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
The Eve Of Vigilance
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
10 I reinforce the expression "Expect the unexpected"
September 10, for me, is a time to reinforce the expression, "Expect
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
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?