September 1, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 354

Why We Need A Tomb For The
"Unknown Sentinel Of Vigilance"

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, September 1--There is a mad rush on to identify all the remains of those who died on Nine Eleven.  For some, it is an effort  to "close the book of death," to write the "final chapter on Nine Eleven."

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington

       But it seems impossible and inappropriate to achieve such finality.  Instead of closing the book on Nine Eleven, we should be opening it.
        For example, a man who was previously considered dead or missing recently surfaced in a hospital, nearly a year after the Terrorist attack.  At least 78 unresolved cases exist as authorities scramble to complete a list of all who died to be read at Ground Zero on the anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, which took the lives of an estimated 2,800 at the World Trade Center. Nearly 20 percent, or over 500 of those who died that day were citizens of more than 80 different countries.
        Officials face major hurdles in finalizing the "death list," most of them from the low-profile employees or visitors to the building, such as a 77-year-old Bronx man who shined shoes there.  Witnesses who survived the attack attest he was there.  His name was recently added to the casualty list.  

        Chief Charles V. Campisi, the NYPD official who led the initial mission persons' accounting effort, reports that to date, 1,379 victims, just about half, have been confirmed dead by positive identification of their remains.  Another 1350 were declared dead by court action, following families submitting evidence to prove that their relatives were at the trade center when the attack occurred and they haven't been seen since.   There are 78 unaccounted for.
        Some families have not filed papers for the death certificate of their loved ones, clinging to the hope they might appear, or refusing to accept the probability of death.
       Then there is fraud.   Nearly 70 claims submitted by people alleging their loved ones died that day are under investigation.  Twenty-five have been charged with falsifying death certificate documents.  A Queens woman claimed her estranged husband was a window washer working that day, but he was found alive and well on Long Island.   A Bronx woman said her mother was visiting the World Trade Center on Nine Eleven and they were separated.   It turns out her mother died in 1998.  A man from China said his wife was killed while having breakfast with friends in the towers, but she was later found alive in Japan.
      Officials are hoping to have a "final official count" for the Ground Zero ceremonies on September 11, less any fraud claims and including all who have been reluctant to file death certificates for their missing loved ones.   The estimated "final count" is expected to be 2,750,  excluding the 10 hijackers.      

      Combined with the 233 killed in Washington and Pennsylvania, September 11 will be the second bloodiest day in United States history, behind the battle of Antietam in the Civil War, when 3,650 Confederate and Union soldiers were killed in a single day.  An equal amount of wounded are estimated to have died from complications in the days following the battle. (link to Antietam casualty site.)

       Ironically, the Battle of Antietam occurred on September 17th, 1862, just six days following the events of September 11, 2001, which occurred nearly 139 years later.  The Civil War produced the most deaths in American war history, with 623, 026 lives lost.  The next highest death count is World War II, with 407,316 American deaths.  The lowest war is the Gulf War, accounting for 269 deaths.

      In each "war" there is always the "missing" the "unaccounted for."  Today, we occasionally see the poignant black flags, reminding us about the MIA's of Vietnam.  The flags represent frayed threads of hope that some may have survived, but more importantly, serve as a testimonial that we should "never forget the nameless, faceless who remind us of the horror of war."
      I believe we should have a memorial for the "Unknown Sentinel of Vigilance," similar to our monuments to the "Unknown Soldiers" of all wars.   To me, a tribute to the "Unknown Sentinel of Vigilance" is far more powerful than the one to the "known."
       Anonymity is a key factor in remembering any event.   The faceless, nameless person or persons entombed in any grave could be any of us, or any of our children, or any of our relatives or loved ones--perhaps some far distant cousin, some genetic link to our past and present. 

      Anonymity is about the faceless part of all of us, representing the commonality of human beings, regardless of race, color, creed or national origins.   Facelessness represents the ultimate in humility, the reduction of our prejudice, greed, envy, sloth, pride, lust.

  The Amish have, for years, depicted  the facelessness of human beings in their dolls.  Societies around the world use the symbol to represent the "oneness" not the "individuality" of the human spirit.

         Any of us can stand before the "Unknown Sentinel of Vigilance Memorial" at Ground Zero and see our children, or our children's children's children in the grave.  We all need to be reminded that we are "one" in the battle against the Terrorism--not just the physical Terrorisms, but the emotional elements as well--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.

       On a family visit to France many Christmases ago, I stood before the Unknown Soldier's Tomb under the Arc de Triumph.  I felt the presence of his or her being radiating up from the concrete and brass enshrining his/her anonymity.   Around me bustled the city of Paris, teeming with life and freedom and peace.   But below my feet was a memory of the Terror of War, the futility of loss of life.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier - Paris

      As a combat vet who has seen much death and destruction, the majority of war is senseless.  Standing on foreign soil,  I felt a sadness for all who are forced to die at the hands of any war's Terrorism, whether it be in our country or abroad.
      I believe the Sentinel of Vigilance Memorial at Ground Zero would be as important as any memorial to the anonymity of the innocence of war.  The "Unknown Soldier" serves to remind us that any of our children or children's children, or loved ones, could be entombed there.
      Further, I don't believe the book on Nine Eleven is closed.   The reading of the names of those who died this September 11 will not be an act of finality or a closure on a soiled chapter in American Vigilance.  Instead, it will represent for the Vigilant the first page in a long historical book about the need for new Courage, new Conviction, and more Right Actions to snuff out the Terrorism of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency which leeches into the marrow of any society and infects its populace with an aversion to looking at the past as a precursor to the future.    

    The ceremonies held in a few days from now will be the foreword of the "Book Of Vigilance," a dedication page, not the denouement of a story whose ending is written in blood and sorrow, pain and tears, sadness, guilt, shame and a thirst for revenge..

     The creation of the Sentinel of Vigilance Memorial, for the "Unknown Soldier/Sentinel of Vigilance," serves as the first page in the Era of Vigilance.
      I believe many pages will be written about the need for Vigilance--for renewed Courage, Conviction and Right Action to thwart  Terrorism's venoms of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.  
        And, I believe, the Sentinels of Vigilance will guide our hands as we write, and keep watch over us--even though we may not recognize their faces, or know their names--they will be watching, guarding, reminding us to not forget they are here for us, today and tomorrow, and urging us not to bury their memory  in a ceremony of the forgotten, to shovel dirt on the sadness of their


We can keep their spirits alive by taking the Pledge of Vigilance.   We can feed their Flames of Vigilance by posting it in a conspicuous place in our homes and businesses.  We fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunts and others who care for the future can recite it and review it constantly to keep the forces of Terrorism--our Fears, our Intimidations and our Complacencies--from running roughshod over our Courage, our Conviction and the Right Actions.  These Tools of Vigilance are necessary to protect the children's children's children from future harm.
       Take the Pledge of Vigilance today.   Do it as a salute to the "Unknown Sentinel of Vigilance," who, if you look closely, is reflected in any mirror you gaze upon.


Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier


Russian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier


Australian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Italian Tomb of Unknown Soldier




















Go To Aug. 31--The Sword Of Damocles--Terrorism Hangs Overhead

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