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.
Zero Plus 373
"I Miss The Twin Towers!"
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
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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,
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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