Sunday-- June 2, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 263
Terrorism's Ancient Time Bomb
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City,
June 2--I ran smack into the face of Terrorism yesterday.
And, it was just when I thought the water's were safe.
The confrontation occurred at the site
of New York's 1939 World's Fair, in Flushing Meadows Park in
It was a hot summer's day. Our younger
daughter, a federal law enforcement officer who patrols the streets of New
York City in search of those trying to Terrorize the innocent through
crime, invited us to ride with her to Queens and watch her run in a race.
She has a Jeep and it's always fun to get up early on a Saturday morning
and enjoy her company and slices of her "normal" life when she's not
consumed by hunting criminals, or has all her cell phones and beepers
strapped to her belt waiting for a call that will cause her to rush off
into the jaws of the unknown.
I hadn't planned on facing
Terrorism that morning. After the final ceremonies
at Ground Zero, I decided I'd write something lighter than I
usually do, providing myself and my readers a respite from the
claws of Terrorism. My fiction teachers are constantly
reminding me that it's good to put a sex scene in every now
and then just to give the reader a breather when you're writing
heavy drama. Chase scenes in movies are designed
to give similar relief.
My daughter is a member of New York's
Emerald Society, a group of police and law enforcement officers who
promote Irish-American culture in law enforcement. My grandfather
was Irish through and through, qualifying our daughter for membership.
She was running in a race to raise funds
for the widows of Nine Eleven. The race was billed: "Piper's
Pursuit," and promoted by the NYPD's Emerald Society Pipes and Drums
Corps, a world-famous group who march and play at various parades and
The race was held at Flushing Meadows, site
of the 1939 New York World's Fair. The group was small,
perhaps a hundred people, dominated by police and law enforcement runners.
Few were professional runners; most were providing support rather than
showing off their athletic skills.
I took my camera and looked forward
to taking pictures of my daughter and her friend, Dee, who usually run
together in events around the New York area.
The remnants of the World's Fair, billed as
the America's last "great" fair, looked disheveled. It was
held as the United States emerged from the Depression. The motto of
the fair was "Building the World of Tomorrow." Its themes
represented unlimited progress through technology, and centered on an
idealized American family. Walt Disney attended the fair and got
many of his ideas for Disneyland from it.
Highlights of the icons built to represent
modernization of America was a 700-foot spire called the Trylon and a
Perisphere as large as city block. Inside the Perisphere was a
diorama of the city of the future called "Democracity." The "city"
was a perfect model of a perfect world with a thriving central core and
pleasant suburbs for nuclear families.
General Motors offered a 36,000 square foot
display called "Futurama" in which visitors viewed the exhibit from moving
chairs with individual loudspeakers, and idea Disney applied to his famous
amusement park. It was a scale model of America in 1960, complete
with futuristic homes, urban complexes, bridges, dams, surrounding
landscape, and an advanced highways system which permitted speeds up to
100 miles an hour. There was just one flaw its famous designer
Norman Bel Geddes forgot that critics noted--across his vision of America
with all its intricate "realistic" details, there was not one single
Few artifacts of the glorious structures
remain. What does has little esthetic appeal today because it
isn't maintained. The structures look like bones that have been
de-fleshed, bleaching in the hot sun of time's advance.
But I wasn't there to photograph or delve into
the history of the fair. I was there to enjoy the day with our
daughter. I shot a number of pictures of the people and her
and her friend, Dee running. Then, as in all races, you wait for
them to cross the finish line.
Scouring the area for pictures, my wife signaled
for my attention. "Look at this, Cliff!"
On a small two-foot-by-two foot bronze plaque
seated amidst overgrowing grass near the empty Queens Museum of Art
building, pocked by time, was an inscription that reminded me Terrorism
It gave tribute and memoriam to two NYPD
detectives killed on July 4, 1940, trying to dismantle a time bomb Terrorists of
those days had placed in the British pavilion of the New York World's Fair. We read the
tribute slowly and I took a number of pictures of it from different
angles to capture Terrorism's timeless memory.
The plaque was a reminder that Osama bin Laden,
and others like him, represent not just a modern threat, but an eternal
one. In this case, the Terrorists were never identified.
However, many fingers pointed to the Nazis who were banned from attending
the World's Fair after they invaded Poland.
come and go much as the tides ebb and flood. Their goal
in the past and present is to strike Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency into the hearts of all. Their
acts of indiscriminate violence manifest the ultimate ugliness
in human nature--that ability to kill with total disregard.(1940
time capsule on right)
I said a silent prayer to the fallen heroes who had lost
their lives dismantling the bomb, and to their families. They were as much Sentinels of
Vigilance as the modern heroes of Nine Eleven. I thought it
appropriate the memorial to them happened to be located near the finish
line for the Emerald Society's current race honoring the Nine Eleven
victims. My daughter and others were running for the memories
of the two NYPD detectives of 1940 as well as the hundreds of firemen,
police and emergency workers who fell victim to Terrorism's renewed attack
61 years later.
The face of Terrorism
hadn't changed in the past six decades. Osama bin Laden's beard and turban were just
masks. Terrorism's face is soulless. It reflects no
humanity. Its eyes are vacant orbs, sunken into cavities that
revel only in the pain and anguish of its victims. Its nose
can only smell the burning of flesh. Its ears hear only the cries of
pain and wailing of loved ones mourning the loss of a mother, father,
husband, father or loved one. Its mouth is laced with venomous
fangs, bent on sinking them into the souls of children, into the
vulnerability of the innocent, hoping to
poison them with Fear and Intimidation and drive them into states of Complacency.
The two Soldiers of Vigilance memorialized in
Flushing Meadows for their acts of bravery in 1940 deserved as many kudos
as any of the 343 firemen who died, or the more than fifty police and
emergency workers trying to save the victims of Terrorism in 2001.
(logo on memorial below)
When I came home I searched the web for articles
on the two Spartans of Vigilance who gave their lives so others could
live. I read about the suffering of their families, about how
their widows were left to raise many children on their own, and how their
fellow police officers endless helped support them over the years.
One officer cooked them a turkey dinner each Thanksgiving until the day he
Fortunately, only the two policemen were
killed that day. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of people attending
the World's Fair never knew what happened. The heroes didn't
capture headlines. There was no television news to make the world
instantly aware of their bravery or courage. But their brothers and
sisters of law enforcement remembered. And their children
remembered. And the city of Queens remembered to alert us all
Terrorism will never die. I hope to remind the world also that Vigilance can never die as
well. That it lives in the memories as fervently as the horror it
bestows upon its victims. And that only through Vigilance can
Terrorism be defeated.
Geddes 1939 Futurama of America's peaceful,
powerful future and the Perisphere where the "ideal" American
family lived in ultimate harmony in nuclear communities, illustrated a
society safe from threats
of the Osama bin Ladens of the world.
It presumed that peace was a part of life, that Terrorism had been banned
from the future of the world. Geddes missed the point.
The future is the present. I wished I could have advised him in the
design of his "perfect city."
If I had, I would have urged him to design a City
of Vigilance, and an America of Vigilance. Entering every town
across the U.S., one would see the welcome sign listing the population and
bearing the motto : "This Is A Community Of Vigilance!"
The Semper Vigilantes logo--Always
be embossed next to the city's logo. On the flagpole entering the
city, just under
the American Flag, would fly the Flag of Vigilance.
The population statistics
reporting the city's size would not just include numbers of
households, but also the percentage of the number of citizens who were Parents of
Vigilance, Grandparents of Vigilance, Brothers and Sisters of Vigilance,
Uncles and Aunts of Vigilance, Nephews and Nieces of Vigilance, Cousins of
Vigilance, Citizens of Vigilance and Loved Ones of Vigilance.
The Shield of Vigilance would be prominently
displayed at city parks where children gather, and at schools.
It would bear the SV
logo and the words, "Courage, Conviction & Right
Action," would prominently signal the community's resolve to fight Fear with Courage,
drive Intimidation to its boarders with Conviction, and to bury
Complacency in deep graves through individual and community Right Actions.
The goal of the Shield of Vigilance would be to protect the community's children from
the claws of Terrorism's Physical and Emotional threat to their security.
On the 11th of each month, Citizens of Vigilance
would wear their SV
armbands, reminding themselves and their communities and families
they were honoring the Sentinels of Vigilance who died on September 11,
2001. All who wished to participate would show their respect for the
Spirits of Vigilance, and reinforce the believe they were watching over their communities,
helping the citizens
from falling into states of Complacency that oils the door to
And last but not least, each member of a
would be encouraged on the 11th of the month to renew their vows to the Pledge of Vigilance.
They would be reminded of the need to reinforce daily their commitment to protect the
children, and their children's children's children's right to the peace
and harmony promised them.
Yes, I would have liked to advise
Geddes on this design for his 1939 World's Fair diorama.
But instead, I can take what was done
and add to it. I can remind the world that our cities and
communities can incorporate a statement of Vigilance. Cities
can vote to endorse the Pledge of Vigilance and can appoint a Day of
Vigilance. Nothing I proposed above is outside the realm of
possibility if the city father and mothers think through the goal of
Vigilance, and realize it is a necessary way of life as is the protection
of its water system, or its quality of air, or the quality of its
education, or to its ability to ward off crime and violence.
As I looked at the memorial tombstone for the two
NYPD detectives who gave their lives for a society to be free of Terrorism
62 years ago, I thought
about 2,500-year-old Greek words of praise written by Simonides to honor
the Spartans of Vigilance in the Battle of Thermopylae:
"Oh, you who pass by, tell the Spartans that we are lying here being
obedient to their command."
Running past the small monument nestled in the
bushes near the finish line were numerous police officers running a race
in honor of their fallen from September 11th, 2001. They were
also running, I thought, for the two men who died on July 4, 1940 even
though they might not have known it at the time. I could hear the
two detectives cheering the runners on, and in the background, I could
hear the chorus of Simonides Spartans of Vigilance, chanting out their
"Oh, you who pass by, tell the Spartans that we are lying here being
obedient to their command."
It was just another reminder to me that Vigilance
lives to fight Terrorism as long as we don't forget to honor it with more
passion than we fear Terrorism.