15, 2002—Ground Zero Plus
Fresh Kill And Racers Of Vigilance
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, July 15--This morning the final
ceremony at the Fresh Kill Landfill in Staten Island will close the search
for the dead.
Fresh Kill, a sanitation site on Staten Island, is the depository
where over 1.7 million tons of debris has been sifted and preened for over
ten months to find any remains or artifacts that might lead to the
identification of victims of the Nine Eleven Terrorist attack on the World
Trade Center. It marks the end of the new beginning...the final taps
in salute of well over a thousand who vanished without a trace on
September 11, 2001.
Part of the final closure of
open wounds of that tragic event was a special race held yesterday morning
at Ground Zero. My wife and I attended it with our younger
daughter, a federal special agent who works on a task force with NYPD
officers. It was a three-mile race in honor of the fallen NYPD
officers who gave their lives on the Second Tuesday in September. It
started at 10:13 a.m., a significant time for any police officer.
10:13 is the code
signaling an officer is down, or in dire trouble. It alerts all other
police officers to come to the rescue of a fallen brother or sister.
Our daughter ran in the
race representing her task force, a combination of federal, state and
local NYPD offices. She had crawled through the rubble of Nine
Eleven in search of bodies, survivors, hoping to find any officer or
civilian who had fallen victim to the 10:13 call that rang solemnly on
Nine Eleven, and still rings today for those who haven't been found.
The race was one small way to let the departed know their memories live on
despite the presence of their remains.
The race was a small
event by normal running standards in New York. Usually, such races
draw hundreds of runners. But this was a "private affair," for
police and their families, not a public event.
There was a solemn
memorial before the race for the fallen, a time for reflection and
Commissioner Ray Kelly with runners
The police Honor Guard presented the flags before
the race next to Ground Zero, on the West Side Highway.
Police Commissioner Ray
Kelly was on hand and stood with the racers, part of the team of dedicated
public servants who daily risk their lives for others. Racers
comprised all sizes and shapes, including some officers pushing their
children in strollers before them as they ran. There were
young and old, age groups from under thirty to over sixty.
There were fit and lean runners, and some whose flesh jiggled and joggled
as they ran.
One retired officer yelled as
he passed the finish line near the front of the pack: "I'm sixty!"
On the sidelines children sat
on fathers' shoulders, watching the event. One little boy wore a
homemade paper crown, with salutes written on it to victims of Nine
Eleven. Another little boy played with a dog on a leash, seemingly
oblivious to the solemnity of the event, but assuredly aware of its
significance to his family. I wondered if he might have lost a
father, mother, uncle, grandfather, but preferred not to ask, not wanting
to stir up memories or sadness that might have been resolved, or at least
The National Anthem was sung by
an officer as the hundreds of officers, agents, and friends saluted or
placed their hands over their hearts. There was a stillness in
the air, as though Ground Zero sucked in a deep breath and held it until
the salute was finished.
Then, at exactly 10:13, the
race horn blasted, and the runners sprinted as one human body of the
living, running for the dead.
Along the race path, up West
Side Highway, old tattered flags still flapped in the wind, Sentinels of
Vigilance over Ground Zero. They were small flags, taped to
light posts. One's colors had faded from the sun and rain, and
its leading edge was frayed from flapping and snapping over the past ten
Another was stuck in the ground at
the base of a flagpole bearing the various flags of New York and America
and law enforcement. It too was tattered and weathered, leathery
like the faces of the workers who spent nearly a year sifting through the
debris in hopes of finding some positive identification for those
pulverized by the horrendous collapse of the building that turned ash to
A chain link fence held the
faded, sun-worn laminated posters of various police, fire personnel and
civilians who had been lost in the disaster. The headlines on all of
them blared out the words: "REMEMBER ME!"
Old fragments of flowers, long
ago desiccated by the weathering of time, were weaved in the chain link.
A few fresh red, white and blue ribbons stood out, symbols that loved ones
returned to the site to freshen the memories, to not give up the final
Hope that their memories would die in time as their bodies had on
My wife and I had walked the final
walk up West Side Highway with police and firemen and friends, family and
loved ones when Ground Zero was officially closed on May 30.
People lined the streets applauding the Heroes and remembering the fallen.
But today there were no audiences, no spectators. Just an
empty ribbon of black asphalt bearing the footprints of the runners who
were giving their respects to their brothers and sisters.
I stood at the finish line shooting
pictures of various faces of those crossing it, capturing the first and
second NYPD officer to finish, the first woman finishing, and then as many
of the exhausted, sweating, determined faces as possible I could capture.
The runners not only could see the finish line as they approached, but
also the gaping hole where the Twin Towers had once speared nearly a
quarter mile into the sky, now, a blank wall of empty space, a repository
of memories of men and women who gave everything for others.
I thought about my day at Ground Zero, when
the buildings were falling around me, the debris, the horror, the choking
silence of soot blanketing everything in a ghostly pall, and the silent
Voices ringing out of the aftermath, echoing as though from a tomb.
I thought about seeing the Sentinels
of Vigilance rising up from the ash, swirling in the aftermath of the
Beast of Terror's visit to our land, and how strong those spirits were,
how defiant they posed even as the tongues of fire licked at the remains
of the ruins.
I saw them again yesterday morning. They
were running with the runners, their shadows unseen, their footsteps
unheard. They were whispering the words of Vigilance in all the ears
of those who had come to pay honor to them--"Courage."
"Conviction." "Right Action."
I head them. I still hear them.
"Courage." "Conviction." "Right
To July 14--Computer Terrorism
- 2004, VigilanceVoice.com, All rights reserved - a ((HYYPE))