July 16, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 307

A Place Where Vigilance Can't Be Buried

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, July 16--Years ago, in the jungles of Vietnam, I watched the pyres burning the bodies of victims of war, reducing the physical form to ashes, returning it to the soil from whence it came, ashes to ashes, dust to dust

       Yesterday, the final ashes of the victims of Nine Eleven were sifted for the last time.   Fresh Kill was closed, an ironic name for a land fill facility on Staten Island, New York, utilized to scour through the debris shipped there from Ground Zero in hopes recovery workers might find enough remains to identify the loss of thousands who were not identified.
       But the dust of the earth reclaimed the particles of human presence, recycling its nutrients back into the earth, seeding the soil with the Vigilant Spirits of those who disappeared in the holocaust of that day, the Second Tuesday of September, 2001.   That was 307 days ago, Plus One.
       My day counting excludes Ground Zero...for to was Zero Day...the hallmark of a new era...the Birth of the Era of Vigilance.    

       Zero is not a number that means nothing.   It instead, is the whole of all the parts.   It contains within its orbit all the other numbers, as the womb contains the souls of all the children it issues.    Zero is the beginning, the point of renewal, the debarkation of what can be, what is, from that which was.
       That's why I shy away from the idea of an "End Of Nine Eleven."
       Ceremonies which attempt to memorialize the dead are, to me, attempts to sweep the ashes of the dead into the past, as we did with Pearl Harbor, or Vietnam, or Korea, or World War II, or World War I.
        In each of our conflicts we try to "erase" the memory of "war" and "pretend" that it is over, that we are "safe," that by crushing the "enemy" the "enemy" will be buried, never to return.
        That isn't possible.   The "enemy," no matter what form it takes, lives.   It recycles in other forms.  It appears when least expected.   It waits patiently for the Complacency of the broom trying to sweep it away to feel it has "cleansed" the soil, then it strikes, suddenly, viciously, as it did on September 11, 2001, at 8:43 a.m.
        I can still hear the roaring of the jetliner overhead.  I can still see its gleaming underbelly rocketing through the sky.   I can still smell the scent of burning bodies, sweet, sickening acrid fumes, violating at my nostrils.

        I knew that smell well.   Once you know it, it wretches your memory.  It spikes your instincts to crouch and tense, drawing from the well of your primal nature the threat of the Beast of Terror whose voracious appetite seems insatiable and indiscriminate.  It will eat your Loved Ones without a blink, gnaw on the innocent, laugh as it consumes the arrogant, and belch with satisfaction on all those who cower in its presence.
       Ashes to Ashes.  Dust to Dust.
       The closing of Fresh Kill is temporary.   It will reopen again, in another place, at another time when the next Osama bin Laden attacks in some other form.  
        This is not to mean we are fugitives of the Beast.    It means only we cannot turn our backs to him.  We cannot close a page of Beast Hunter and expect to sleep with both eyes shut.
        This weekend my wife and I went to see the new movie Reign of Fire.   It is about people being hunted by the Terror of primal beasts who have taken over the earth, and spew fire from their mouths--dragons if you will.

       The surviving society had opted for "defensive" posturing against the "Beasts Of Terror."  They were Intimidated by them, Fearful of them, and Complacent about being able to eliminate them.   Their children chanted the rules of survival, one of which included "sleeping with one-eye open."
        I was struck by the simplicity of that command.   We, as Citizens of Vigilance, need to sleep with one eye open.   Terrorism doesn't sleep.   And, employed properly, neither does Vigilance.   It is only when Vigilance shuts the other eye that Terrorism has its hey day.
       In Reign of Fire, the primary treasure was the children.   They were the core of everything in the final society, the reason to risk one's life to defeat the Beasts of Terror.

       Fresh Kill's ceremony to end the search for the remains of the deceased seemed unnecessary to me in one aspect.   Those who remained unidentified  haven't passed into oblivion.  They survive.   Along with those identified, they are the Sentinels of Vigilance, standing guard over the World Trade Center, the spirits of nearly 3,000 men and women from over 80 countries--mothers, brothers, fathers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, loved ones--holding up their Shields of Vigilance with the words Courage, Conviction and Right Action blazed into the steel, warding off Terrorism's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
        Ashes to Ashes?  Dust to Dust?
        I believe that happens when we let the memories of others die.   The most important memory being that of the Beast of Terror.
        In my own case, I thought I left the Beast of Terror buried back in Vietnam.   Three decades later it appeared in Lower Manhattan, jaws wide, teeth gnashing, breathing fire and Hell, threatening to consume my children and grandchildren.
         I believe when we try and close the book on the past, we release the Beast.    When we think we can sleep with both eyes closed, the Beast opens his.
        And I'm not talking about our government, military or police or fire personnel.  They are supposed to not sleep at all, but they do.   The right and left hand doesn't know how many fingers or toes each other has.    We can't even find Osama bin Laden, let alone identify the birth of the next Terrorist.
         So why should we, as Citizens of Vigilance, the first line of defense against Terrorism, sleep with our eyes shut?   We shouldn't.

        We can teach our children how to sleep with one eye open by taking the Pledge of Vigilance.  It's all about keeping one eye open.  
         A Child of Vigilance is simply one who understands that Terrorism takes its most beastly form in the shroud of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.    A Child of Vigilance is not afraid to be afraid, or to share that Fear with a Parent or Loved One of Vigilance.  He or she knows that his or her Parent of Vigilance will help teach him or her  how to hold up the Shield of Vigilance, to muster the Courage, Conviction and take the Right Action necessary to drive the Beast of Terror away.
           There is no victory over Terrorism.    There never has been.  There never will be.
          But there is a safe ground from Terrorism.  It is the high ground.  It is the place where Courage drives Fear away, where Conviction thwarts Intimidation and where Right Action starves Complacency from metastasizing.
           When we realize that Vigilance is not just a response to Terrorism, but the front line defense against its invasion, then our children will be able to sleep soundly--but always with one eye open--with a constant reminder that the presence of Vigilance is a wall separating us from Terrorism.

Go To July 15--Fresh Kill:  Racers Of Vigilance

©2001 - 2004,, All rights reserved -  a ((HYYPE)) design