September 3, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 356

September 11 Baby Arrives --
A Year After The Death Of WTC Victim

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, September 2--When Sue Mladenik talks about "having her daughter" a year after her husband's death--he was aboard the first hijacked plane that crashed into the World Trade Center--eyes widen, questions rattle, and tongues have to be wrestled back so they don't gush out:  "But how could that be?"
      Miracles happen.
      This one, however, was planned.  

      Prior to his death, Jeff and Sue Mladenik made a tough but powerful decision--to adopt a Chinese orphan girl from the Linchuan Social Welfare Institute.  They already had a family of four, ages 4, 17, 19 and 22.   Hannah, the name chosen for their new Chinese adopted daughter, would make a family of five, adding another girl to the two sisters and brothers comprising the Mladenik family.
      (Note:  US citizens adopt approximately 4,000 Chinese children per year.  Unofficial estimates by the Shared Blessings Foundation, which promotes adopting Chinese orphans, put the number of abandoned babies in China at 500,000-800,000 per year.  Most of these are girls.)
      All the adoption papers were filed and they were waiting for final approval when Jeff climbed aboard his fatal flight, one that would end in tragedy and sorrow that Sue Mladenik fights every day.
      "It's hard to watch your husband being blown to bits over and over," she commented regarding the replaying of videos showing the first plane smashing into the World Trade Center.

        To ward off unwanted visitors coming to her home to "grieve with her," she installed a six-foot fence around her Hinsdale, Ill. home.   "I don't need to cry with strangers," she said.  
      Jeff called Sue each night when he was traveling, and they talked at length about the kids and family and their days.   They were heavily involved in their local church, and the children were the center of their lives, friends reported.  

       Sue still has nightmares about the loss of her husband, and wears a silver bracelet with his name engraved on it and his flight number.   She has another one also, with the letters, "WWJD" etched into the metal, standing for, "What Would Jeff Do?"
       That's why she re-filed the papers for Hannah's adoption after Jeff's death.  "I knew he would want me to go ahead with it," she said, even though her hands are full with four children.   Her oldest, Kelly, 22, moved back into the house after the death of her father and is recovering from drug addiction.  Gracie, the four-year-old, Josh, 19, and Daniel, 17, all live with Sue.  

       Two weeks ago the family boarded a plane and flew to Beijing.   Last Sunday they held 1-year-old Hannah for the first time.
       Sue abhors the idea of the word "anniversary" used to mark the one-year passed since the attack.  "Anniversaries are supposed to be happy," she said.   "A celebration."
       Her nerves frayed by constant media shows recycling the events of Nine Eleven, she lashes out at those who say her husband is "in a better place."
       "There's no better place than being here with us, his family," she retorts.  She even sent a scathing letter to a major network executive about "exploiting" the pain and suffering of the families for ratings.     

       But she plans to attend the Ground Zero ceremonies quickly approaching.  She hopes to meet other families who loved ones were aboard Jeff's plane that day, and to hear his name read.
       She is sad, however, that little Hannah will never get to know her adopted father.  "She'll know what kind of man he was," Sue stated.  "She'll know he loved her, I'll make sure."
       In my belief system, Hannah will have a Father of Vigilance.   Sue Mladenik will insure that happens.   
       In opposition to those who believe the deaths of the "victims" of Nine Eleven result in graves and tombstones and monuments and memories, I stand on the other side of the looking glass.   I see them alive and strong and viable beings who have shifted forms from physical to spiritual bodies.
       While each was different, unique in his or her own way, from various ethnic, social, religious and economic backgrounds, their spirits are one unified and solid mass of common purpose.   The best steel is forged from a variety of elements, each giving the final product strength from the best of its parts, combining with the best of other parts, until the resulting metal is virtually indestructible, keen, worthy of timeless endurance.
      The idea of burying the memories and entombing them seems to me counterproductive to the purpose of their deaths.   In my eyes, they died to live, not to be buried and become fodder for history.

      When I was at Ground Zero watching the devastation and recording it on my laptop computer, I saw their spirits rise from the ashes.  I saw them combine in a whirlwind of unity, forming one union out of many, e pluribus unum, out of many, one.
       They became the Sentinels of Vigilance, a combination of a man and woman, sword in one hand, a wreath of peace on their heads, and a Shield of Vigilance held outward, eyes fixed on the horizon, searching, standing guard against Terrorisms of all kinds--physical and emotional.
       On the Shield of Vigilance, in the center, was embossed the letters "SV," superimposed on the other, representing the Latin:  "semper vigilantes," always vigilant.  Around the shield were three words, Courage, Conviction, Right Action--the elements of Vigilance.    Their duty is to remind us all that Fear must be countered with Courage, and the shadows of Intimidation illuminated by the light of Conviction, and the desire to remain inactive, Complacent, must be shoved aside by Right Actions--all focused not on what is good for us today, but always on what is good for our children, and their children's children's children.
       Jeff and Sue Mladenik knew what was good for the children's children's children even before the events of Nine Eleven.   It was to have a loving home, full of Courage not Fear, brimming with Conviction rather than Intimidation, and void of Complacency because Right Action always dominated the issues of life.

Hannah Quing Yu Mladenik

       Upon Jeff's death, Sue Mladenik continued the legacy of Vigilance.   She didn't let the Fear of being a mother of four stop her from adding a fifth to her household.  She wasn't Intimidated by the loss of her husband and feel Complacent that she was unable to raise another child without him.   Her Convictions and Right Actions took charge, and drove her to climb aboard an airplane she vowed she would never ride in again to complete the mission of adopting Hannah.
      As we stand on the edge of the September 11 "anniversary," we need to take stock of the word "anniversary."   At least, I do.   While I oppose the word's connotations, I respect the word's denotation.   
      Looking at "anniversary" from a positive viewpoint, it means celebration. 
      Perhaps the "anniversary" of Nine Eleven is more about "celebrating" the existence of the Sentinel's of Vigilance birth, than about burying the memories of the body parts of those remains of the physical elements of human life found in the rubble.
      If September 11 marked the birth of the Era of Vigilance, then indeed it is a time to celebrate the battle of Courage over Fear, the end of Intimidation over Conviction, and a time to remind us all those who died that day left us a message to be heard daily, that we must not be Complacent about the battle with Terrorism, but rather take Right Actions to the benefit of the children's children's children.     

       Under such a definition, I believe the word "anniversary" is appropriate.    But as an epithet to the deaths of those who died, as a header on a tombstone of lives lost rather than lives born, I oppose it.
       Sue Mladenik and her family, I believe, are coming to celebrate the "anniversary" of her husband's birth as Sentinel of Vigilance--a memory which can last far beyond the physical lives of all of us.    She has vowed to keep his memory alive in Hannah's mind, and in her own and her current children's minds and hearts.
      On her wrist is her reminder--WWJD?
      The answer, I believe, is the presence of little Hannah.   He would do the Right Action to protect the children's children's children from harm.  That's the job of all Sentinels of Vigilance.
      I don't think Jeff Mladenik is dead.
      I believe he lives in Hannah, Gracie, Josh, Kelly, and Daniel.  And, most importantly, he lives in the heart of Sue Mladenik, who knows that the right thing to do is become a Parent of Vigilance for a little Chinese girl who might otherwise have been lost in a sea of Complacency.   

Go To Sep 2--There's A Rat In The Subway! 

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