Article Overview:   When do you decide to cut off the arm and hand that feed you?   Perhaps when the Terror of Death breathes down your neck.  That was the recent choice one man made.  Here is his story of Vigilance over death's Terrorism.


Thursday--May 8, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 603
 Cutting Off The Arm Of Terrorism--An Act Of Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZER0, NEW YORK, NY--Twenty-seven-year-old Aron Ralston made a tough choice on May 2--he cut off his arm not to spite but to save himself.  Ralston, an expert rock climber from Colorado was challenging nature in Moab, Utah's Canyonlands National Park (Bluejohn Canyon) when an 800-pound bolder smashed down and pinned him in a ravine.

Aron Ralston in the Colorado Rockies in March

     The rock's weight pinned his right arm under its weight, imprisoning him for five days    When he ran out of water after the third day, he made a tough but vital decision.  If he remained pinned to the rock he would die.   So he took out his pocketknife and began to saw at his forearm, severing it.
      Free from the boulder's Terrorizing grasp, he applied a tourniquet, fixed anchors and rappelled down 70 feet to the bottom of Blue John Canyon.  Then  the rugged individualist hiked five miles before he met some other hikers.  The group was spotted by Sergeant Mitch Vetere of the Emery County Sheriff's Department and later hospitalized in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Ralston's parents attributed his survival to their son's "strong physical and mental condition."

      Thirteen rescuers rushed back to the scene to recover his severed forearm in hopes of attaching it.  They used a hoist and jacks to lift the rock, but the arm was so badly damaged it could not be used to reapply it to the climber's upper arm.    Ralston cut off his forearm just below the elbow.
      The adventurer wasn't a novice in challenging nature.   He had scaled many of the Colorado mountain peaks jutting up some 14,000 feet, and recently escaped an avalanche on the slopes of Tennessee Pass, according to the Denver Post.
      Canyonlands Park officials said Ralston made one major error.  He didn't tell anyone where he was going to hike, a rule that most hikers who solo into nature should do to alert emergency rescues if they don't surface in a reasonable time.
      The loss of Ralston's arm increases the challenges to his goal as a climber.   His mission in life has been to climb all of Colorado's 55 mountains that soar more than 14,000 feet solo during the winter.   If he achieves that goal, he would be the first to do it.   He was also preparing to climb Alaska's Mount McKinley, the highest of all U.S. mountains.
      Ralston worked as an engineer at Intel in the '90s until he saw the IMAX movie Everest.  Ralston quit his job when he was denied a three week vacation to go climbing in Alaska.  Since then, he has made a life of exploring the outdoors.  He cheated death another time.  In February Ralston was buried to his neck in an avalanche while skiing near Vail, Colorado.
       In today's world of Terrorism, acts of great Vigilance leap out to remind us all of the Courage, Conviction and Right Actions that overpower Terrorism's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
       Pinned under the weight of an 800-pound boulder, Ralston faced more than his share of the Triad of Terrorism.   Fear of not being found, Intimidation by the weight of the rock pinning him, and the Complacency of being helpless, at the mercy of nature, all conspired to force Ralston into Vigilant action.
       He said he considered four choices to escape.   He could wait for someone to rescue him.   He could try and chip at the rock with his knife, hopeful he might release his arm. Third, he could rig some pulley system with the ropes to dislodge the rock.  Or, he could cut off his arm.    He said he never considered the final choice--succumbing to death.
      When the water ran out, he chose the final solution.   He broke his arm at the elbow and sawed through the muscles and ligament with the pocketknife.
       He became a Sentinel of Vigilance that day, one who earned his stripes the hard way.  The Beast of Terror lost the battle.   Courage ruled. 

Ralston's self photo taken in June

       Now that he has one arm, he falls into another category, one that has a legacy of one-armed adventure heroes not unlike Ralston.
       A hundred years ago John Wesley Powell launched a major adventure with only one arm.  On May 24, 1869, he set off from Green River, Wyoming to explore the treacherous Grand Canyon by boat.   In the Civil War at the Battle of Shiloh, Powell  lost his right arm.

John Wesley Powell lost his right arm in a Civil War battle

       Braving dangerous rapids, Powell used his Courage, Conviction and Right Actions to overcome the Colorado River's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.    A number of the nine men he took with him to crew the adventure left the expedition, fearful for their lives.  Powell forged ahead.  At a place called "Separation Canyon" three of his nine-man crew left, saying:  "We will surely all die if we continue this journey."  Earlier a boat had been lost in the rapids, and another crew member had abandoned the journey.
       On Aug 29, three months and five days from starting, Powell and his remaining crew reached the Virgin River. Back home, most had given up on the crew, assuming them dead since no one had heard from them.
        Lake Powell was named after him, a tribute to his heroism in the face of danger.

        But Powell's adventures were not limited to exploring the Colorado River.  He, like Ralston, loved to climb mountains.
        Prior to his Colorado River trek, he was the first to climb Long's Peak, the highest summit of the Gore Range, on September 26, 1868.  

Powell in Colorado

      His companion on that ascent, college student Ned Farrell, wrote that Powell "would not give up, and we cautiously moved on, passing many places where a single misstep ... would be certain death."
        Powell and Farrell left a tin can with a note inside recording the date and their names. Five years later, explorer Ferdinand V. Hayden and five of his survey became the second recorded party to reach the summit of Longs, where they found Powell's tin can, which contained a dedication to its finder.
       Hayden named the peak after his predecessor to the summit of Mount Powell, 13,560 feet in elevation.
       Aron Ralston isn't the first outdoorsman to cut off a limb in order to save himself.  In 1993 Bill Jeracki resorted to cutting off one of his legs with his pocketknife after becoming trapped under a boulder during a fishing trip near St. Mary's Glacier.  Jeracki said,  "I cut through the knee joint like you separate your chicken.  It's all soft tissue.  It took maybe 15 or 30 mnutes."  Jeracki waited only three house before cutting off his leg and is stunned Ralston endured days of pain.
       In a world where bad things happen to good people, there is a question that arises:  "How does one overcome adversity?"
       Certainly, many succumb to it.   They fall victim to the Beast of Terror's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.   Ralston could have.  He chose, however, to eliminate the final alternative--death.   Inside his chemistry, the power of his Faith in Vigilance grew stronger, by at least One Percent, than the crushing weight of the boulder's Terror.
        We all face times in our lives when we are "pinned by the Rock of Terror."   Often, the weight of our problems or defeats immobilize us and it seems like there is no way to escape their Terror.   It could be the loss of a job, the loss of loved ones, a financial or health crisis, or a gloomy sense of depression that we are victims of life, that everyone else is victorious over it but us.  
        Even though there may be no physical obstruction, such as an 800-pound boulder pinning us, we feel the emotional weight of our problems with such ferocity that it might as well be a giant rock pinning us down.

The Boulder of Terrorism can kill us unless we cut ourselves free

        This Boulder of Terrorism can kill us.  It can kill our Courage, our Conviction and keep us from taking the Right Actions to free ourselves from its grasp.  
        We know the presence of the Boulder of Terrorism when we look in the mirror and see a Loser, or a Failure, or someone not rich enough, smart enough, good enough, worthy enough to keep "hiking through life."   We lay like Aron Ralston, with this great weight upon us, looking at the options to escape, and, unfortunately, we often surrender to the final one--death.   We can die in many ways, and the most gruesome of all deaths is Complacency, where we rot in our own defeat, where we literally give up on the idea we can escape the Beast of Terror's grasp.
          But we can cut ourselves free.   Not literally, but figuratively.   If we think of the Sword of Vigilance as the pocketknife that Aron Ralston used to free himself from the Boulder of Terrorism, we can use the Sword in a variety of ways.
          We can slip the tip of the Sword of Vigilance under the rock and leverage our weight down in hopes of moving the rock just enough to free our pinned soul.    Sometimes the tool to escape a problem is only a pinhole of Hope in an otherwise dark cavern of hopelessness.    By trying to force the rock free, we might slip away from its grasp.
         Then, like Ralston, we can use the Sword of Vigilance to chip at the rock.   We can hack at the granite surface, cutting small chunks of the problem away.    We can try and cut out the Fear and replace it with Courage, and hack at the Intimidation with Conviction, and saw at the broken stone with Right Actions rather than lie helpless in the shadow of Complacency.
         Ralston's third approach was jacks and pulleys.   We can seek help from others to move the rock.  We don't need to try to do it all ourselves.  We can ask for assistance and expertise from others.   If we are living in Fear, we can go to someone and ask them for help in restoring our Courage to battle the Fear.   There are countless ways to do this, ranging from the local minister, priest or rabbi, to professional psychological help.  There are thousands of books written on self-help, advice on how to overcome problems.
          But, we need to take a lesson from Aron Ralston.   We don't have to die.  We don't have to "give up" on the belief we are Sentinels of Vigilance, people who believe our lives and living them benefit the future generations, the Children's Children's Children

Aron Ralston had the courage to cut off his arm and remind us that no handicap is worth one's life

        Aron Ralston was driven to cut off his arm to save not just his life, but to continue to remind people that no handicap is worth one's life.    An arm is meaningless, for example, to a child who loves you.    One can express love and concern for other human beings with or without arms.
          Then there is the most important part of Ralston's story--Courage.
          Daily, we all need Courage to face the travails of life.  We need to drink from Courage's Cup, to refresh our minds that Vigilance always overpowers Terrorism when we set our minds to that belief.  But, if we don't, then Terrorism can creep in and sour the sweetness of our lives.   It can turn the wine of life into vinegar.
         That's why we all need to subscribe to the Pledge and Vow of Vigilance.
         It is a not-so-subtle reminder that we can escape any boulder in life that threatens to pin us in Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
         It is also our way of keeping our Sword of Vigilance sharpened.   It provides us a keen edge to cut away the Beast of Terror's grasp on us. 
         But instead of cutting off our arms, we cut away Fear, we hack off Intimidation, and we sever from us the leeches of Complacency, sucking the blood of Courage, Conviction and Right Actions.
         In our minds, when the Beast of Terror grabs us in his clutches, driving out our breath, making us feel small, helpless, hopeless, we can call upon the Sentinels of Vigilance.
        Some of them may not have arms or legs, but they all have the Spirit of Vigilance that overrides any physical defect.   Their boundless Courage, Conviction and Right Actions become our models, our mentors, reminding us we can overcome the Boulders of Terrorism.

Have Faith in the Principles of Vigilance

        Aron Ralston, John Powell and Bill Jeracki are three small examples in a world of 6.2 billion people reminding us that there isn't a problem on earth we can't overcome if we have faith in the Principles of Vigilance.
       If we can muster One Percent more Courage than Fear, One Percent more Conviction than Intimidation, and One Percent more Right Actions for future generations than fall victim to Complacency, we have the option to free ourselves of Terrorism's threat, just as Ralston did.
      You can start freeing yourself today.
      Take the Pledge of Vigilance.
      Escape the Boulder of Terrorism.


May 7--Terrorism's Turkey Hunters--Best Shot at Osama, Saddam

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