A Child Cry: "I Miss The Twin Towers."
When your three-year-old granddaughter tugs your hand and says, "I miss the Twin Towers, G-Pa," you know Terrorism has dug a hole in a child's precious heart.   What do you say?  How do you build a wall of Vigilance against the threat of Terrorism's insecurity in a small child--or, for that matter, yourself?   Thrust into the role of father, mother, grandmother and grandfather by a sudden death, I learn how to be more Vigilant from my grandchildren.  The lessons apply to us all.  Enjoy them. 



September 20, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 373
"I Miss The Twin Towers!"

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, September 20--My wife and daughter are in Montana preparing for a funeral.  My wife's mother died at age 88 two days ago.   It was a peaceful passing, without suffering or the Terror of painful lingering she feared most.
       The haste of any death requires immediate action.   My daughter and her three-month-old son, Angus, accompanied my wife, G-Ma Lori.  They departed in a whirlwind, leaving me to fill in the role of G-Ma as the Grandfather of Vigilance.  That means I help get the kids ready for school, take them to and pick them up from it.   The role forces me to think solely of children during my watch, guarding them to insure their safety, responsible for promoting their happiness, and to reign them in when they exceed the boundaries of discipline which all children like to do.
       Yesterday, I took Matt, our six-year-old to school.  But our four-year-old, Sarah, didn't have to go  She attends pre-school only three days a week.   I spent the entire morning with her, and then we picked up Matt at 2:45 p.m.
       I bribe the kids during my watch.   It's easier.
       Yesterday's bribe was a trip to FAO Schwarz famous toy store, on the corner of 5th Ave and 59th Street. 
       I held the possibility of a new Rescue Hero toy as a carrot dangling on the end of the stick.   I never promise anything, but I infer strongly that there might be a possibility we will get one.

          En route, we took the subway and chose a train that would deposit us one block away, the "N" or "R."   But the train ran into trouble, and we had to get off at 49th and Times Square, leaving a hefty walk of 11 blocks up and two giant long blocks east.    In New York it takes about a minute or so to walk one block uptown, but up to three to five to walk east or west, as the blocks are like a rectangle.

Taking kids anxious to go to the world's most famous toy store is like driving to Disneyland.  They are constantly saying:  "When will we get there?"   "How much more time, G-Pa?"   "How many more blocks?"
        I had unfortunately told them we were taking the train that would get us there fastest and closest, and, as Murphy's Law would have it, we were farther away and bogged in the sidewalk traffic of Times Square, unable to move at warp speed.
       To divert attention, I began to point out various sites as we got boxed in my throngs of people going here and there.   The Diamond District we had to walk through was a menagerie of madness, people everywhere, log jamming the sidewalks, rushing out of one store to go to another, doing deals on the curb.  
        I had Sarah in the stroller and Matt walking at my side, and thought of bumper-to-bumper traffic in Los Angeles at rush hour, wishing I had a horn or siren to blast people out of the way.  I felt like shouting:  "Move, this is an emergency.   These kids are on their way to FAO Schwarz to get a Rescue Hero!  Move!   Move!"
       Crossing streets is dangerous uptown.   Lots of trucks buck the lights.  A woman driving a Post Office truck barreled through the intersection, coming close to the curb--reminiscent of the bull in Spain that tried to gouge me with its horn years ago.   People yelled at the driver, but her jaw was set--"rain, snow, sleet or people crossing the street would not deter her mission of delivering bills to people."
      As we turned uptown on 5th Avenue I saw St. Patrick's Cathedral.    I needed a break, as I was getting frustrated weaving the stroller in and out of people, insuring I wasn't too close to the curb, holding on to Matt's hand to not let the crush of people sweep him away in the riptide of humanity that ebbed and flooded along the packed concrete passageways dwarfed by buildings shooting up into the sky, scraping Heaven's underbelly.
      In the midst of the sardine traffic, I heard Matt say:  "G-Pa, I miss the Twin Towers."

        At first I thought I had heard my mind talking to me.   In the din of the madding crowd it is hard to hear a child's Voice.  I leaned over as I walked, pointing my ear toward him.  "What was that?" I queried.
      "I miss the Twin Towers, G-Pa."
      His Voice was soft, laced with the emotion of a young child talking about a pet he had lost, or remembering with respect some thing that was no longer.    People rushed at us, and I didn't get a chance to continue the conversation as I dodged them, and made my way to the protection of a street lamp on the corner.
      "Let's go to Saint Patrick's and light a candle for Ga Ga, (my departed mother-in-law)" I said.   "She'd like that."
      "But we're late, G-Pa."   Matt scrunched up his face.  He was thinking Rescue Heroes.   I was thinking, "Let's take a break from the crowds."
      "It will just take a minute," I promised. 

      We crossed Fifth Avenue and went up the steps of the cathedral.  I took a picture of the kids on the steps to forward to my wife and daughter, and we entered.  Inside was a row of vigil candles.   The kids took the lighting sticks and we placed candles inside unlighted candle glasses.
      They lit the long wooden sticks from the flames of other vigil candles and then lit their own respective candles.
       I took pictures as they performed the ritual.
       When the candles began to burn, they both pressed their palms together and bowed their heads.   I stood for a moment soaking in the innocence of the two children, earlier so rushed to get to FAO Schwarz, but now totally immersed in a moment of reflection, swallowed in the calmness of the candle's flickering, two angels praying for their dead grandmother, or, maybe that I would buy them a Rescue Hero, one can never be sure what a child thinks.
       But the reverence they showed appeared pure.  It seems for that instant they were one with the Spirits of Vigilance, one with a world of peace and safety, extruded from the madding crowds and rush and turbulence of a hectic life filled with so many things to do and see each day.   It was as if their souls sighed.
       Then Matt looked up.
       "Can we light a candle for the Twin Towers too, G-Pa?"
       My first reaction was to look at the collection box that had the words:  "Candle Donations $1 Each!"
       I shook off the thought that all I had was five's and twenties in my pocket, and smiled.
      "Sure.  Of course."

       They both extracted another candle from the box and placed them in empty candle holders and repeated the lighting again, one for Ga-Ga, and one for the Twin Towers.   They had viewed the loss as a whole, not a part.   Instead of seeing the death of a single person, they saw the loss of the structure that housed the people.   They were thinking in wholes, not in 3,000 parts as so many did.
      Finished, they said another prayer.  Then Sarah turned and went to the marble fountain containing the Holy Water people dipped their fingers and made the sign of the cross.   She performed this rite, and Matt followed.
       I stood watching.  

        In a world dominated by Rescue Heroes for kids, and toy stores lavishly filled with the finest of playthings, they had not forgotten their Sentinels of Vigilance.   They remembered not only their great grandmother, but all those who had been lost to the world a year before.   They were thinking in wholes, not parts.
       It made me realize the impact Terrorism has on a child, of any kind or shape.  A child Terrorized at home by abusive parents, either physically or emotionally, sees the world as a "whole of Terrorism."   No matter where the child goes, the Terror consumes him or her, and his or her eyes filter out the good for the bad, creating Fear, Intimidation and Complacency in all that is.
       I had forgotten about inclusive nature of Terrorism.  I forgot how the children feel its spider web sticking to every part of their soul, and no matter how much they try to run from it, they find themselves caught in its trap.

      While I am not a religious man myself, I was so glad my grandchildren were.   I knew that they earnestly were shooing away Terrorism by the bowing of their heads, the folding of their small hands, by the glowing gaze upon their faces as the golden candlelight danced in their eyes.    And then when they chose to touch their fingers into the Holy Water, and to make the sign of the cross upon their chest and forehead, I realized the importance of a belief, however ritualistic, upon the solace of a child's or adult's soul.
       They paid respects to Life through addressing Death.  They honored the preciousness of being "here and now" by remembering, if but for a flash, those who were not.  And, they excluded no one from their honor.
       Terror had no room to maneuver for those split seconds.  It was trapped in a Cathedral of Vigilance, embodied in the two children who embraced the Souls of Vigilance.
       We left the cathedral and made our way to FAO.   We got a great deal on a Rescue Hero, Rocky Canyon, who saves people with his grappling hook that can help him swing from mountain to mountain.
       As we made our way to Union Square where their father was going to meet us and relieve me of my Guardian of Vigilance duties, it seemed the mass of people melted, the hectic pushing and shoving had changed.
       The world was a little better, a little more peaceful, a little less harried, because I was seeing it not as separate parts, but as a whole.   And the whole of people--the sum of them all, was far richer than any weak link.   It was a reminder to me that the Sentinels of Vigilance became one for obvious reasons...they brought together the best of themselves to form unity where fragmentation once existed.
        And it took a couple of kids to teach me that lesson the day they lit a candle for their Ga-Ga and for the "Lost Twin Towers."


Go To September 19--Eulogy To Char--Last Breath Of Vigilance

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