Article Overview:   On the Eve of Vigilance we are forced to ask ourselves whether we are prepared for the unexpected.   Are we ready to fight Terrorism daily, or do we slip and forget and turn over the responsibility for our children's protection as well as our own to others?     I was preparing for the Beast of Terror and didn't realize it on September 10, 2001.    Each day since, I have armed myself for the Beast's attacks.   Are you ready for Terrorism's next assault?


Wednesday--September 10, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 728
The Eve Of Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Sep 10, 2003-- It was a quiet, warm day before the Beast roared, ravaged and raped the American soil with Terrorism.

I was working on a book about my experiences with Terrorism in Vietnam. (picture of author enroute to Vietnam 1963)

    I was busy working on the completion of a book, The Pain Game, about my experiences with Terrorism in Vietnam.   The book, a memoir, told about the conflict I faced as U.S. Marine Combat Correspondent, charged with fighting and killing the enemy, and then writing about the events.   My job was to make heroes out of young men who struggled to survive the lash of war.
       Sometimes I cried.   War is an ugly contrast between good and bad, right and wrong, ethical and unethical, murder and killing, torture and questioning.    It forces you into a vise that squeezes your sense of morality between tears of remorse for the innocent whose bodies lie dismembered on the battlefield, and the body count of your enemies whose primary mission is to kill you or your buddies.

      All wars create the same ugliness within its victims.   That ugliness is the awful waste of human life, especially the waste of the innocent--the women, children, old people who get caught in the cross-fire of violence.

Wars create ugliness within their victims

         Despite the warm, clear autumn day of September 10, 2001, my nerves were raw.   I was sitting on the patio at Starbucks in the East Village editing one of the most difficult chapters of the book.  It involved a torture scene where a beautiful young Vietnamese woman was being beaten to death a few feet from me.   I was helpless to interfere and stood frozen as she was turned from a human being into a twisted, mangled, fractured bloodied mass of man's inhumanity upon his fellow man.
        I shall never forget her eyes, glaring at me and the Vietnamese interrogator who whipped and beat her.   Nor, will I forget the terrible feeling when her tormentor handed me the bloodied beating stick and laughed saying:  "Wanna beat her too!"
       Ugliness breeds ugliness.  I recall the Beast of Terror within me rising to life.  He forced my hand to reach out, as though I had no control over my body.  I watched in slow motion as my fingers opened and my palm spread wide to accept the weapon that was used to crush the woman's bones and flesh because she refused to tell the interrogator the names of other V.C. collaborators in her village.
      In that paralyzing moment, I knew that somewhere inside me was a Beast, a creature of horror and corruption that when uncapped, when stirred, when sparked by some bloodthirsty, primal urge, would cast away all sense of right and wrong, crush all morality or respect for life, and turn me into a simple killing machine, for no reason other than the joy of delivering death to life.

Inside me was a Beast urging me to use my Hand of Terror

        By the grace of God I wrenched my hand away.   A force far greater than my Beast shot through me, frightening me.  I stumbled back as though I were being handed a bamboo viper, a deadly snake whose bite kills in seconds.   I ran up the dirt hill from the torture site, clutching my guts.    The bile in my belly revolted, pumping up to burn my throat and finally to spew out in a long projectile as I fell to my knees, vomiting as though to release the poison of the Beast from within.
       I remember stumbling to the Chaplin's tent, where a friend of my, Father Vince Capodanno sat on the wooden stoop of his tent reading his Bible and pleaded with him to stop the tortures that occurred daily against V.C. suspects in the mess hall area of the battalion to which I was attached. 

Father Cap comforted me as best as he could

        He told me he had tried, and that it was the South Vietnamese, not the U.S. who had the right to torture their prisoners.   I sobbed.  He comforted me as best as he could, but he too was helpless.    War's ugliness was a shroud over all of us.   Like a pestilence, it wormed its way deep into our souls, chewing at the marrow of our souls, emptying us of feelings so we could withstand the shock of any deformation of human character.
       Father Cap, as he was called, later won the Congressional Medal of Honor.   He repeatedly crawled into a hail of bullets, pulling wounded Marines from enemy fire despite countless wounds to himself.   He was a saint amongst sinners, a Sentinel of Vigilance within the lair of the Beast of Terror.
        On the Eve of Nine Eleven, I was back in time, back in the quagmire of blood and bones and torn flesh, trying to sort out my own feelings about war, unsure whether I had been a hero or a Terrorist. 
        Warriors can ill afford to justify war, especially when their hands are drenched with the blood of both the enemy and innocent, for in many wars the lines between the two cannot easily be drawn.    The child running at your position with a pack on his or her back must be shot, for children in wars carry satchel charges and if one lets empathy rule, the child can leap into the front lines and pull the cord that kills one's buddies.

The eyes of the child  are never forgotten

        But the eyes of the child never leave the memory, just as the eyes of the woman who was beaten to death that day sear into my soul.
        So on the Eve of Nine Eleven, I was in the cauldron of Terrorism, boiling from within with caustic memories of the past, unaware that a set of Terrorists was planning to smash airplanes into the heart of American security and considered their acts the performance of heroes against a state of tyranny and oppression.
        The Terrorists had little doubt that Americans were the Beast of Terror.   They saw us as the Great Evil, and planned to smash us, crush us, torture us so that any sense of security or arrogance we might have would forever be washed away.
        They chose to strike three great icons of American might:  our financial might, our military might and our political might.     They achieved two of the three goals.   The World Trade Center smashed the myth our financial systems were exempt from attack.  The Pentagon X'd out the protection of our military might.  And, there is little doubt that the ill-fated Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania because of the passengers revolt against the Terrorists, was headed toward either the White House or the U.S. Capitol to prove the center of the political universe was as vulnerable as a Marine barracks in Beirut.
         I wasn't thinking of America's vulnerability to Terrorism on the Eve of Nine Eleven.  I was thinking of my own fragility to it.

My memoirs are a symbol of a man torn for many years between his bestial and human natures

         My memoirs on The Pain Game were a symbol of a man torn for many years between his bestial nature and his human nature.   For years I felt I stood on the razor's edge, stretched over the sharp cutting edge of right and wrong, of ethical and unethical, of gentleness and hostility, of violence and peace.
         I had been given a license to kill, and a mission to kill in Vietnam.  And, I was paid to kill.   I even got medals for killing.    Plus, I had the duty to write about killing, to glorify it, to sanctify it.    I had been on more than 100 combat missions, from search and destroy patrols and ambushes to large scale encounters with ferocious North Vietnamese regulars.  
         Young men had died in my arms and others had turned into rabid animals, killing anything that moved to try and balance out the loss of a friend to a booby trap or a sniper.   As a warrior and writer I found myself constantly ripped by the ethos and pathos of my job, juggling the glorification of war against its bloody brutality that decapitated children when we of American military might  bombed villages, or killed innocent villagers in cross fires, or resulted in us burning down villages when we received enemy fire from any part of them.
          I didn't realize that The Pain Game I was writing, whose thesis was the pain and suffering of the human soul during war, and how it becomes numb to killing, anesthetized by the blood of the innocent mixed with that of the enemy, changed a person's outlook on all life.  How it created Soul Pain, pain so deep that one was forced to face it with denial, alcohol, drugs, money, success--anything that might drive one's thoughts away from the acts of terror that live in the memories of all who deliver violence upon others and try not to live in the remorse of their actions.
         What I didn't realize at that time was I was exposing my own Beast of Terror.  I was stirring him to life.   I was awakening him so I could face my own demons and come to some resolution about who I was, why I was, and whether I was worthy to continue living.
         In just a few hours I would have that answer.
         The next morning I would awaken and make my way to Starbucks as I did each morning, set up my laptop on the patio, and begin my grueling job of editing The Pain Game.
         Then, I would hear the Beast of Terror screaming overhead.
         I would look up and see the belly of the jet liner roaring dangerously low above me.  My instincts would radar trouble, and I would rush down to the World Trade Center in time to see the horror of the burning buildings and watch humans leaping to their death rather than be burned to death.

I felt the heave and roar of the earth beneath my feet

         I would crane my neck up as the police held us back, silently praying for those flailing bodies parachuting to their death from a thousand feet above.    Then, the police would hustle us back two blocks just in time so that we were offered some protection when the buildings collapsed.
         I would feel the heave and roar of the earth beneath my feet, as though from the bowels of the earth the Beast of Terror was erupting, being born here in America as has been born in so many lands.
         I would hear the screams and wails of those around me, "We're all going to die!  We're all going to die!"   
         Then a dark cloud of debris would shower upon us.   I would sense death.   I would be sure the air was filled with some chemical agent that would render us all dead, and would pray for a quick death rather than one where I writhed in pain as my body fought for its last breath.
         I would see people running and screaming in the aftermath and begin the search through the dust to find my daughter, a federal special agent whom I was sure would be called to the site.   I would make my way toward the epicenter only to find that as I approached it the second building crumbled.  
         Then I would fall down onto the ground and pull out my laptop and begin pounding the keys, capturing in that awful moment the madness and heroism of war waged upon America.

Covered in ashes, I sat down on the ground with my laptop capturing the Terror of the moment

        I would wipe the soot from my laptop screen every few minutes so I could see the screen, and continue capturing the words of the true Pain Game, the Pain Game that threatened my children, my wife, my grandchildren for the first time since the War of 1812.
        I would know this day would change the history of the United States.  I knew it was the end of an era--an era of peace and security.   I knew it would require all the efforts of all the people of this land to bring America and the world into a state of Vigilance, a state of readiness uncommon to a land that had enjoyed peace and security from foreign attacks for nearly two centuries.
       I would know that America had become a player in the Pain Game, and that it would require Soldiers of Vigilance patrolling its 100 million homes to protect the children from the Beast of Terror's long arm of harm.
       I would have an epiphany.   It would change my life.
       I would vow to fight the Beast of Terror, that Beast I had been writing about that lurked within me, the same one that drove the Terrorists to hijack airplanes and turn them into suicide bombs against America's proud and dignified role in the world as the Nation of World Vigilance, the nation that sent its young men and women to the far corners of the earth to fight the Beast on foreign soil.
      Now, the Beast had come to visit me, to sneer in my face and into the faces of nearly 300 million U.S. citizens, laughing and jeering that we were not any safer than a villager in Afghanistan, or one in Rwanda, or a starving child in North Korea.
       As my Israeli friend, Tony David, would say when he called just after the attack to check on me:  "Welcome to the real world."   He would remind me as the Terrorists would do on the second Tuesday of September, 2001, that none of us are exempt from the wrath of Terrorism, that we had been on a long, extended vacation of security that ended abruptly the minute the first Terrorist plane collided with South Tower.

The book I was writing prepared me to see the Sentinels of Vigilance rising from the ashes

           On the Eve of Nine Eleven I didn't realize the book I was writing would prepare me to see the Sentinels of Vigilance rising up from the ashes of the attack.   I remember sitting in the rubble seeing what I believe to this day are the Souls of the Sentinels--the Spirits of Vigilance--circling over the site, hand-in-hand, forming a ring of nearly 3,000 men and women from all different lands and cultures, from the rich to the poor, mothers, fathers, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, grandparents, brothers, sisters, each beckoning me to report and promote the Principles of Vigilance, to develop the Pledge of Vigilance, to formulize the One Percent Factor so that any person could better understand how to use the Sword and Shield of Vigilance to ward off the Beast of Terror.
        None of that was on my mind on the Eve of the Dawn of Vigilance.
        But just 24 hours later it would become the yoke I have shouldered for the past two years.   It would drive me to find ways to express the need to battle the Beast, and to remind the Parents and Grandparents and Loved Ones of Vigilance that we must all become Sentinels of Vigilance, we must all hone and sharpen our skills to keep the Beast from our children and their Children's Children's Children by acting with Vigilance and avoiding the Triad of Terrorism--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
        With my wife's help and support, and my family's love, I have been fortunate to accumulate 1.5 million words of how to use Vigilance to fight Terrorism.
        I have come to understand the Pain Game isn't a game at all.  It isn't about winning or losing, it is about protecting ourselves and our children, and all children of all lands from the tyranny and oppression of Terrorism both of a physical and emotional nature.

Spirits of people from all different lands joined hands and formed a circle over the site

        Today is a mere reminder that we do not know what will happen tomorrow.
        Just as September 10, 2001 was a reminder that we can be at peace one minute and at war the next.   Or, that December 6, 1941 was a sunny great day in Hawaii, only to be radically changed the next morning into a state of infamy.
        Today, and each day I awake, I am reminded that the Sentinels of Vigilance are still hovering over the World Trade Center, over the Pentagon, and a lonely field in Pennsylvania.  They are all holding hands, watching the horizon, calling upon us all to keep Vigilance the primary vision, and not surrender to Terrorism's greatest ally, Complacency.

On September 10 I reinforce the expression "Expect the unexpected"

          September 10, for me, is a time to reinforce the expression, "Expect the unexpected."
         I do that by reading my Pledge of Vigilance each morning.   For I know the Beast of Terror lurks about, waiting for us all to let the slack in our Vigilance ropes become knotted with Complacency, waiting for us to let our political, racial, economic infighting brew so that we forget to tend the fences around our homes.
         I fight to not let the mundane challenges of life and living detour me away from the Battle against Terror.   
         And I ask all my readers to pose this question:   "What am I doing today to keep the Beast of Terror from my doorstep?"
         If you subscribe to the Pledge of Vigilance, you are well on your way.
         If not, perhaps you should.
         Every day is, in the final analysis, either the Eve of Terrorism or the Eve of Vigilance.
         Which are you ready for?

Sep 9--$87 Billion Iraqi Investment In Vigilance

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