Today is the 700th day from Ground Zero. What have we learned?
How closer to Vigilance are we, if at all?
13, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 700
The 700th Day From Ground Zero--The
Birth Of Vigilance
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Aug. 13, 2003--
Today is the 700th Day from Ground Zero.
Seven-hundred and one days ago I heard the Terrorist-commanded jet
scream overhead. I looked up and saw its silver belly shooting
toward Ground Zero. I remember thinking only that
something bad was about to happen, for passenger jets don't fly that
Corps patrols with its Forward Air Observers
In Vietnam I was under constant close air support by
U.S. Marine jet pilots. We patrolled with our Forward Air
Observers (FACs). They were jet-jockeys, fighter pilots
themselves, assigned to crunch the ground with us grunts, and to talk
to the Marine pilots when we needed air strikes.
The idea was simple: a pilot on the ground
talking to a pilot in the sky hurling downward at 500 miles per hour
to drop bombs or napalm on targets 100 yards away, and sometimes
closer, was insurance that Marines would not be killed by mistake.
No other service has as close air support than the
Marines, and the jets would scream down like falcons upon a field
mouse and drop armament on the enemy with such precision
we would leap up into a hail of enemy bullets and cheer when the
machine gun nest blew into a thousand chunks of earth, bones and
But, there is a frightening moment when the jet
is swooping down so close to your position you are not sure whether
the pilot recognizes you as friend or foe. The hair on
your neck stiffens, and your anal sphincter contracts with such a
force you aren't sure you can relieve yourself again.
You pray the pilot knows the difference
between you and the bad guys, and there is that instant of doubt that
rockets through your mind and body, forcing up prayers you never pray,
and you wait, breathlessly, for the impact of the shell to strike,
hopefully in front of you and not next to or behind you.
I swallowed hard that morning, 700 days
plus one ago. I felt that same twist in my guts, that same
emptiness as though the blood in my body froze for an instant as my
heart paused, waiting to see if it would survive to beat again.
In a way, that may be my reasoning for counting
the days from Ground Zero less one day. I don't count
September 11. It was a day when the world gasped. A day
when America's heart stopped. A day when the Beast of Terror was
born, strangling for a moment, the sun from shining.
Ground Zero Day is an innominate one, neither
white nor black, plus or minus. It is the intersection between
two paths, a merging of the railroad rails at some point called
infinity. It is that distance halved and halved and halved until
you need an electron microscope to halve the final half.
It's not unlike a birthday. When we are one
years old, we are really one years old plus nine months, or, if we
were premature, one plus, say six months.
Time is arbitrary anyway.
The Beast of
Terror was reborn on Nine Eleven
For some, time stopped on September 11, 2001.
On that second Tuesday of September, the world froze. All
that has happened since is but a blur. The reality of the
burning buildings, the falling bodies, the great roar and thunder of
the Twin Towers collapsing, and the gagging, choking smell of burning
concrete and 3,000 human bodies freeze frame in some people's minds.
They have lived an eternity in Ground Zero. There is no
Ground Zero Plus for them.
That doesn't mean they don't fake it.
They might turn the calendar pages, honor birthdays, anniversaries, go
to parades, punch the clock, prepare for various holidays in what
might seem the mainstream of life, but deep within their horror clocks
The hands of the horror clock are frozen at
8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m., the respective times that American Airlines
flight 11 crashed into the the World Trade Center North Tower (WTC-1)
and United Airlines flight 175 exploded into the south Tower (WTC-2).
Two other times are also frozen: 9:37 a.m when American Airlines
flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon, and 10:03 a.m. when United flight
93 fell into a farm field in Pennsylvania, its destination thwarted by
a "Let's Roll" war cry issued by passengers who gave their lives so
others on the ground might live.
Ground Zero Day also includes two other times
that freeze the date in many people's minds who were there that day,
or witnessed the event live through television. The two
times are 10:05 a.m and 10:29 a.m.
At 10:05, the south tower, WTC-2, struck
after the north tower, collapsed. It stood for 62 minutes.
At 10:29 the north tower, WTC-1, exploded into itself, surviving 104
minutes after impact. During that time, an estimated
20,000 people escaped death. Nearly 3,000 didn't.
I was there that day, 700 and one days ago.
I watched the people leaping from the buildings billowing black and
orange balls of fire, belched from the belly of the Beast of Terror.
I was there when the buildings collapsed and we thought for sure we
were all dead. I remember thinking I was about to take my last
breath. Time froze for me.
That's why I don't count Ground Zero as a day in
the normal calendar of events. I separate not for negative
reasons, but for much more positive ones.
On that day, from bowels of the earth, rose the
Beast of Terror upon American soil. He ushered in the 21st
Century with all the horrors of weapons of mass destruction that can
reach across the globe to any town, village, city--including the most
heavily guarded of all military establishments, the United States
Pentagon, the seat of the modern world's most powerful destructive
ushered in the Era of Vigilance
Ground Zero proved that any American, and
for that matter, any industrialized, advanced nation upon this earth,
is vulnerable to the Beast of Terror's whims.
It also ushered in the Era of Vigilance.
On September 11, 2001, the Sentinels of
Vigilance were born. They rose out of the ashes, from the
spirits of those who died that day, Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents,
Nieces, Nephews, Brothers, Sisters, Cousins and Loved Ones of
They armed themselves with Courage,
Conviction and Right Actions for the benefit of the Children's
Children's Children to fight the Triad of Terrorism--Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency.
They made vows that day to hover over
Ground Zero and not fade into memories, not let Complacency wash away
the reality that the Beast of Terror is now on the loose, an
ever-present threat to all.
I honor Ground Zero Day as that
moment in time when the Pledge of Vigilance was created, a pledge made
by those who wish to never forget to remember that the Beast of Terror
can attack when least expected.
And, that the Beast is not just
about physical violence from those wishing to harm the United States
or any other nation.
The Beast can attack and
does the human psyche. It can make a person feel less than,
unworthy, a failure. It can twist one's thoughts into thinking
that the world is a nail and they are a hammer, or, that they are nail
and the world is the hammer.
The Beast can rob Parents
of the time to love their children, and for their children to learn to
respect their parents.
Terrorism is the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency one feels about
life in general.
Day awakens our minds and wills to become Sentinels of Vigilance
Ground Zero Day was
about erasing those Terrors. It was about awakening our minds
and wills to become Sentinels of Vigilance to not only defend our
nation from foreign invasion, but to defend our thoughts and actions
from the Beast's influence.
Today, some 700
days plus one from the Terrorist attack, I call upon all who haven't
yet, to take the Pledge of Vigilance.
Make September 11 a
frozen date in your mind.
Freeze out the
Beast of Terror.
Take the Pledge of
Aug 12--Creating An Anti-Terrorism
Constitution For Iraq
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