August 2, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 324

30 Million Sentinels Of Vigilance Created

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, August 2--California just created over 30 million Sentinels of Vigilance.   The act more than likely saved the lives of two 16- and 17-year-old girls, abducted, raped and then hauled into the desert to be shot, killed and buried.
        The two girls owe their lives to many people, all of whom entered the Era Of Vigilance yesterday as the State of California, with a population exceeding 30 million, searched for the abductor using a new system called Amber Alert.
        A few specific people form the headwaters that set into motion events that saved the girls from death's grip.   The first is a 9-year-old girl named Amber Hagerman.

Amber Hagerman

       In 1996, Amber was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas.   Parents and media personnel from the local community launched a major grass-roots campaign to alert the population of a child abduction, employing radio, television and emergency warning systems to broadcast any child's abduction.
      The system grew into what is now called the Amber Alert.    It alerts local law enforcement agencies and broadcasts on radio, television and emergency networks, news of a missing child, 17 years or younger, suspected of being in danger by her abductor.   It also includes flashing signs on freeways normally used to signal drivers of traffic and weather conditions.
      Just a week ago, Gray Davis, Democratic Governor of California, authorized the use of the Amber Alert emergency systems throughout his state.   The decision, prompted by ongoing pressures from local representatives and the public over the rash of recent kidnappings and deaths of young children such as five-year-old Samantha recently taken from her front yard and killed, rocketed California's citizens into a state of Vigilance. Amber Alert is heralded as being directly responsible for the saving of the two kidnapped Lancaster girls' lives.

      But this story isn't about tooting Gray Davis' horn.    The horn that should be tooted is that of George Runner, Republican Congressman from Lancaster, California, who was the driving force behind pushing the Amber Alert System into effect throughout California.  Ironically, the first time it was used was to save the two girls from his hometown of Lancaster.
      The teens were parked with their boyfriends in a "Lovers Lane" area close of Lancaster..   Neither knew the other.   The kidnapper/rapist shoved a gun at the boyfriends, tied them up, and took the girls.
      Putting the Amber Alert into motion, police, government authorities and the media pumped the news over the what is called America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response, AMBER.   Besides radio and television bulletins, the system also flashed the plight of the missing girls on freeway message boards, including the description of the stolen truck the kidnapper had taken from one of the boys he tied up.

    A Caltrans flagman working on a highway construction site was listening to the radio and heard the Amber alert.   Moments later he saw the Bronco pass by and scraped the license number into a nearby patch of dirt, then called the California Highway Patrol.

    Simultaneously, an animal control officer, also alerted by the Amber broadcast, spotted the stolen white Bronco on a dirt road that traverses the White Blanket Indian reservation, a desolate area the police believe Roy Ratliff, a convicted felon and the kidnapper, was taking the girls to kill and bury them.   Police gave chase in vehicles while helicopters swarmed above.  The ordeal ended when police shot Ratliff and rescued the girls.

Jaqueline  Marris, 17

Tamera Brooks, 16

     This isn't the first time AMBER has been responsible for saving a life.   Seventeen abductions have been thwarted by the system.  In one case an abductor who heard his car being described on the radio stopped and let his victim out, fearful of being caught with her in his vehicle.
    According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a division of the FBI, over 840,000 abductions occurred in 2001 (725,000 were children).   That averages out to more than 2,000 abductions a day.  The majority of missing children are "runaways," followed by "lost, injured or otherwise missing children," then "family abductions," which represent 355,000 per year, and finally, the most dangerous of all, "non-family abductors," estimated to be 4,600 per year--12 per day.

Statistics on side of NYC Bus

        John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted," is a key advocate of the Amber System.   After his son was abducted and murdered in 1981, he helped create the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).  In 2001, the organization promoted the AMBER program within its system.


    Congress is now considering a bill that would nationalize the program.  Currently, each state elects whether to implement it.   A number have, many haven't. 
     What the AMBER system represents to me, is an act of National Vigilance.   The system started in Texas and is spreading.  California, the nation's largest populated state, just realized the benefits of it.    In the Polly Klass case, her abductor had the child in the trunk.  Police officers stopped to help the abductor get his car out of the ditch, unaware there was a kidnapping in progress.   Many propose that had AMBER ALERT been in effect, the police might have been more Vigilant, but they were unaware, and proceeded to help the "citizen" who eventually killed the little girl.
      Vigilance is, in my opinion, not about the government doing its job, it's about the government reminding citizens of their job.    Each citizen in any nation is responsible for all other citizens.   That's why we have laws and attempt to obey them.

     Ultimately, a safe and sound society is one that looks out for each other.   Any small neighborhood is an example of the AMBER ALERT system.    If the community bands together and works as one to protect its members, especially its children, it will effect protection systems that become the duty of "all," not the "few."
      Terrorism's greatest side effect is Complacency.    When people abdicate their responsibility to protect their community at the local, district, regional, state and national level, the door swings open to any and all who wish to inflict Fear and Intimidation on any person, or group of persons.
      The ultimate in Terrorism, of course, is the pain and suffering inflicted by an adult upon a child.    No Terrorist, regardless of how many adults he or she killed, can equal one who brutalizes, tortures, molests and kills a child.    That kind of Terrorism is multiplied thousands fold--representing far more devastation to human morality than all those adults lost on Nine Eleven.

      I believe the AMBER ALERT system is a huge drop in a big bucket of Vigilance from which America needs to drink heavily.   It is a system reminding us all, old, young, rich, poor, from all ethnic backgrounds, from all diverse social and economic levels, that we must become one when it comes to the safety of our children--the safety of any child.
     Vigilance is about instilling Courage where Fear once ruled, Conviction where Intimidation sprouted its weeds, and Right Action where Complacency masked duty and obligation to others.
      AMBER ALERT is a flashing signpost of Vigilance.   It demands we toss out our Complacency and turned Vigilant Eyes toward the safety of children.   It makes us duty-bound as Citizens of Vigilance to be deputized as Sentinels of Vigilance, ever wary of those who might rape, pillage, plunder our most precious asset--our children.
       In California it made a Caltrans construction worker scrawl a license plate in the dirt and call the police.   It snapped the head of an animal control officer in the desert to report a white Bronco containing the two captured and raped girls who were heading toward certain death.
       AMBER ALERT made a California Congressman push for legislation and action from a Governor, who, regardless of critics, made a decision to put in effect a system that calls upon the average citizen to support his or her community.
        Vigilance is on the move.  It is growing, evolving.   We are heading toward a community that will band around its children, form a wall of Vigilance so tightly knit, and purfled with Vigilance that no Terrorist would dare to enter.

        If we are to defeat Terrorism, both from abroad and within, then we should look at AMBER ALERT as the keystone that supports our Arch of Vigilance, and through which we can pass and shed our Fears for Courage, our Intimidations for Convictions, and our Complacencies for Right Actions.
        If you haven't yet, take the Pledge of Vigilance.  Become a Citizen of Vigilance.   It will be your AMBER ALERT to thwart Terrorism. 



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Go To Aug. 1--Grandparents Protecting Children From Terrorism

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