Sunday-- June 9,
2002—Ground Zero Plus 270
Alligators, Terrorists &
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City,
June 9--You just can't take a safe swim these days--at least not in
the Mediterranean or wade in the Everglades. Terrorists of all kinds
and shapes are waiting!
It's that time of year when we all
seek water, especially here in New York City where the heat and humidity
turn the island into a sauna. But I have to keep a Vigilant
Eye out these days whenever I'm near any water--Terrorists seem to be
lurking under its surface both in human and inhuman forms.
A couple of incidents brought this new
threat to my attention this morning. One was from Israel, the
other from Florida's Everglades.
Yesterday, two heavily armed Palestinians
tried to swim along the Mediterranean coastline from the Gaza Strip.
They weren't just enjoying the water. They were heavily armed with
machine guns, intending to mow down civilians bathing on the beach.
An observation post detected them and shot them. When their bodies
were recovered they found a bag of automatic weapons and grenades.
I thought of my grandchildren. My
son-in-law had just taken them to Coney Island a few weekends ago.
Each summer we go there and teach the kids not to fear the water.
We wade out with them into the surf and help them build their Courage and
Now, I'm not so sure I can go to the beach
without wondering if some Terrorist might be swimming his way toward some
The "Jaws" fear has been replaced with the "Terrorism" fear.
I remember recently reading about how the NYPD Scuba Team was on alert for
Terrorists swimming under water to access the Statue of Liberty and other
areas around Manhattan Island. It seems the threat of
Terrorism can find its way into a raindrop if we let it.
Then there is the Florida Everglades.
Recently, my wife and I have talked about taking our grandchildren to
Disney World in Florida. The kids are almost six and four,
prime ages to ogle the wonders of a world designed for them.
But I ran across another story that made me
momentarily recoil. It was about 39-year-old Todd Hardwick,
owner of the Pesky Critters Nuisance Wildlife Control Company in Miami,
His job is to trap and kill Terrorists.
But these Terrorists aren't human.
Most of them are alligators.
He's one of the few the State of Florida
licenses to trap and kill "nuisance alligators." His tools
include seven bags of marshmallows, hundreds of yards of parachute cord, a
large stainless steel hook used to catch sharks, a bag of decomposing pig
lungs, and a bang stick loaded with a hollow-point .357 magnum bullet.
Fishermen, tourists or local residents who
sight an alligator they think is threatening call him. He
trundles to the site in his pick-up truck and throws out marshmallows into
the water to see if the alligator eats them. If they do, it is a
sign people have been feeding them. The more people feed an
alligator, the less fearful it becomes of humans.
"People represent food to a gator," Hardwick
said. "And if a child or someone is near the water, they can be
Last year alligators killed three people in
Florida--a toddler and two elderly men. Over 17,000 alligator
complaints were filed. One seven-foot gator attacked a Mitsubishi.
Another truck flipped, killing its driver when it struck an alligator
crossing the road. Underwater construction workers working on a
pumping station on U.S. 41 refused to dive because the alligators were too
thick and began chasing them underwater.
Hardwick's job isn't pleasant. He
says he doesn't enjoy killing the gators. "They learn to waddle up
to people expecting to be fed, and when they don't get fed, sometimes they
That's why he judges the life or death sentence
on a gator by whether it eats the marshmallows. If it does, he
convicts the creature, knowing it has acquired a taste for human "junk
food." The lack of fear of humans becomes the evidence for the death
penalty, especially with older gators who aren't able to be relocated, he
Once he is
convinced the gator is "people-food-friendly," he drives his hook into the
decomposing pig bladder. Pig bladders float and give off a rancid
odor to attract the gator, he noted. Then he swings the hooked pig
bladder around his head and lets it fly out into the water so it will
float by the gator.
When the alligator swallows it,
he hooks the parachute cord to the bumper of his pickup and pulls the
gator until it exhausts itself from the battle. Then he
drags it ashore, sticks the bang stick against the back of its head where
its prehistoric brain is located, and ends the gator's life.
He has trapped, relocated or killed around a
1,000 alligators, Cayman and crocodiles, he says. Many are relocated
if they haven't acquired a taste for the marshmallows, he added. And
gators under four feet are rarely killed, but rather moved to less
After reading about Hardwick, I felt a bit sorry
for the alligators. Food is food. However, when your
child or grandchild becomes the main menu, then sympathy for the
I thought a similar sense might exist with
Terrorism. People who haven't lost loved ones to Terrorism's
alligator jaws, probably don't have the same Vigilant outlook that
surviving families feel toward those who indiscriminately kill the
If an alligator ate one of my children or
grandchildren, I might hate every one of them I saw--and even seek revenge
or retribution to my dying breath. A Terrorist offers the same
kind of target for one's feelings.
Winston Churchill (right)
said: "Appeasement is feeding
an alligator in hopes it will eat you last." His words
hold up today as they did when they were spoken some six decades ago.
Appeasement for me is a synonym for
Complacency. It translates: "Complacency is feeding a Terrorist in
hopes it will eat you last."
The people lying on the beach in Israel
were the targets of Terrorism, not the government. The members
of the militant group Islamic Jihad were bent not just on killing innocent
people, but in creating waves of fear among the people, driving them into
caves of Intimidation, and ultimately, hopefully from the militants'
viewpoint, driving them out of the Middle East.
Here, in America, Terrorism attacks seek to
send us into Caves of Complacency--emasculate us into a sense we can do
nothing but "feed the alligators" by lashing out at our government, the
CIA, the FBI, for failing to protect us while we do little or nothing but
feed Terrorism marshmallows, hoping it will eat someone else.
I believe this is a legitimate statement when I
look around and see little signs of public symbols representing the
populace is standing up to Terrorism. Returning to life "as normal"
is not "standing up to Terrorism." It is Complacency, Appeasement.
The wives, husbands, fathers, mothers,
grandparents, uncles, cousins, aunts, brothers and sisters and loved ones
of those lost in the September 11 attack certainly haven't returned to
"normal." They know the threat still exists that some insane
Terrorist seeking to martyr himself or herself could don
SCUBA gear and
appear on the shore of Coney Island with a machine gun.
They know the CIA and FBI and Homeland Security
Department could never be expected to catch all the Terrorist alligators
in the swamps. One or two could easily slither by. They
know it is up to them to protect their children, loved ones from future
Terrorism. They have the scars to prove it.
They also know it is more about fighting Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency than trying to amass an intelligence network
so powerful that a single Terrorist could be picked out of a crowd of
millions and stopped before he or she acted.
They know fighting Terrorism begins with a state
of mind, a mind-set that one develops to destroy Complacency.
Complacency is the excuse one assumes for not taking personal action to
defend ones self and loved ones against Terrorism.
Lisa Beamer (right) knows that. She is the wife of
Todd Beamer, the man aboard Fight 93 whose last words were, "Let's Roll!"
as he and other passengers rushed the Terrorists who were heading the
flight probably toward the White House. Pregnant, she climbed
aboard the same flight her husband took that ill-fated day of September
11, 2001, sat in his same seat, and took off from Newark to San Francisco
to prove her Courage to face her Fear, to overcome her Intimidation with
her Convictions, and to battle the Complacency of doing nothing by taking
the Right Action--by, as Churchill also said, "Stand For Something Or Be
She stood that day. She stood tall and
faced the bullies of Terrorism--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
She won. The child in her womb won. There was no appeasement
in her thoughts. They had been replaced with Vigilance.
Today, we can all stop feeding the alligators.
We can stop watching the news and reading the
papers that feed us marshmallows about how the government is, should have,
could have, might, maybe be the sole source of fighting Terrorism.
We can stop pointing fingers at everyone else and
climb aboard our own Lisa Beamer flight. We can screw up the
Courage, Conviction and take the Right Action to stand as a Sentinel of
Vigilance rather than as a Victim of Terrorism.
I can't afford to stop taking my grandchildren to
Coney Island or Disney World, even in my thoughts. But when I
start to shudder thinking about how Terrorism can attack me anywhere or
anytime, I need to recognize that Fear and Intimidation lead to
Complacency. I can know I am under "Terrorist Thought
Attack." And, I can pull out my most powerful weapon to fight
its assault--The Pledge Of Vigilance.
|Author at Ground
Zero, recording events
I can remember the Vow of Vigilance I made as I
sat at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, covered with the ash of death
and destruction, looking up at the swirling smoke and seeing the Sentinels
of Vigilance rising above the holocaust, reminding me to "take action,"
not to "sit and weep."
That action begins with a commitment not a complaint.
I use the Pledge of Vigilance as my Shield of Vigilance. I hold it
up to deflect Fear, Intimidation and Complacency so I can must the Courage
and Conviction to take the Right Action.
And everyone else can too.
There is no cost to taking the Pledge of
Vigilance except the responsibility to take responsibility.
Hopefully, for the sake of your loved ones, that
isn't too big a price to pay to keep the alligators at bay.