Physical venoms.
I found myself no longer afraid to be a "Voice in
I found myself no longer willing to suffocate my
Dreams that I could make a difference in this world.
I drew the line in the sand.
So I began to write the Vigilance Voice.
I began to publish daily my Hope that one day the world might arm itself
against Terrorism not only from without, but from within. I
created "weapons of neutralization," tools to provide protection
Terrorism's fallout--Fear, Intimidation, Complacency.
I stuffed messages in bottles--cyber
bottles--and cast them upon the sea of cyberspace in hope that someone
somewhere might read them, might uncork the Hope I was offering to anyone
willing to listen.
For two-hundred and three days I have stuffed
messages in bottles about how to fight Terrorism with Vigilance.
I have no idea whether anyone ever read any of these missive because I
never received any messages back that I personally didn't prompt, no sign from the vast shoreline of
humanity that my thoughts and beliefs were being read, or considered
As the days grew in numbers, and the Terrorism of Silence deafened my
ears, I began to wonder if anyone had
found the messages I put in the bottles--or, if they did, whether they had
any impact upon them.
Daily, weekly, monthly, my Hope I was effective dwindled. I caught myself searching for
fragments of Hope, like the circus clown, who tries to
sweep the spotlight into a tiny dot. The spot of light I stood in
shrank each day. Hope I really was making a difference evaporated,
leaving me to bob up and down in a growing Sea of Indifference.
My Fears, Intimidations and
Complacencies grew in proportion to the lack of response to my webpage.
I even stopped dieting. I stopped working
out. I could feel myself sliding back into a world where my
Hopes and Dreams evaporated yet again...and my Voice was being smothered
by winds that scattered them in a thousand pieces so they could not be
Then yesterday I got a bottle back.
It came from Reno, Nevada.
It had no name or note inside the bottle.
But inside was a picture of a man.
I knew who the man was.
I knew what he represented to me and to the person who
had sent the bottle.
I knew at least one person had read my words, and had
found value in them.
I sat and looked at the picture.
I was glad there was no writing on the paper that was
enclosed to protect the picture. Words cannot say what
This bottle from Nevada came in the form of a envelope.
It had been in my mail box, postmarked March 18. I had stopped
going to my mailbox on a daily basis because it was empty each time I
visited it. Terrorism had gripped me. I was terrorized
that the world beyond my fingertips had no interest in what I was saying.
I had attached my self-worth on the expectations of others.
of an empty mailbox, the Intimidation I was a Voice in the wind, and the
Complacency that no one cared and therefore why should I, all converged to
drive me away from checking my mail--from seeing if anyone had found my
"message in the cyberspace bottle."
As I opened the envelope and stared at the
picture this person sent, I could have just as easily been opening
Pandora's Box for a second time, to look for the Hope that was waiting to
I sat for a long time staring at the
picture, and then at the blank page of paper that protected it in a
tri-fold. I touched the paper, trying to feel the spirit of
the anonymous person who had sent me the picture. Was it a man or a
woman? Who were they? What did they think? Which
story did they like best? What didn't they like?
Were they old or young? Did they have children? Grandchildren?
What ethnicity were they? What religious beliefs did they
hold? Had they taken the Pledge of Vigilance? Did
they print it up? Did they sign it?
Then I stopped.
I was qualifying Hope.
I was putting conditions on Hope.
Hope, I realized, is pure. It has no
conditions attached, no parts of the whole. It exists a priori--in
and of itself.
I put the picture back in the sheaf protecting
it. I studied the envelope again.
I realized that the message I had received was
about Perseverance. The anonymous person who sent me the
message was telling me to "keep my shoulder to the stone."
morning, yesterday, I had written a Conversation to God--About Peanuts and
Vigilance. (link to
yesterday's story). In the Conversation, God told me
to look at the Rock of Discouragement that I was shoving upwards as a mere
wall of empty peanut shells. He told me not to feel oppressed
when I tried to push my messages up the hill. He recited his own
frustrations about trying to get His messages across. He told
me to have "Faith!"
The Bottle Message From Reno, Nevada was an
endorsement of that "Faith!". As I opened the letter from Reno
yesterday, it was as though God Himself (or Herself) had sent me a sign, a
signal that Hope existed. I felt a chill, a warm glow of awareness.
I want to thank the messenger of Hope from Reno,
Nevada. Whoever you are, your message meant something very
powerful to me. Perhaps more than you might ever know.
For that, I am eternally grateful.
And for those of you who wonder what the picture
was--it was a picture of Hope. Hope comes in many forms.
It usually exists all around us, but we find ourselves blind to it most of
the time, or at least I do.
Until, that is, someone or something opens my
eyes to its presence.
If you feel like I did, that whatever your Dreams
are, they are shredded, mere fragments of what you once hoped they would
become--don't give up! Dreams never die. They can
be resurrected by a picture, or a child's hand squeezing yours, or by a
shooting star arcing across the
Heavens, or someone's smile, or an envelope with a blank piece of paper
and a picture of Hope.
Dreams are the fuel of Vigilance; nightmares the
fuel of Terrorism. When one gives up his or her Dreams, it
leaves more room for the Nightmares to run free.
Perhaps what I have written today can become your
Bottle of Hope. If you're wallowing in Dismay and
Discouragement, lift your head above the quagmire. Resurrect your
Dreams. There is Hope--it exists in the heart of Vigilance!
Bottles In History
compiled by Kraig Josiah Rice
The following 16 paragraphs of information
in this chapter is from Reader's Digest Strange Stories,
Amazing Facts, printed by the Reader's Digest Association,
Inc., Pleasantville, New York in 1976.
* * *
Queen Elizabeth I of England in the 16th Century used bottles
to carry intelligence reports. "Elizabeth I once received
an intelligence report by this means and was so disconcerted
to find it had been opened by a boatman at Dover that she
appointed an official Uncorker of Bottles and decreed that
no unauthorized person might open a message-carrying bottle,
on pain of death."
* * *
"The strangest case was perhaps that of Chunosuke Matsuyama,
a Japanese seaman who was wrecked with 44 shipmates in 1784.
Shortly before he and his companions died of starvation
on a Pacific coral reef, Matsuyama carved a brief account
of their tragedy on a piece of wood, sealed it in a bottle,
and then threw it into the sea. It was washed up 150 years
later in 1935 at the very seaside village where Matsuyama
had been born."
* * *
"When he was postmaster general for the American colonies,
Benjamin Franklin realized that, because their whaler captains
knew the currents much better than their English counterparts,
American ships were crossing the Atlantic much quicker than
the British mail packets. He therefore compiled a chart
using both the whalers' lore and information he obtained
by dropping bottles into the Gulf Stream and asking the
finders to return them. The information he recorded is little
* * *
"In 1875 the crew of the Canadian bark Lennie mutinied
and murdered the officers. A steward who was spared because
he could navigate steered them to the French coast, telling
them it was Spain, and surreptitiously dropped several bottles
over the side revealing the whole story. The French authorities
found one, boarded the ship, and arrested the surprised
* * *
"Fragile as it is, a well-sealed bottle is one of
the world's most seaworthy objects. It will bob safely through
hurricanes that can sink great ships. And for most practical
purposes glass lasts forever. In 1954, 18 bottles were salvaged
from a ship sunk 250 years before off the English coast.
The liquor in them was unrecognizable, but the bottles were
good as new."
* * *
"It is impossible to predict the direction a bottle
will take. Of two bottles dropped together off the Brazilian
coast, one drifted east for 130 days and was found on a
beach in Africa; the other floated northwest for 190 days,
* * *
"Speed is also bound to vary according to wind and
current. A bottle might be completely becalmed or, if caught
up by the Gulf Stream at its raciest, might travel along
at four knots and cover as many as 100 miles a day."
* * *
"The longest bottle voyage ever is thought to have
been made by a bottle known as the Flying Dutchman. It was
launched by a German scientific expedition in 1929 in the
southern Indian Ocean. Inside was a message, which could
be read without breaking the bottle, asking the finder to
report where he found it and throw it back into the sea.
* * *
It apparently caught an eastgoing current, which carried
it to the southern tip of South America. There it was found,
reported, and thrown back again several times. Eventually,
it moved out into the Atlantic, then again into the Indian
Ocean, passing roughly the spot where it had been dropped,
and was cast ashore on the west coast of Australia in 1935.
It had covered 16,000 miles in 2,447 days (a little over
6 1/2 years)-a respectable average of more than six nautical
miles a day."
* * *
"In 1953 a bottle was found in Tasmania 37 years after
it had been dropped overboard by two Australian soldiers
on their way to France in a troopship. The mother of one
of the soldiers recognized the handwriting of her son who
had been killed in action in 1918." Historical note:
Australia fought for her mother country, England, against
Germany on the battlefields of France and Turkey during
World War I. Remarkably, Tasmania is a State in the country
* * *
"A message found on a beach in Maine
in 1944 read: 'Our ship is sinking. SOS didn't do any good.
Think it's the end. Maybe this message will get to the U.S.
some day.' It was identified as coming from the USS Beatty,
a destroyer torpedoed with heavy loss of life somewhere
off Gibraltar on November 6, 1943." Historical note:
the bottle from the sunken American warship floated to the
shores of that country during World War II. The destroyer
was probably sunk by a German submarine in the Atlantic
Ocean off the Southwest coast of Spain.
* * *
"...both the British and U.S. Navies
have used bottles extensively to compile intricate current
charts. And the movements of oil slicks, mines, and even
fish have been predicted with help of seaborne bottles."
* * *
"Paolina and Ake Viking were married
in Sicily in the autumn of 1958, thanks to a far-traveling
bottle. Two years earlier Ake, a bored young Swedish sailor
on a ship far out at sea, had dropped a bottle overboard
with a message asking any pretty girl who found it to write.Paolina's
father, a Sicilian fisherman, picked it up and passed it
to his daughter for a joke. Continuing the joke, Paolina
sent off a note to the young sailor. The correspondence
quickly grew warmer. Ake visited Sicily, and the marriage
soon followed their first meeting."
"In the Lodi, California News Sentinel Newspaper appeared
the following United Press International (UPI) article on
Friday, September 6, 1985, entitled, "Message in a
bottle found, in nine years." "Berlin- A message
in a bottle dropped into the Baltic Sea was found nine years
later in San Francisco, the East Berlin daily newspaper
Tribune said Thursday. The bottle, with numbered message
'4,764,'. was one of 13,000 'posted' into the sea at Oresund
between Denmark and Sweden on August 7, 1976, by the East
German Institute for Marine Studies in Warnemuende, the
* * *
In the Lodi, California News Sentinel Newspaper
appeared the following UPI article on Friday, July13,
1984, entitled, "Note in bottle answered after almost
two years." "South Portland, Maine-Nearly two
years ago a South Portland boy wrote a note and stuck
it in a bottle that was tossed into the Atlantic. He forgot
about it but this week he got an answer from the Azores-more
than 2,500 miles away.'I didn't think the bottle would
make it,' said Wayne Broderick, Jr.,13, who wrote the
note as part of a class project two years ago. 'I'm writing
a letter back.' Broderick this week received a letter
from Anna Isabel Chaves Sousa, 16, who lives on the island
of Santa Maria.
He was a sixth-grade student of teacher
Lynda Stofen at a local elementary school when he
and his two-dozen classmates launched their message
bottles with the help of a fisherman, who tossed them
into the ocean. The girl wrote back that her brother,
a fisherman, picked up the quart bottle at sea. Wayne's
letter was the second from the school to net an answer.
In November 1982, former sixth grader Frank Marston
heard from a Spanish merchant navy captain of the
Canary Islands off North Africa.
Miss Stofan said sea message projects
are good writing, ocean and geography exercises
as students speculate where the messages will
drift. And Wayne said he also made a new friend.
Anna asked him to be a pen pal."
* * *
In the Lodi, California News
Sentinel Newspaper appeared the following
UPI article on Friday, August 21, 1987, entitled,
"Writer of 31 year old note in bottle
found." Genoa, Wisconsin-Joel Gruhn was
only 8 years old in 1956 when he scrawled
a note, plugged it in a ketchup bottle and
had his father toss it into the Mississippi
River. This week Gruhn discovered a Genoa
man found the bottle and the note last October
and had been looking for him ever since. Duane
Froh, 40, pulled the bottle from the Mississippi
October 31, 175 miles south of Minneapolis,
where it had been tossed in. He showed it
to his wife, Diane, and they tried to find
its sender. 'My age is 8 years old and one-half.
I weigh 65 pounds. I am 4 feet and 5 inches
high. The writer of this note is Joe ... .
.' the note said, becoming undecipherable
at the end. It was dated April 2, 1956, and
had a Mound, Minnesota address."
* * *
In the Santa Rosa, California,
Press Democrat Newspaper appeared the
following Associated Press (AP) article
in June of 1984, entitled, "Child's
bottled message reaches England."
"Providence, Rhode Island-Stuffing
a message in a bottle and tossing it into
the ocean with the hope of someone ever
finding it is the stuff of children's
stories-a dream that seldom comes true.
But James Westerman is a believer. Westerman
thought his handicapped students would
find it fun to put messages in bottles
found on the beach and toss them into
Narragansett Bay. Last week, more than
three years after Westerman's students
last played the message-in-the-bottle
game, a letter arrived for Bernice Graser,
the principal of Westerman's Pleasant
View School. It was from 10 year old Jayne
Ayre of Barnstaple, England, who wrote
that she found the bottle January 29,
while taking a Sunday stroll on a beach
in southwest England with her father.
The note inside fell apart when they pulled
it out, but the managed to paste it together,
she said. The sender's name, Nomp Travis,
was clearly legible, as was the return
address: Pleasant View School, Province,
I found your name on
it and was thrilled to see it had
come all the way from America,' the
girl wrote to Nomp. She also enclosed
a clipping from the North Devon Advertiser
about her find."
* * *
In the Santa Rosa,
California, Press Democrat Newspaper
appeared the following AP article
on April 27, 1985, entitled, "Refugees
Find Freedom, Note in a bottle
changes lives." "Los
Angeles-A Vietnamese refugee family
arrived in the United States on
Friday to a tearful welcome from
an American couple whose bottled
message floated 9,000 miles to
the shores of Thailand and answered
their prayers for freedom.
the United States of America,'
Dorothy Peckham told the family
as reporters and photographers
swamped the refugees at Los
Angeles International Airport
after an 18-hour flight from
Singapore. Hoa Van Nguyen,
31, a former South Vietnamese
soldier, told reporters through
an interpreter that he's 'the
most lucky man in the world.'
He said he doesn't know why
what he called 'a sixth sense'
prompted him to pick up the
bottle carrying the message
from John Henry Peckham and
his wife. Nguyen, 31, flew
in Friday afternoon with his
wife, Joang Kim, 27, who clung
to his arm and said nothing,
their 16 month old son and
Nguyen's 17 year old brother,
took the sleeping baby,
Hoang Gia Thay Nguyen,
and grinned widely despite
tears that streamed down
his face. Nguyen then
gave the Peckhams a present,
a picture he had crafted
while in a refugee camp
family was whisked
out of the airport
by officials from
the Catholic Welfare
Bureau, who settled
the refugees in an
Echo Park apartment
rented for them by
* * *
To April 2--Conversation With God--Peanuts & Vigilance
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