The VigilanceVoice

Sunday-- June 2, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 263
Terrorism's Ancient Time Bomb

Cliff McKenzie
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 Queens.
     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 events.
       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 church.
       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 isn't new.
      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.
         Terrorists 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 died.
       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 that 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 Vigilant--would 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 Terrorism's rebirth.
      And last but not least, each member of  a Vigilance Community 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 cheer:    "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.

 Go To June 1--God's Flushing His Toilet

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